Fungi report is first of its kind
L eading mycologists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have collaborated with an international team of experts to present a new report on our knowledge of fungi, highlighting its importance to life on Earth: the organisms decompose dead material, cycle nutrients and can even help prevent desertification.
“When looking for nature-based solutions to some of our most critical global challenges, fungi could provide many of the answers,” says Prof Katherine Willis, director of science at Kew.
The availability and efficiency of DNAbased methods has enabled scientists to detect thousands of new fungi species per year – 2,189 were described in 2017, predominantly from the phylum Ascomycota – but there are at least two million species yet to be described.
The global market for edible mushrooms is worth approximately £32bn per year, while genera such as Penicillium – which is used in cheese, antibiotic and contraceptive-pill production – underpin many everyday products. Despite their value, only 56 species of fungi have had their conservation status assessed compared with 25,452 plants and 68,054 animals. “Fungi should be viewed on a par with the plant and animal kingdoms,” says Willis. “We have only just started to scratch the surface of knowledge of this incredible group of organisms.” Niki Rust
FIND OUT MORE
State of the World’s Fungi report: stateoftheworldsfungi.org
The crinoline stinkhorn is one of 144,000 named and classified fungi species.