The concept of biodiversity brings images of adorable animals (‘charismatic megafauna’) and beautiful plants to the mind of the average person. Many people are concerned about endangered species, and in general about the negative effects of human economic activities on wild plants and animals. Those who fund biodiversity research often have similar perspectives. These viewpoints are understandable, but in terms of real biology, unrealistically narrow.
Few people, for example, ever think of fungi in these terms. Fungi are rarely considered organisms that can be threatened, or whose activities can be essential to the health of ecosystems. A major aim within biology these days is to link fungi to their environment, i.e. to the ecosystems where they occur. Mycologists know that there are more than 1.5 million species of fungi, of which we currently know only around 7%. The Fungal Planet project is intended to facilitate the description of new fungal species. At the same time, it aims to stabilize the nomenclature of known species, and very importantly, to develop non-technical material on fungal diversity that might resonate with politicians, decision makers and other biologists. With this initiative, we aim to highlight the world’s incredible fungal diversity, and thus emphasize the importance of supporting fungal biodiversity research.
Although not all fungi can be cultivated , we intend to make cultures or DNA extracts of all species included in the Fungal Planet available to international initiatives such as AFToL (Assembling the Fungal Tree of Life), and CBoL (Consortium for the Barcode of Life). Contributors must ensure that cultures or DNA are deposited in major international collections to facilitate further research on these taxa.
Fungal Planet is expected to be one of several kingdom-based, consortium-style projects aimed at facilitating the discovery and description of our planet’s biodiversity. You and other mycologists are invited to contribute to this venture.
Descriptions of new species
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A major aim of Fungal Planet is to remove the bottleneck obstructing species description: it provides a rapid, simplified outlet for researchers to describe species that they might never have time to describe in regular scientific journals because of the time and effort required to write a full scientific paper. Each published species description will consist of two pages, namely a technical page, and a colour illustration page. Additional information (including phylogenetic trees) can be included, if necessary, in supplementary pdf or MSWord files available on-line in MycoBank .
The technical page will include the following headings: Species name, MycoBank number, full English description, Type and other specimen details, Ecological and Biological information, Notes, References, Author affiliations. Line drawings are optional, but will appear on this page if included.
The colour page will include colour photos of the fungus in vivo and in vitro (if available). The inclusion of a high quality colour photograph portraying the ecology of the organism, either as a background for the plate, or as one element of the plate, is strongly encouraged.
The editors expect excellent descriptions, and illustrations that meet or exceed the state of the art for the taxonomic group in question. Authors must convincingly demonstrate to the editors and peer reviewers that a) their species are indeed novel; b) that they are being appropriately classified; and c) that they are described and illustrated with sufficient detail and comprehensiveness that they can be identified reliably by other taxonomists (Organisms such as root endophytes for which morphological identification is not recommended can be included, but should also be given a standard description.). If these items exceed the 2 page limit, the elements in excess can be developed, along with additional discussion and notes on methods, as supplementary material deposited MycoBank as MSWord or pdf documents, accessioned alongside the species description.
Species descriptions will be printed in sets, as available. All species descriptions will be available free of charge on this website. A link to MycoBank will connect with a system allowing mycologists to receive alerts if species have been described in genera of special interest to them.
Epitypification or neotypification of previously described fungal species
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Many classical species are either not typified at all, or are not represented by authoritatively identified specimens or cultures that can serve as DNA sources for phylogenetic studies or for the development of molecular identification systems.
Fungal Planet will provide an outlet for modern redescriptions and new illustrations of already described species for which typification requires clarification. Normally this will be through the designation of neotype material (new type material for species that lack a formal type) or epitypification (new material for species having a formal type, but no ex-type culture or type DNA). These descriptions and illustrations will be expected to meet the same high standards expected of the new species descriptions (noted above), with the additional criterion that the author will be expected to prove to the editors that the neo- or epitypification is necessary and accurate.
Fungal Planet, The book
A major initiative of this project will be to produce a visually arresting, scientifically compelling, large-format book targeted at a non-specialist audience. This book will highlight the morphological and phylogenetic diversity of fungi, presenting as much information as possible on the importance of fungi to planet Earth. We will attempt to portray the full range of ecological niches and roles associated with fungi, as well as the full spate of economic and health impacts. Dramatic colour photos will show familiar landscapes and habitats in a context that will emphasize their ‘invisible’ fungal dimension. To the greatest extent possible, the 1000 species presented in this book will be selected by the editors from the new and epitypified species presented in the other parts of the Fungal Planet. Therefore, authors of new or epitypified species are encouraged to submit several additional colour photographs that will not necessarily appear in their original papers, but that can be selected for the alternative published versions of the project. These photographs might include the collection sites of the fungi, spectacular habit photographs, or even pictures of mycologists collecting fungi. Imagination, attention to aesthetics, and careful photography are key aspects for these non-technical photographs that are intended to highlight the fungal world.
Our goal is to produce a book that features compelling design and stimulating concepts, so that it can be used to market the fungal kingdom as an important, intrinsically fascinating, and often surprisingly beautiful component of biodiversity.