The Forest Fungi Project launched by the Lankau lab in Plant Pathology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a citizen science initiative aimed at getting the public (that's you!) involved in the sciences. We hope to learn more about the environmental and climatic factors controlling the distribution of fungi. We are asking for samples from every state east of the Mississippi River.
The Lankau lab invites you to participate. Simply go to a forested area, identify a trees species, collect leaves, dig a hole, and collect roots and soil. Place your samples in a labeled sandwich bag and mail to the Lankau lab.
During your sampling, you will be able to explore a forested area, take pictures and share in our photo log.
We will display data as soon as samples are processed. So, you can see how you contributed to the Forest Fungi Project.
What fungi are involved?
Mycorrhizae means fungus root. It is a symbiotic relationship (both fungi and plant benefit) in which fungi live in or around roots. Fungi acquire nutrients for the plants through the soil and plants provide sugars to the fungi through photosynthesis.
Trees associate with one of two main types of fungi:
1. Arbuscular Mycorrhizal (AM) fungi- a group of fungi that colonize within plant root cells; are typically generalists
2. Ectomycorrhizal (EM) fungi- a group of fungi that form a sheath around the plant roots; are more specialized
Why is this important ?
Soil microbial communities are some of the most diverse, but also least understood, ecological systems on the planet, despite their clear importance for the functioning of terrestrial (land-based) ecosystems. Soil fungi in particular play a central role in structuring plant communities through their roles as pathogens (infectious agents causing disease) and mutualists (both living partners receiving benefit). Currently little is known about the biogeography (distribution) of soil fungi, and what environmental or climatic factors control their range limits. Such knowledge will be necessary to predict if and how fungal species ranges will shift in response to rapid climate change. Tree species ranges are predicted to shift northward by up to hundreds of kilometers in the next century, but these predictions do not consider how biotic interactions may promote or interfere with climate migration. If tree and fungal species shift to different extents, or at different rates, then the ecological function of the new plant-fungal associations that form may be an important determinant of community responses to climate change.