Identifying global hotspots for fungal diversity and endemism


It is increasingly recognized that fungal conservation is an important priority. However, as a whole the fungal kingdom remains woefully understudied. For example, only a meager 781 of the millions of fungal species on the planet have been evaluated for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. We also have no detailed appreciation of fungal diversity patterns on a global scale, and whether these match patterns observed in other taxa. This lack of knowledge regarding even general distribution patterns of fungi seriously hampers our ability to protect them. This project will seek to rectify this issue by identifying global hotspots for fungal biodiversity and endemism, and examining the extent to which these overlap with known biodiversity hotspots in other taxa.


Effective conservation on both local and global scales require an understanding of how organisms are distributed, in order that conservation resources can be allocated towards areas with the greatest need. Distributions of overall diversity and concentrations of endemic species are well described for many animal and plant taxa, although such macroecological patterns remain extremely poorly studied for fungi. Resolving this highly conspicuous knowledge gap thus represents an important priority to push forward mycological conservation goals.


In this project, based on data downloaded from MyCoPortal, iNaturalist, and NCBI GenBank, the student will:

  1. map fungal species records on a world map, to identify known concentrations of mycological diversity. Such records can be aggregated on both a point-scale and a national-level scale (in order to identify particular countries supporting unusually high fungal diversity).
  2. identify important sources of bias in the map to determine the extent to which identified hotspots are actual concentrations of fungal diversity and/or endemism, or represent artifacts of sampling effort. This can be achieved by identifying species that are (1) known only from the type collection and (2) collections from a single locality, (both of which likely comprise species distributed more widely in reality than available records suggest). In addition, locality data will be temporally mapped to determine all fungal species that have not been observed in fifty years or more.
  3. examine the extent to which areas of high fungal diversity and endemism correlate with those found in other organismal groups, as reported in the literature (Myers et al. 2001).

The project will ultimately aim to present clear recommendations for fungal conservation, which can be used to advise the various organizations that are currently taking a greater interest in fungal conservation (e.g., IUCN, Re:wild, Alliance for Zero extinction). The student taking this project will require skills in data extraction, quantitative analyses, and GIS. They will become familiar with database curation and management, spatial mapping using R software, as well as conservation policy. This project is in collaboration with conservation biologist Dr. Thomas E. Martin (Operation Wallacea, UK).


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Hao T, Elith J, Guillera-Arroita G, Lahoz-Monfort JJ, May TW (2021) Enhancing repository fungal data for biogeographic analyses. Fungal Ecology 53: 101097.

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Niskanen T, Lücking R, Dahlberg A, Gaya E, Suz LM, Mikryukov V, Liimatainen K, Druzhinina I, Westrip JRS, Mueller GM, Martins-Cunha K, Kirk P, Tedersoo L, Antonelli A. 2023. Pushing the frontiers of biodiversity research: Unveiling the global diversity, distribution, and conservation of fungi. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 48: 149-176.

Stallman JK, Haelewaters D, Koch RA, Brann M, Fatemi S, Gomez-Zapata P, Husbands DR, Jumbam B, Kaishian PJ, Moffitt A, Aime MC. The contribution of tropical long-term studies to mycology. IMA Fungus (in review). PDF available upon request.