About the Queensland Fungi Festival
22-27 April 2014 in Brisbane, Queensland
The Festival consisted of
- The AMS annual scientific meeting.Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 April, Ecosciences Precinct
- Why Mushrooms and Moulds Matter, a full day of presentations by Queensland and Australia's leading fungal experts, covering ecological, agricultural and medical issues,Thursday 24 April, Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
- a Masterclass, 25 April (ANZAC Day) Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
- a Festival dinner, Saturday 26 April, Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
- and a range of forays and workshops, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 April, Brisbane and beyond
Interesting fungi found:
Unfortunately the weather preceding and during the Queensland Fungi Festival was quite dry; we just missed the downpour that unleashed on Sunday night and the rain that came in the following week. Thus the quantity and diversity of fungi seen was less than hoped for, however we still saw and recorded some very interesting things. Two of the more interesting fungi seen were Nectria episphaeria, and Gymnogaster boletoides.
Nectria episphaeria is a tiny, red fungus that forms clusters of flask-shaped fruit-bodies. It grows on old fruit-bodies of other fungi. At first sight it was thought to be a slime mould, but the texture is very firm, compared to the flimsy fruit-bodies of slime moulds. Nectria episphaeria has rarely been recorded from Australia, with only four previous records in the Atlas of Living Australia.
Gymnogaster boletoides was one of the highlights found at Mt Glorious. Gregory Bonito from the Royal Botanic Gardens says this is a particularly exciting species to find because it ‘represents an independent and partial transition of an aboveground bolete to the truffle-like form’. It is just a partial transition because ‘there is still a vestigial cap (the small red ring at top) and stipe (quite reduced) and it still fruits above ground. The similarities to boletes are quite evident (as we saw by looking at them, including the spores, and bluing reaction, the mycorrhizal habit, and the poroid hymenium)’. We were also very excited because it was found close to the type locality - Mount Glorious - where Cribb first collected and described it in 1956.
Proceedings of Why Mushrooms and Moulds Matter:
A huge thanks to Susan Nuske for compiling these notes.
Fungi in the environment
Tom May: What are fungi? An introduction (you can watch this talk on you tube)
Fungi are a fantastically unique and diverse group of organisms that form their own kingdom within the spectrum of the natural world. What makes fungi unique includes almost everything from the fundamental structure of their cells and chemistry to their life-cycles and interactions with other organisms. Fungi consist of microscopic hyphae which are tubular cells that explore the environment. The familiar mushrooms and puffballs are the result of these fundamental components aggregating to form a mycelium after reproduction in order to disperse spores. Unlike plants and animals, fungi obtain their nutrients through the production of extra-cellular enzymes that break-down nutrients that the fungi then absorb.
Sapphire McMullan Fisher: The ecological roles of fungi
Fungi are the links that connect ecosystems. Their feeding strategies span the spectrum of biotic interactions. Biotrophs include from mutualists like lichens and mycorrhizae, and commensal endophytic (inside-plant-living) fungi to parasites and pathogens. Fungi have a uniquely great capacity to break-down and recycle important nutrients. They are also an important food resource for many other organisms. Most plants depend on mycorrhizal fungi to help them absorb nutrients from the soil and can help their plants with drought tolerance. Fungi can also be very important for maintaining soil integrity, reducing erosion and nutrient leakage. All of these traits make fungi vital components to any ecosystem.
Richie Robinson: The response of fungal communities to disturbance associated with management of southern Australian eucalypt forests
Fungi are an important and rich and component of eucalypt forests. Much of the eucalypt forest estate in southern Australia is subject to management, either by fuel reduction burning or for timber harvesting and silviculture. Recent adaptive management research and monitoring projects have enhanced the knowledge of the response of fungal communities and species to disturbance including fire and silvicultural treatments. Many species are adapted to survive fire, while others are stimulated to germinate and colonise burnt sites. Patterns of succession result in different communities of fungi occupying sites at different times since disturbance. Management based on creating patterns or mosaics of disturbance, especially using prescribed fire, has the potential to increase fungal diversity either locally or across broad regions.
