The power of citizen science and big data to advance fungal conservation
Convened by: Susana C. Gonçalves, Panu Halme, Jacob Heilmann-Clausen, David Minter, Beatrice Senn-Irlet
In recent years, fungal conservation has gained momentum #1. Fungi are increasingly recognized as key players in ecosystem functioning, and the need to consider fungi in conservation is increasingly accepted.
Fungi are a megadiverse Kingdom #2. Molecular tools are improving our knowledge about fungal biodiversity (in some cases with direct conservation relevance), but to be meaningful for conservation we need accurate biodiversity data across space and time. This is an especially difficult challenge in fungal conservation due to the massive diversity, taxonomic shortcomings and difficult detectability of fungi. In this context, citizen science recording schemes and the integration of databases, e.g. from digitizing natural history collections, provide valuable resources. In Europe, diverse citizen science based databases are presently being used for advancing fundamental knowledge about fungal biodiversity, e.g. the Danish Fungal Atlas #3 or the Swedish Species Observation Centre #4. Also, targeted citizen science initiatives are tackling specific questions regarding fungal conservation. For example, the “Lost and Found fungi” project asks if fungi not observed for more than 50 years in the UK are truly extinct or merely overlooked #5. In parallel, the integration of multi-sources databases from several European countries through the Norwegian-based “ClimFun” project addresses ecological questions pertaining fungal ecology under climate change at various spatiotemporal scales #6.
We believe the time has come to critically evaluate how these approaches can fill the gap between fundamental knowledge about fungal diversity and conservation action. The invited contributions in our symposium will showcase these and other similar initiatives. A specific objective is to explore tools that overcome encountered difficulties, e.g. to deal with geographical bias or bias related to volunteers’ behavior. We aim to highlight successes, but also to pinpoint failures to promote debate during the discussions. We will also discuss how to effectively translate these data into information that can be used by decision-makers.
#1 J. Heilmann-Clausen, E. Barron, L. Boddy et al. 2015. A fungal perspective of conservation biology. Conservation Biology 29: 61-68
#2 D.L. Hawksworth and R. Lücking. 2017. Fungal diversity revisited: 2.2 to 3.8 Million Species. Microbiology Spectrum doi:
#3 The Danish fungal atlas. https://svampe.databasen.org/
#4 The Swedish Species Information Centre. http://www.artdatabanken.se/en/
#5 The Lost and Found Fungi Project. http://fungi.myspecies.info/content/lost-found-fungi-project
#6 C. Andrew, E. Heegaard, P. Kirk et al. 2017. Big data integration: Pan-European fungal species observations’ assembly for addressing contemporary questions in ecology and global change biology. Fungal Biology Reviews http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2017.01.001