The Lost & Found Fungi project focuses on a set of 100 species of fungi from Great Britain & Ireland, in general rarely recorded and feared threatened. It's been distilled from a long-list of nearly 400 species, and that list itself is only an incomplete sample of the British species that are poorly known.Further information will be posted for each species as data are compiled, but the list here is a draft for comment by those with interests in field mycology.
Hopefully there is something for everyone - large and small species, dramatic fruit-bodies and challenging specks, lichens and non-lichenized species, almost unknown species and those known to need monitoring. Many of the species on the list are there by request from the volunteer community, or are present following recent notable finds. If you would be interested to search for particular species in your local area, tell us and we will do all we can to help. Additionally, we do not want to discourage general recording, or searches for fungi not on this target list. By all means tell us what you plan to do, and we'll do our best to work with you.
Suggestions as to what to do when you think you've found a target species (or anything else you think might be a significant find) will come shortly!
This part of the website highlights fungal species of relevance to plant health in Great Britain and Ireland. Some of the fungi listed here are economically or socially important pathogens, causing damage to crops, ornamental plants and native species. However, many other parasitic fungi have minimal impact on plant health, and may even provide benefits to the plant such as protection against herbivory.
Biotrophic species (such as rusts) obtain nutrition from but do not kill their hosts, although growth and economic value may be dramatically decreased. Necrotrophic fungi kill plant tissues, causing leaf spots, die-back, wilts etc. Fungi associated with disease symptoms are not necessarily the causal organisms; they may be secondary colonizers of the dead tissues. Information on the impact of fungi on native host plants is patchy and incomplete for many British and Irish species.
Many non-parasitic fungi show host/substratum specialisation, being fully or largely restricted to particular families or genera of plants. These are included in the Host Lists tab on the home page of this website, which also incorporates the species listed here.
The index below to fungi included in this web resource that are of relevance to plant health is organized by host genus.
The fungi in the unimproved (low-nitrogen) grasslands of northern Europe are the subject of great conservation interest, as indicators of ecological continuity. The fungi concerned fall into four main groups, the waxcap fungi (Hygrocybe species), the Clavariaceae and similar species, Entoloma species and members of the Geoglossaceae.
Survey and monitoring of many of these fungi is problematic due to the ephemeral and unpredictable appearance of their fruit bodies. Identification is also difficult, as many species are highly variable in size, shape and colour, and cannot be reliably distinguished in the field. A partnership between CABI, Kew and the University of Aberystwyth from August 2010 - January 2013 will investigate the molecular phylogeny of two of the waxcap fungi groups in the UK and carry out preliminary work on their nutritional and mycorrhizal status. The project is being supported financially by DEFRA and Scottish Natural Heritage.
A key requirement for many fungi of conservation concern in the UK is the need for molecular diagnostic tools, to assist in species definition (including recognition of cryptic taxa). Identification of diagnostic (barcoding) sequences will allow detection of non-fruiting populations, a particularly important task bearing in mind the ephemeral and irregular fruiting events of many fungi.
The fungal species of unimproved grasslands have not been studied in any detail using molecular methods. Bearing in mind the critical nature of morphological species definition for many of these fungi, the existence of cryptic species might be expected, and phylogenetic studies would also lead to detection of correlated morphological traits that will improve the robustness of traditional identification methods.
We intend to focus on two genera from the grassland system, the waxcaps themselves (Hygrocybe spp.) and the earthtongues (Geoglossum and relatives). Both groups have been the subject of long-term monitoring exercises, they have excited the attention of non-specialists, their presence has led to some of the few SSSIs in the UK designated for their non-lichenized fungi, and are included in of the sites analyzed in the Important Fungus Areas survey. Three species are included in the BAP signposting exercise (Hygrocybe spadicea, Geoglossum atropurpureum and Microglossum olivaceum), with a further 11 taxa placed on the provisional UK Red Data List for fungi – two of which have been proposed for inclusion in Schedule 1 of the Bern Convention. All four national statutory conservation bodies have funded survey and monitoring of these fungi. Despite all of this interest, neither group has been the subject of a modern systematic revision using molecular methods. Few authentic sequences are available, and the work to identify diagnostic barcode sequences has not been carried out.
We will use freshly gathered samples and authentic material from Kew’s incomparable collections. Fresh collections will be sourced with support from the extensive existing network of local recording groups with interests in waxcap species, and targetted workshops/survey exercises. DNA extraction, sequencing and analysis will be carried out according to standard methods, with preliminary phylogenies based on ITS sequences and additional genes used subsequently to increase the robustness of evolutionary reconstructions. Correlations will be sought between genotypes and morphological/ecological characteristics, focusing on areas of conflict between the new phylogenies and traditional classifications. The outcome will be a stable taxonomic system with potential for use in a wide range of ecological and conservation studies.
