Fungal conservation: from database records to prioritization

Background

Fungal conservation needs desperate data generation. Only a meager 425 of the millions of fungal species on the planet have been evaluated for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Most of the thus far assessed species are macrofungi, but microfungi are vitally important and deserve equal consideration (e.g., arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, molds, yeasts). Lack of knowledge about the fungi that are at risk of extinction hampers our ability to protect them.

Problems

For many species of fungi, only a single holotype collection and/or a single locality is known. This makes predicting the conservation status of many fungal species virtually impossible. Many species of fungi may be extremely threatened or even extinct, but current knowledge gaps do not allow to assess this accurately.

Goals

In this project, based on data downloaded from MyCoPortal (http://mycoportal.org/portal/index.php), the student will categorize fungal species in taxa that are only known from (1) the type collection, (2) collections from a single locality, and (3) collections from multiple localities. In addition, locality data will be temporally mapped to determine all fungal species that have not been observed in fifty years or more. For these species, the student will visualize those localities onto density maps and evaluate which species are present in areas of high endemism and/or threat. Areas of high endemism and/or threat will be based on trends in other organismal groups, as reported in the literature. Depending on the student’s interest, focus could be directed to (drumlin) archipelagoes to test for patterns that would be expected following the theory of island biogeography. The project will aim to present clear recommendations for fungal conservation. The student will become familiar with database curation and management, spatial mapping using R software, and evaluation of quantitative data. This project is in collaboration with conservation biologist Dr. Thomas E. Martin (Operation Wallacea, UK).

References

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Gonçalves SC, Haelewaters D, Furci G, Mueller GM. 2021. Include all fungi in biodiversity goals. Science 373(6553): 403. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abk1312 [pdf]

Hao T, Elith J, Guillera-Arroita G, Lahoz-Monfort JJ, May TW (2021) Enhancing repository fungal data for biogeographic analyses. Fungal Ecology 53: 101097. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.funeco.2021.101097 [pdf]

Hawksworth DL, Lücking R (2017) Fungal diversity revisited: 2.2 to 3.8 million species. Microbiology spectrum 5. https://doi.org/10.1128/microbiolspec.FUNK-0052-2016 [pdf]

Martin TE, Bennett GC, Fairbairn A, Mooers AO. In review. Lost taxa and their conservation implications. Animal Conservation. (PDF available upon request.)