Alison Pouliot: Conservation of fungi
Although public interest in fungi has increased in recent years, a gap still exists between interest and action toward fungal conservation. While more knowledge of fungus distributions and life histories is required, the public and political dimensions of conservation also need greater focus. In order to 'mend the gap' and instigate effective fungal conservation, fungi need a greater place within public consciousness and empathy. In situ experience with fungi and ways to visualise the less visible aspects of the kingdom provide opportunities for greater appreciation and understanding that might inspire active conservation.
John Dearnaley: Orchid mycorrhizas
Mycorrhizal fungi grow in and around plant roots in a mutualistic relationship where the fungus helps the plant take up nutrients from the soil and the plant provides the fungus with food (sugars). Orchids, the most diverse plant family, have their own specialised group of mycorrhizal fungi. Orchid seeds cannot germinate without their mycorrhizal fungal partner. Studying orchids and their mycorrhizal fungi is important for the conservation of rare orchids. In order to propagate rare orchids in the wild, their fungal partners need to be transferred with them. Not all orchids are so sensitive; some ‘cheat’ by connecting to Eucalypt mycorrhizaes and steal the sugars from the tree via their mycorrhizal connection!
Jutta Godwin: Lichens
Lichens are an ancient association; in this mutualism, fungi provide an effective way to obtain nutrients and the algae or cyanobacteria perform photosynthesis to obtain energy. With enough moisture and light, lichens can grow practically anywhere. They have even been shown to grow in outer space! Lichens are an important part of ecosystems; they contribute to nutrient cycling by slowly weathering rocks and other hard chemicals, and provide food and habitat for many insects and vertebrates. Lichens are important bio-indicators for pollution and in some cases, climate change. Unfortunately, this ancient and fascinating group are threatened by pollution and constant habitat disturbance.
Sandra Abell: Mycophagy
Even if you are not a fan of store-bought mushrooms, you are probably still guilty of mycophagy (fungi-eating)! Surprisingly, fungi are not only necessary for making beer, cheese and bread, but also wine, chocolate and coffee. In nature, fungi are a great food source for a variety of animals. Some mammals, like bettongs and potoroos specialise in feeding on fungi. Mammals also do the fungi a great favour by their dispersing spores. This is particularly important for truffle fungi which fruit underground and have no other way of dispersal. Most truffle species are mycorrhizal; fungi that form mutualistic associations with plants. Therefore, mammals are intregal to healthy ecosystems by dispersing fungal spores and maintaining the fungi-plant relationship.
Rachel Mapperson: Endophytes
Endophytes are fungi that live inside plant tissues. They are a very diverse yet understudied group of fungi. Their precise role inside the plant is mostly unknown but some exciting studies suggest that some endophytes can help plants tolerate stressful conditions like drought or high salinity. They are thought to be able to do this through the production of secondary metabolites which the plant can recognise and respond to. The identification of fungal endophytic species can be done by growing them on nutrients in the laboratory and recognising morphological characters or by DNA sequencing. However, much more work is needed to understand this vital group.
Pathogens and pathology
Diana Leemon: Biocontrol using fungi
In natural ecosystems fungi, as pathogens or parasites, play a significant role in regulating populations of their hosts. In artificial environments, such as agricultural systems, this dynamic equilibrium has been disrupted and traditionally invading agricultural pests or pathogens were controlled using chemicals. However, due to increasing realisation of the health and environmental risks, as well as other consequences like increasing pest resistance and disruption of other beneficial biological organisms, alternative methods may be needed. Fungi can act as powerful biocontrol agents however, to be utilised properly it requires a great deal of knowledge about the organism’s biology and ecology and is an active area of research. Some success stories include fungal agents available for the control of locusts and grasshoppers for agriculture and fungal agents to control invasive weeds like lantana and water hyacinth.
