The majority of fungi live saprophytically on soil organic matter. Some species are capable only of utilizing simple and easily decomposable organic matter whereas others attack cellulose as well. There are some important fungi that can decompose lignin, making them one of the few primary decomposers of wood and fibrous plant material. Several fungi in the soil are parasites and examples of these are discussed in Chapter 15. Fungi appear to be able to tolerate acid conditions and low calcium better than other micro-organisms and are abundant in both neutral and acid soils. Most are well adapted to survive in dry soils, but few thrive in very wet conditions. Their numbers are high in soils rich in plant residues but decline rapidly as the readily decomposable material disappears. The bacteria persist longer, where present, and eventually consume the fungal remains.
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