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Saturday, March 25, 2023

Beyond flora and fauna: why it’s time to include fungi in global conservation goals

It is no secret that the Earth’s biodiversity is under threat. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 26% of all mammals, 14% of birds and 41% of amphibians are currently threatened worldwide, mainly due to human impacts such as climate change and development.

Other forms of life are also under pressure, but they are hard to count and assess. Some scientists have warned of widespread insect death, although others say that has not been proven to be the case. And then there are fungi – microbes that often go unnoticed, with an estimated 2 million to 4 million species. Less than 150,000 fungi have received formal scientific descriptions and classifications.

If you enjoy bread, wine or soy sauce, or you’ve taken penicillin or immunosuppressant medications, thank the fungi that make all of these products possible. Except for baker’s yeast and button mushrooms, most fungi are overlooked and hidden in the dark and moist. But scientists agree that they are valuable organisms that must be protected.

As mycologists whose biodiversity work includes the study of fungi that interact with millipedes, plants, mosquitoes, and true bugs, we have devoted our careers to understanding the important roles they play. These relationships can be beneficial, harmful, or neutral to the fungus’s companion organism. But it is not an exaggeration to say that without fungi breaking down dead matter and recycling its nutrients, life on Earth would not be recognizable.

Pitta, a fungus on eastern red cedar, produced by rust fungus Gymnosporangium juniperi-Virginia.
Matt CassoneCC BY-ND

Healthy ecosystems need fungi

The wonderful organic fungal kingdom includes everything from bracket fungi, molds and yeasts to mushrooms and more. Fungi are not plants, although they are commonly kept near fresh produce in grocery stores. In fact, they are more closely related to animals.

But fungi do have some unique characteristics that set them apart. They grow by budding or by elongated, often branching, thread-like tubes. In order to reproduce, fungi usually form spores, a stage for dispersal and dormancy. Instead of taking the food into their bodies to eat, fungi release enzymes to break down their food and then absorb the released sugars. The fungal kingdom is very diverse, so many fungi break down mold.

Fungi play essential ecological roles around the world. Some have been forming important partnerships with plant roots for hundreds of millions of years. Others break down dead plants and animals and return vital nutrients to the soil so that other life forms can use them.

Fungi are among the few organisms that can degrade lignin, a main component of wood that gives plants their hardness. Without the fungus, our forests would be littered with huge piles of wood debris.

Still other fungi form unique mutualistic partnerships with insects. flavodon ambrosius, a white rot decay fungus, not only serves as the primary source of nutrition for some fungi—agricultural ambrosia beetles, but it also quickly outcompetes other wood-colonizing fungi, which make these beetles large, Allows the creation of multi-generational communities. Similarly, leaf-cutting ants keep leukoagaricus gongylophorus as food by collecting dead plants in their nests to feed on their fungal mates.

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Leaf-cutter ants and fungi have a complex symbiotic relationship that has existed for millions of years.

a mostly unknown kingdom

We can only partly appreciate the benefits offered by fungi, because scientists have a narrow and very incomplete view of the fungal kingdom. Imagine trying to assemble a 4 million-piece puzzle with only 3% to 5% of the pieces. Mycologists struggle to formally describe Earth’s fungal biodiversity, as well as assessing the conservation status and tracking losses of various species.

A Green Shelf-Like Fungus Extends From The Base Of A Pine Tree.
bridgeporus nobilisimus The fungus, commonly known as the noble polypore, is native to the Pacific Northwest, where it can reach sizes of up to 290 pounds (130 kg). It is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
Chail ThomasCC BY-ND

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species currently includes 551 fungi, compared to 58,343 plants and 12,100 insects. About 60% of these listed fungal species are grilled mushrooms or lichenized fungi, representing a very narrow specimen of the fungal kingdom.

When asked what a fungus looks like, the average person would probably imagine a mushroom, which is partially correct. Mushrooms are “fruiting bodies” or reproductive structures, which only certain fungi produce. But most fungi do not produce fruiting bodies that are visible to the eye, or any at all, so these “microfungi” are largely overlooked.

Many people view fungus as frightening or disgusting. Today, although there is increasing positive interest in fungi, species that cause diseases – such as chytrid fungus in amphibians and white-nose syndrome in bats – still receive more attention than fungi that play essential, beneficial roles in the environment. attract.

protect our fungus future

Despite limited knowledge about the status of fungi, there is increasing evidence that climate change threatens them as much as plants, animals and other microbes. Pollution, drought, fire and other disturbances are all contributing to the loss of precious fungi.

This is just not true on the ground. Recent studies of aquatic fungi that play all kinds of important roles in rivers, lakes and oceans have raised concerns that little is being done to conserve them.

It’s hard to motivate people to care about something they don’t know or understand. And it is difficult even for scientists to establish effective conservation programs for the mysterious creatures. But people who care about fungus are trying. In addition to the IUCN Fungus Conservation Committee, which coordinates global fungal conservation initiatives, various non-governmental organizations and non-profit organizations advocate fungi.

Over the past two years, we’ve seen an increase in public interest in everything from home growth kits and cultivation courses to increased enrollment in local mycological societies. We hope this new approval can benefit fungi, their habitats, and the people who study and manage them. One measure of success would be for people to ask not only whether the mushroom is poisonous or edible, but also whether it needs protection.

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Australian naturalist Steve Axford photographs fungi in Australia’s rainforests, helping scientists document a previously unknown species.

Delegations from most countries of the world will meet in China for a major conference on protecting biodiversity. Their goal is to set international standards for the preservation of life on Earth for years to come. Mycologists want mushrooms, yeasts and molds to be included in the plan.

Anyone who takes their curiosity outside can use community science platforms, such as iNaturalist, to report their observations of the fungus and learn more. Joining a mycology club is a great way to learn how to search for fungi responsibly and without damaging or damaging their habitats.

Fungi are forming important networks and partnerships in the environment around us, moving resources and information in all directions between soil, water and other living things. To us, they exemplify the power of connection and cooperation – valuable traits at this precarious stage of life on Earth.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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