Research into Australia's fungi is 100 years behind research into our fauna and flora.
These notes are taken directly from a submission written by John Julian and Tom May.
Background to Research
Fungi are known to have a vital role in the ecosystem as decomposers, as pathogens and as partners in mutualisms (symbioses) such as mycorrhizas. Without fungi, our life on earth would be vastly different, if it existed at all. Fungi are the main recyclers of most dead plant material. Fungi also considerably aid humanity in other ways, e.g. yeast are fungi and many biologically active compounds, such as antibiotics, are produced from fungi.
Current research in other areas, especially conservation research, is hampered by the lack of basic knowledge of fungi. The distribution of even the most well known species of Australian fungi is poorly known. There are few published distribution maps. Fungi could be highly affected by pollution and a mapping study of fungi would add considerable knowledge on the spread and effects of pollution.
In general, the study of fungi is one of the last frontiers of natural science available for study that is accessible to the lay person. Taking into account the importance of fungi in our world, it is critical that this knowledge be gained as quickly as possible.
Research Questions that may be addressed with Fungimap's dataset:
- What is the scale of distribution of fungi (are most fungi localized, or do they have wide distributions)?
- What are the major patterns of distribution? Examples might be species found in south-east and south-west Australia, or species restricted to one of these regions.
- What factors determine the limits (boundaries) of distribution? Are species limited by rainfall, temperature, soil type, host or combinations of these factors?
- Within their area of distribution, what is the habitat and substrate preference?
- Which species survive in remnant vegetation? Of particular interest is urban remnant vegetation.
- What is the effect of various forms of disturbance such as fire or logging on the occurrence of fungi?
- Are exotic species of fungi spreading into native forests?
- Is the effect of atmospheric pollution detectable? There is a need for baseline data against which to measure any decline in fungi.
- What is the time of appearance (phenology) of the fruiting bodies, and what factors might affect this?