This project will give us the capacity to develop novel monitoring methods, as recommended in the UK Strategy for conservation of fungi "Saving the Forgotten Kingdom". Next-generation sequencing approaches allow us to analyze fungal populations extracted directly from soil cores. This makes it possible not only to identify which species are present but also to study their relative abundance. This allows the analysis of non-fruiting fungal communities and can potentially reduce substantially the need for multiple field surveys to detect all the species that may be present. The work may also lead to more robust methodologies for selection of grassland SSSIs. Whilst issues of sampling intensity and the heterogeneous distribution of grassland fungi make it likely that traditional field surveys will still be useful, the ability to generate a species inventory by genetic means holds huge potential for fungal conservation.
This project will allow us to (a) define species using more objective criteria, using a combination of morphological and molecular methods; (b) recognize cryptic species that may need to be considered for conservation management; (c) gain a better understanding of the ecology of waxcap fungi, (d) designate barcode sequences to allow development of novel monitoring tools for non-fruiting populations, and (e) reinvigorate the partnership between the scientific and lay communities to study these beautiful species.
Fungi have traditionally been classified with the plants. However, ultrastructural and chemical research (now confirmed using molecular methods) has demonstrated without question that they should be placed in a separate Kingdom of life, and that they are actually more closely related to animals than plants. It has also been established that a number of groups traditionally considered as fungi do not belong to the Kingdom Fungi. These include the Myxomycota (slime moulds) and Oomycota (including Phytophthora which causes disease including the potato blight resulting in the Irish famines of the 19th century).
Fungi are one of the most diverse organism groups on Earth, outnumbered only by the insects. Biodiversity research in the 1990s led to estimates that the total number of species probably numbers between 1 and 1.5 million, of which we have basic information of less than 100000. The small size and ephemeral nature of many species makes their detection and identification problematic.
Fungi underpin many ecosystem functions, and are the principal group of organisms that decay plant and animal remains and therefore recycle carbon. Many have symbiotic relationships with other organisms. These include mycorrhizal species that play critical roles in water and nutrient transport in plant roots, and lichenized species that form mutual complexes with algae and cyanobacteria. They are used as food by a wide range of animals, including of course humans. They produce an immense range of chemicals (secondary metabolites, enzymes etc.) that may be deleterious (toxic) or beneficial. Among others, pharmaceutical industries, food manufacturers, household product producers and clothes manufacturers all exploit fungi and fungal products in their production processes.
Fungal identification is problematic for a number of reasons. The sheer number of species is daunting even to the expert, morphological structures required for identification may not be produced in culture, the species themselves may be poorly differentiated, and literature for identification is scattered, outdated and jargon-ridden. For most groups of fungi, morphological and cultural examination are still the techniques of choice. Molecular phylogenetics systems that identify fungi using sequence data (primarily rDNA ITS sequences) are being developed, and are already successful for some groups of fungi. It will be some years before a universal molecular identification system can be developed, due to the number of species for which sequences are not available and uncertainties about species definition using sequence data.
Classification of the Kingdom Fungi
The true fungi contain species in four phyla (major divisions), the Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, Chytridiomycota and Zygomycota. Many true fungi produce both mitotic and meiotic spores, often from distinct fruiting structures which appear at different times and are associated with different symptoms. Structures producing mitotic spores (or conidia) are referred to as anamorphs, and those producing meiotic spores ascospores, basidiospores etc.) as teleomorphs. For historical reasons, the different spore-bearing forms have frequently been given separate names. As in many cases environmental fungi are most prominent as anamorphs, they are commonly referred to using their anamorph names. In some instances the sexual stage is not known: the fungus may have a purely mitotic life cycle, or the teleomorph may simply not have been recognized. Linkages between anamorphs and teleomorphs can be established using various methods, but many have not been identified. Technically, when the sexual morph is known the fungus as a whole should be referred to by the teleomorph name, but in applied mycology circles the anamorph name is frequently used even though the meotic phase is known.
Fungi (with the exception of yeasts) are filamentous organisms with their vegetative tissues composed of tube-like hyphae, usually with cross-walls (except in the Zygomycota) with pores through which water, nutrients etc. can pass. Hyphae are often branched and anastomozed, and collectively form a network known as the mycelium. This is often difficult to detect as it may be immersed within substrata, but becomes easier to observe in culture. Yeasts are fungi also, and collectively form a biological strategy group rather than a homogenous group in taxonomic terms. Environmentally significant species may have affinities with both ascomycetous and basidiomycetous fungi.