Citizen Scientists Help to Unveil the Secret World of Murraylands and Riverland Fungi

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Citizen Scientists have helped to develop better understanding of regional biodiversity by taking part in an initiative to record local fungi and lichen species.

FungiQuest is a national event that encourages citizen scientists to share their fungi sightings via a smartphone app. In May this year, the Murraylands and Riverland was a focus region for the initiative, with community members contributing around 250 new fungi sightings in the region in a single month.

Among the fungi found in the Murraylands and Riverland was a large white punk (Laetiporus portentosus) which was growing like a shelf from the trunk of a tree near Renmark by citizen scientist David Gobbett. Noted as another interesting find was a cluster of spectacular rustgill (Gymnopilus junonius) which was found growing at the base of a tree and was one of a handful of regional sightings of the species ever recorded.

Citizen Scientists Help to Unveil the Secret World of Murraylands and Riverland Fungi
The large white punk (Laetiporus portentosus) was found by citizen scientists David Gobbett. Image by David Gobbett.

“These sightings provide the scientific community with valuable information that we wouldn’t be able to gather without the support of volunteer fungi spotters,” said Sylvia Clarke, a Senior Project Officer with the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board.

“The scientific community doesn’t know a lot about the fungi in our region, so initiatives like FungiQuest really help us to develop an understanding of local biodiversity”.

“There’s also a misconception that fungi and lichen are only found in high rainfall zones, which is incorrect. Fungi play an essential role in all ecosystems, including in arid areas.”

“Around 90% of plants rely on fungal partnerships for growth, nutrition and protection from disease. The presence or absence of certain fungi from our landscapes provide valuable biological indicators about overall ecosystem health, the impact of climate change and potential biosecurity risks,” she added.

While FungiQuest concentrates on a single month of the year, Dr Clarke said that fungi sightings can be recorded at any time.

“Anyone can get involved by photographing and logging fungi sightings through the FungiMap project on the iNaturalist app, and there is plenty of support from other users to help identify the species you find”.

“You never know what you might find. Given the lack of knowledge about Australian fungi, you could very well discover a new species of Australian fungi or lichen!”

Nationally, 1,973 FungiQuest participants contributed 13,309 records with 1,131 fungi and lichen records in 2023 – the most successful year to date. Contributions include rare fungi species and species not previously found in Australia.

The FungiQuest event was held by Fungimap in collaboration with QuestaGame.

This project is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through the landscape levies, Fungimap and the University of Adelaide.

Citizen Scientists Help to Unveil the Secret World of Murraylands and Riverland Fungi
Image by David Gobbett
Citizen Scientists Help to Unveil the Secret World of Murraylands and Riverland Fungi

More information

Unit 5-6, Level 1 Sturt Centre, 2 Sturt Reserve Road, Murray Bridge SA 5253


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