Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) is a ‘one stop shop’ for viewing and interpreting distribution information for Australia’s flora, fauna and fungi. The ALA aggregates data from a variety of sources and puts all the occurrences for each species on a map that can be viewed at different scales.
The power of the ALA is that it brings together both specimen data (compiled through Australia’s Virtual Herbarium, which in turn brings together data from all the major herbaria in Australia) and observation data, such as from Fungimap. This is much more efficient than having to consult websites of each individual data contributor, if indeed their data are available online. Fungi are fully integrated into the ALA, and it is a fantastic resource for exploring the distribution of Australian fungi.
ALA Spatial portal
In the ALA, maps of individual species are presented on species pages. There are more advanced mapping options in the Spatial portal, where it is possible to overlay distribution records over other layers. These layers can be the distribution of other species, or a large number of environmental variables, such as climate and soil characteristics.
The ALA Spatial portal also enables creation of predictive models, based on combinations of environmental variables.
Information about records
In ALA maps, by clicking on a point for an individual record, you can see information associated with the record, including who made the observation or collection, the date, description of the locality and so on.
Unfortunately, there are not yet specific fields in the ALA for associated vegetation, host and substrate (even if these fields are present in the original data). However, sometimes notes (especially if they come from Fungimap records) contain information on the substrate and host and/or the vegetation type in which the fungus occurred.
The ALA allows searching for particular species, and also the useful facility for assembling a species list (including for fungi) for a particular location or region (http://www.ala.org.au/species-bylocation/). The location can be radius (1, 5 or 10 km) around a specific point. Various pre-defined regions are also available such as states and local government areas.
Is your data in the ALA?
The ALA does not collate every known record, because it relies on three things
- the record must be digitised (i.e. in a database or submitted directly to the ALA as an individual record)
- the digitised record must have a georeference
- the digitised data must be supplied to the ALA.
For specimens, herbaria supply data to the ALA at different intervals. Additionally, in some herbaria many fungal collections remain to be databased, or those that are databased do not have georeferences. The ALA itself is a wonderful example of full integration of fungi into a biodiversity portal, but unfortunately the coverage of fungi in individual institutions (in terms of databasing) is not always at the same level as for vascular plants. It must also be remembered that there are considerable collections of Australian fungi in non-Australian herbaria, and most of these are not yet available online. If you have supplied specimens or sight records to an institution or organisation, and there is no dot in the ALA – ask what has happened to your data!
For Fungimap, the data upload to the ALA occurs about once a year, but we plan to increase the frequency of updates.
Supporting data for new observations
For readily recognisable species, Fungimap accepts observations without photos. The Fungimap image database is not set up to cope with tens of thousands of photos! However, photos are always welcome, especially if you have any doubt about identification.
If your observation is a long way from the known distribution, it is ideal to submit a photo with the record, and if possible to lodge a voucher collection in your local herbarium.