CORDIS - EU research results

Coevolution of the Cladoniaceae and associated fungi

Final Report Summary - CLADOF (Coevolution of the Cladoniaceae and associated fungi)

Lichenicolous fungi only can live on lichens, either as parasites, as commensals or as saprophytes. The knowledge of this group of fungi is still very limited. About 80 species of lichenicolous fungi associated to the Cladoniaceae had been described, but the phylogenetic position of many of them was unknown. Cladoniaceae is one of the largest and most diverse families of lichens. It includes about 500 species. The species comprise significant components of numerous terrestrial ecosystems around the world. The project CLADOF is framed in a different field of the biodiversity study, namely phylogeny, coevolution and biogeography. The goal was to combine the phylogeny of the Cladoniaceae with complete chemical and distributional data, to screen the associated fungi, and to produce the first inclusive phylogeny of the latter. The phylogenetic study of the fungi associated with Cladoniaceae was an unexplored field until the development of the CLADOF Project. During the Project fulfilment, the knowledge of the diversity and evolution of these fungi has been substantially increased.

New collections were carried out in Azores islans, Finland, Madeira, Spain, and Turkey. In addition, around 3,000 herbarium specimenes of the genera Cladonia and Cladia were revised and about 500 collections of lichenicolous fungi were identified. During this project a new phylogeny of the Cladoniaceae, using 5 genes, including more than 300 taxa, and addressing several taxonomical problems in the genus Cladonia, has been produced. A phylogenic study of lichenocolous fungi on the Lecanoromycetes class, using four loci (ITS rDNA, SSU rDNA, LSU rDNA and mtSSU) has been accomplished. In addition, a population study of the lichenicolous fungi Heterocephalacria bachmannii has been carried out, including populations from Macaronesia, Mediterranean and Boreal regions.

As a result of this work three new species have been described and three more are pending publication. The phylogenetic relationships of several species of fungi have been established. Six scientific papers have been published in international journals, one more has been sent and is under revision and two others will shortly be sent. In addition, the results have been submitted to international congresses. Around 850 specimens of lichenicolous fungi and Cladoniaceae have been deposited in the herbarium of the Finnish Museum of Natural History (H), where they will remain at researchers' disposal.

Regarding dissemination activities, the Project results have been submitted to several international congresses (XVII Congress of European Mycologist, XX Cryptogamic Botany Symposium, International Lichenological Symposium IAL8). In addition, an exhibition of Cladoniacea and lichenicolous fungi was organized at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, where both adults and children were taught how the target organisms could be observed by microscope. A workshop on Cladoniaceae was held, with lectures and practical lessons about specimens identification.

In the International Lichenological Symposium IAL8, organized by the Finnish Museum of Natural History, a session essentially related to the project (Cladoniaceae) was organized, in which Prof. S. Stenroos and Dr. R. Pino Bodas were the conveners.