Ross McKenzie: Fungi that are poisonous to animals
For all the great diversity of fungi, only a few taxa (< 1%) are known to be poisonous, but their impact can be widespread and serious for humans and domestic animals. The chemical toxins they producecan be the fungi’s way of defending against being eaten by insects and molluscs, or to defeat other microbes in competition for food. Toxins from endophytes can help their host plants resist insect attack. The most common poisoning from fungi is by ethanol, the alcohol produced by yeasts in human beverages. Other toxins from fungi (macrofungi, moulds, endophytes and ergots) are highly variable and cause a wide array of health effects in humans, pets and livestock.
Uses and research of fungi
Jeff Powell: Mycorrhizas in agriculture
Mycorrhizal fungi form a mutualistic association with plant roots; nutrients are transported from the soil via the fungi to the plants and the plants provide food (sugars) to the fungi. Many plants in agricultural systems form an association with a wide-spread group of mycorrhizal fungi called Arbuscular Mycorrhizae (AM). Different crops are benefitted by associating with AM to differing degrees; cotton and maize depend highly on their mycorrhizal partners, whereas barley, oats and wheat have a lower dependency. As general guidelines practices like reducing tillage, avoiding non-mycorrhizal crop rotations (e.g. canola) and excess phosphorous fertilisation would benefit mycorrhizal fungi in agricultural soils. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are diverse and benefit plants in diverse ways, which may not always correlate with the amount of fungal colonisation on plant roots.
Rohan Davis: Exploiting Fungal Chemistry for Drug Discovery
Fungi produce a diverse array of unique chemicals and excitingly some have been shown to display powerful anti-microbial, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. The development of drugs from natural products (biodiscovery) is a long process and can take up to 2 decades from discovery to product, but the benefits can be well worth the effort. Some very important drugs were originally discovered from fungi, for example, the anti-bacterial penicillins, and the cholesterol-lowering statins. Currently, extensive research is being performed on fungal chemicals in an attempt to find new anti-malarial drugs. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and many exciting and new chemicals are still being discovered from the diversity of fungi.
Pat Leonard: Citizen science - what is it, and how can you get involved?
Citizen science is the actions of interested amateur scientists that contribute to a range of scientific pursuits. Amateur mycologists have been known to contribute a great deal to the field. For instance, a wide-scale survey by the British Mycological Society contributed to changing policy and conservation focus of fungi. The goals are simple; to increase knowledge and appreciation for this fascinating and important group, fungi. With better and more accessible identification tools, opportunities for community-based funding and collaboration between amateur mycologists and academics the world of mycology can only grow.
Tom May, Myriam Amiet-Knottenbelt & Lyn Allison: Fungimap and the Atlas of Living Australia
The Australian Living Atlas is an online biodiversity database in which fungi are not forgotten! The majority of the fungal records are from Fungimap, a community-based NGO with a focus on improving knowledge and conservation of Australian fungi. Fungimap encourages citizen scientists to contribute observational records of readily recognisable target species. Thus far observations have contributed to distributional information of 200 species. Such valuable information will contribute to published maps within Fungimap’s guide to the target species and Fungi Down Under. But most importantly, it provides the tools and inspiration for more citizens to go out and ‘test’ these maps.
About the organisers
Fungimap is a national non-profit citizen-science organisation dedicated to advancing knowledge and conservation of Australian fungi. Fungimap maintains the National Australian Fungimap Database (NAFD) containing over 100,000 records and 7,500 images of fungi from over 700 contributors nationwide. This valuable resource is used for research, conservation, and policy purposes and has been provided to the Australian National Heritage Assessment Tool (ANHAT), state and Commonwealth environment agencies, and the Atlas of Living Australia.
The Australasian Mycological Society promotes research and teaching in all areas of fungal biology, raises the profile of mycology in the Australasian region, promotes the conservation of Australasian fungi and facilitates networking and collaboration among mycologists.
The Queensland Mycological Society is a community based not-for-profit organisation that stimulates and supports the study and research of Queensland macrofungi through the collection, storage, analysis and dissemination of information about fungi though workshops and fungal forays and Promotes an understanding and appreciation of the roles macrofungal biodiversity plays in the health of Queensland ecosystems.