CA Mushrooms
CA Mushrooms

Book Review

The Fungal Community: Its Organization and Role in the Ecosystem (4th Edition)

Edited by John Dighton & James F. White
2017, CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group
ISBN 978-1-4987-0665-0
597 pp.; $160.00 (hardcover or eBook)

Like its predecessors, this fourth edition of The Fungal Community is a hefty wide-ranging compendium of information about fungus ecology. The Rutgers University team of John Dighton and James White, who edited the third edition (2005) with Peter Oudemans, return as editors after taking over for Donald Wicklow and George Carroll, who ably produced the first (1981) and second (1992) editions. Like the earlier editions, this one is not a revision of the previous volume and, in fact, has very little connection to the earlier ones, other than sharing the title and general subject matter. The 39 chapters are all new and, of their 101 authors, only 10 contributed to the third edition. There is a continued emphasis on emerging methods for studying fungus ecology, and increasing geographic diversity in the authorship, with 63 (63%) of the contributors coming from outside North America compared to 46% in the previous edition. Major themes include the impact of new molecular tools, function in fungus communities, interactions of fungi with other organisms, human impacts on fungi, and the means by which fungi communicate with themselves and other organisms. These are discussed in a brief general introduction, which is the only synthesis provided. There are no integrative section introductions or summaries such as are often presented in similar volumes.

The chapters are distributed among nine sections (“parts”)—I: Integrating Genomics and Metagenomics into Community Analysis (4 chapters), II: Recent Advances in Fungal Endophyte Research (4 chapters), III: Fungal Communities in Terrestrial Ecosystems (5 chapters), IV: Fungal Communities in Marine and Aquatic Ecosystems (4 chapters), V: Fungal Adaptions to Stress and Conservation (4 chapters), VI: Fungal-Faunal Interactions (7 chapters), VII: Fungal Communities, Climate Change, and Pollution (4 chapters), VIII: Fungi in the Built Environment (3 chapters), and IX: Fungal Signaling and Communication (4 chapters). Although not an imaginative approach, a listing of the chapter titles and their authors seems the best way to convey a sense of what this book is about. So here goes …

Part I. Molecular community ecology of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (Joe D. Taylor, Thorunn Helgason, Maarja Öpik), Comparative and functional genomics of ectomycorrhizal symbiosis (Joske Ruytinx, Francis Martin), Early fungi: Evidence from the fossil record (Michael Krings, Thomas N. Taylor, Carla J. Harper), Evolution of lichens (H. Thorsten Lumbsch, Jouko Rikkinen).

Part II. A novel framework for decoding fungal endophyte diversity (Natalie Christian, Briana K. Whitaker, Keith Clay), Foliar endophyte communities and leaf traits in tropical trees (Sunshine Van Bael, Catalina Estrada, A. Elizabeth Arnold), Community assembly of phyllosphere endophytes: a closer look at fungal life-cycle dynamics, competition and phytochemistry in the shaping of the fungal community (Christopher B. Zambell, James F. White), Interactions between fungal endophytes and bacterial colonizers of fescue grass (Elizabeth Lewis Roberts, Christopher Mark Adamchek).

Part III. Geomycology: geoactive fungal roles in the biosphere (Geoffrey Michael Gadd), Lichens and microfungi in biocrusts: structure and function now and in the future (Jayne Belnap, Otto L. Lange), Ecology of fungal phylloplane epiphytes (Katalin Malcolm, John Dighton), Wood decay communities in angiosperm wood (Lynne Boddy, Jennifer Hiscox, Emma C. Gilmartin, Sarah R. Johnston, Jacob Heilmann- Clausen), Lichens in natural ecosystems (Darwyn Coxson, Natalie Howe). Part IV. Diversity and role of fungi in the marine ecosystem (Chandralata Raghukumar), Aquatic hyphomycete communities in freshwater (Kandikere R. Sridhar), The ecology of chytrid and aphelid parasites of phytoplankton (Thomas G. Jephcott, Floris F. van Ogtrop, Frank H. Gleason, Deborah J. Macarthur, Bettina Scholz), Crown oomycetes have evolved as effective plant and animal parasites (Agostina V. Marano, Frank H. Gleason, Sarah C.O. Rocha, Carmen L.A. Pires-Zottarelli, José I. de Souza).

