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Fungal conservation genetics: species traits and dispersal

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Population genetics of forest fungi

Understanding the mechanisms of fungal biodiversity is central for preserving the functions of fungal communities in forests world-wide.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment
Food and Natural Resources icon Food and Natural Resources

Wood-decay fungi are essential in forest ecosystems as they participate in wood decomposition and soil formation. They provide a habitat for many other organisms and enable the regeneration of forests throughout the world. However, many wood-decay fungi are threatened by forest management and their occurrence in a fragmented forest landscape is limited by ecological, evolution and dispersal traits. The EU-funded FUNDISTRAIT (Fungal conservation genetics: species traits and dispersal) project wished to address the mechanisms responsible for fungal dispersal. Towards this aim, they set out to determine which species, population and environmental characteristics correlate with dispersal inferred from population genotype patterns throughout a community of fungi. For this purpose, they focused on forests in Norway, Finland and Sweden. Researchers studied four trait categories related to dispersal capacity and survival, namely those directly relevant to dispersal, spore production, life history and environmental conditions. To investigate genetic diversity, they developed a reduced representation sequencing technique (restriction site Associated DNA, RAD sequencing) and implemented it on fungal population genetics in a high-throughput manner. More than 1 200 fungal samples were analysed from a boreal forest in Finland, which contained a high diversity of polypore species including some threatened by extinction. Results indicated that polypore species had responded differently to habitat loss and fragmentation, with large populations presenting higher fitness compared to isolated populations. The FUNDISTRAIT study provided important insight into the genetic variation of fungi in Northern Europe. Future collaborations with stakeholders in forestry and conservation of biodiversity, as well as national agricultural and environmental agencies will ensure that appropriate measures are taken to prevent fungal species dispersal and extinction.


Population genetics, forest, wood-decay fungi, FUNDISTRAIT, RAD sequencing

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