Book Review

Biodiversity of Fungi:
Inventory and Monitoring Methods

Edited by Gregory M. Mueller, Gerald F. Bills, & Mercedes S. Foster
2004 / 777 pp.
ISBN 0-12-509551-1
$129.00 (hardcover or eBook)

A critical aspect of studying fungus communities is knowing which species make them up and in what proportions, a not-at-all simple undertaking, particularly when one considers that we probably know only 5-10% of the fungi with which we share the planet. This is no small matter, for ecological processes and human well-being are utterly dependent on these usually unseen and always under-appreciated organisms. For those tempted to characterize and monitor the fungi of areas or ecosystems of whatever extent, here is a valuable resource.

It was a long time in development, with preliminary discussions and planning originating as early as 1994. Ultimately, more than 88 mycologists from around the world contributed to the project. In addition to the true fungi, it also treats the fungus-like groups traditionally studied by mycologists—such as the water molds and slime molds.

The book consists of three main parts—the first is a series of six chapters dealing with general issues. The second part consists of 20 chapters describing recommended protocols for sampling particular groups of fungi. These are organized by technique and by functional ecological group rather than by a taxonomic scheme. Thus, sections focus on fungi in freshwater habitats, fungi associated with insects, terrestrial macrofungi, and so on. The third part consists of extensive appendices, illustrated glossary, lengthy (90 pages in a tiny font!) reference list, and index.

The general issues topics include an overview of fungus taxa, biodiversity patterns and analysis and treatment of fungus biodiversity data, electronic information resources, the use of molecular methods in inventory and monitoring, and information on preparation, storage, and use of herbarium specimens and live cultures. This part would be highly relevant to anyone working with any group of fungi in any area or habitat.

The second part is divided into four subparts and each of these contains from four to seven chapters. The subparts deal with direct collecting and isolation protocols for macrofungi and microfungi on soil, wood, leaves, lichens, and other substrates; isolation protocols for readily culturable microfungi associated with plants; collecting and isolation protocols for fungi associated with animals; and collecting and isolation protocols for aquatic fungi and for Protoctistans formerly treated as fungi. Although the individual chapters differ somewhat in accordance with the types of fungi and habitats they cover, the 45-page treatment of terrestrial and lignicolous macrofungi, written by Jean Lodge, Joe Ammirati, and 12 others, provides a good example.

The chapter includes four main parts—Collecting and describing macrofungi, Macrofungi on woody substrata, Approaches to sampling macrofungi, and Recommended protocols for sampling macrofungi. The first of these includes discussions of the factors that influence species richness; collecting, culturing, and preserving macrofungi; describing the macro- and micromorphological features of collected fungi; and examples of resources for identifying macrofungi. The section is illustrated primarily with color photographs of macrofungi and macromycologists at work. The photos are generally good, but the color rendition of most of them is poor. As will be the case throughout the chapter, the discussions point out things that ought to be considered in carrying out an inventory or monitoring project, but don’t provide sufficient details to be considered a cookbook.

The section dealing with macrofungi on woody substrates is rather short and much of the discussion really isn’t specific to fungi occurring on wood. Topics include inconspicuous and indistinguishable species, plot size, frequency of sampling, and data collection. The next section outlines approaches to the actual sampling. It deals with the differences between inventory and monitoring projects, various types of sampling units, convenience (“walk-around”) versus plot-based sampling, use of dispersed subsamples and adaptive sampling, how to determine when sampling is adequate, and extrapolating from sample results to actual species richness.

The final section presents the authors’ recommendations for sampling macrofungi. These cover opportunistic sampling, plot-based sampling, using small subplots for tiny ascomycetes, and sampling a fixed number of down logs. It does not address such things as equipment, description of collections, and documentation, leaving those up to individual preference and experience.

The appendices include a description of the use of moist chambers for observation of the development of fungi, formulas for materials (such as growth media and stains) used to isolate and study fungi, a listing of institutions with large fungus collections and fungus-related websites, and a list of vendors for equipment and supplies for fieldwork, labwork, computer analysis, and other phases of fungus inventory and monitoring.

While this volume doesn’t provide everything one needs to consider in carrying out an inventory or monitoring project, it certainly makes a great starting point for project planning. Let’s now hope that mycologists can find funding for projects, such as the North American mycoflora endeavor that is being talked-about, so that the notable effort that went into its preparation won’t go for naught.

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in Fungi