Part V. Adaptations of fungi and fungal-like organisms for growth under reduced dissolved oxygen concentrations (Sandra Kittelmann, Cathrine S. Manohar, Ray Kearney, Donald O. Natvig, Frank H. Gleason), Fungi in extreme and stressful environments (Sharon A. Cantrell), Reaching the wind: Boundary layer escape as a constraint on ascomycete spore dispersal (Anne Pringle, Michael Brenner, Joerg Fritz, Marcus Roper, Agnese Seminara), Who Cares? The human perspective on fungal conservation (Elizabeth S. Barron).

Part VI. Belowground trophic interactions (Amy Treonis), Mycophagy and spore dispersal by vertebrates (Alessandra Zambonelli, Francesca Ori, Ian Hall), The fungal spore: myrmecophilous Ophiocordyceps as a case study (Joao P. M. Araújo, David P. Hughes), Coevolution of fungi and invertebrates (Xingzhong Liu, Lin Wang, Meichun Xiang), Fungal diversity of Macrotermes- Termitomyces nests in Tsavo, Kenya (Jouko Rikkinen, Risto Vesala), Emerging mycoses and fungus-like diseases of vertebrate wildlife (Hannah T. Reynolds, Daniel Raudabaugh, Osu Lilje, Matthew Allender, Andrew N. Miller, Frank H. Gleason), Geomyces and Pseudogymnoascus: Emergence of a primary pathogen, the causative agent of bat white-nose syndrome (Michelle L. Verant, Andrew .M. Minnis, Daniel L. Lindner, David S. Blehert).

Part VII. Mycorrhizal fungi and accompanying microorganisms in improving phytoremediation techniques (Piotr Rozpądek, Agnieszka Domka, Katarzyna Turnau), Effects of toxic metals on chytrids, fungal-like organisms and higher fungi (Linda Henderson, Erna Lilje, Katie Robinson, Frank H. Gleason, Osu Lilje), The fungal community in organically polluted systems (Hauke Harms, Lukas Y. Wick, Dietmar Schlosser), Fungal communities and climate change (Jennifer M. Talbot).

Part VIII. Decomposition of wooden structures by fungi (Benjamin W. Held), Fungal degradation of our cultural heritage (John Dighton), Microorganisms for safeguarding cultural heritage (Edith Joseph, Saskia Bindschedler, Monica Albini, Lucrezia Comensoli, Wafa Kooli, Lidia Mathys).

Part IX. Airborne signals: volatilemediated communication between plants, fungi, and microorganisms (Samantha Lee, Guohua Yin, Joan W. Bennett), Mycorrhizal fungal networks as plant communication systems (David Johnson, Lucy Gilbert), Fungal-fungal interactions: From natural ecosystems to managed plant production with emphasis on biological control of plant diseases (Dan Funk Jensen, Magnus Karlsson, Björn Lindahl), Ecology and evolution of fungal-bacterial interactions (Stefan Olsson, Paola Bonfante, Teresa E. Pawlowska).

The papers are formatted in a standard fashion with hierarchically numbered sections, but seem to have not been subjected to heavy editing. Thus, some of the presentations are better than others and there are few, if any, cross-references from one chapter to another. They are sparsely illustrated with photographs, charts, and diagrams, predominantly in black and white, although 64 of them also are reproduced in color in a separate section. Each chapter concludes with an extensive list of references and these will prove invaluable for accessing the huge and expanding literature on fungus ecology. Although all of the chapters relate to fungus ecology, some of them, such as Chapter 28 on the white-nose syndrome in bats, wander a bit from the volume’s title by not really addressing fungus communities and ecosystem processes.

The book is not cheap, but the price is more reasonable than that of the third edition (by about $25, 12 years later)—and you get quite a few pages per dollar. Fewer by quite a lot compared to the third edition, but this one appears in a larger format so the information content is comparable. Given the range of topics presented, it is unlikely that all 39 chapters will be of intense interest to any one person. However, it is quite likely that there is something in here for nearly everyone. So just where you fall in that spectrum will determine whether you should consider buying a personal copy or rely on a library.

— Review by Steve Trudell
— Originally published in Fungi