World Fungi Day: International Seminar
Date: October 2nd, 2021
Host: The Arboricultural Association
Organised by Professor Lynne Boddy, this event features 11 speakers from around the world. The event is taking place on Zoom and presentation videos will be made available for on-demand viewing.
A sampling of the presentations:
Intelligence of fungi
Does a fungus have intelligence? If we define intelligence as a corrective behaviour of organisms to improve their performance in changing environment, yes it does. By using microcosm experiments, I found that foraging fungal mycelia can make decision and memory, depending on resource amount and quality. People may think that such behaviour is just an ‘environmental response’ of organisms and is not an intelligence. But imagine that intelligence of human emerges from accumulation and networking of ‘environmental response’ of numerous neurons. Yes, a fungus is not thinking in the sense that we, a brained animal, thinks, but some of the underlying cellular processes of signal transduction may be bound to be homologous, and which is sufficient for fungi to solve complex issues they encounter in the environment.
A Tale of Two Megafires: fire effects on fungi
Mega-fires are increasing in frequency, size, and severity across the globe. They have far reaching impacts on human health, property, and ecosystems. Fungi are important for soil and plant recovery after wildfires, and how they are impacted by mega-fires is still largely unknown. Here, I take advantage of two catastrophic mega-fires burning down my plots to examine fire impacts on fungi and to identify fungi that appear to be adapted to wildfires.
Fungi and food security
Over the past centuries crop diseases have led to the starvation of the people, the ruination of economies and the downfall of governments. Of the various challenges, the threat to plants of fungal infection outstrips that posed by any other microbe. Indeed, fungal diseases have been increasing in severity and scale since the mid 20th Century and now pose a serious threat to global food security and ecosystem health. We face a future blighted by known adversaries, by new variants of old foes and by new diseases, with this threat being heightened by the impact of climate change. This talk will highlight some current notable and persistent fungal diseases of both calorie and commodity crops and discuss tree diseases. I shall conclude with some thoughts on future threats and challenges, on disease mitigation and of ways of enhancing global food security.
Mother trees and mycorrhizal networks
Adaptability in forest practices can help us keep pace with the pressures climate change are placing on regeneration, biodiversity and carbon storage in the future. This will require a paradigm shift in how we view and treat forest ecosystems, from commodities to exploit through clearcutting to life support systems that we care for. Retention of old trees while harvesting protects the belowground fungal networks that connect the forest and facilitates forest recovery, and can replace the standard practice of clearcutting. In the Mother Tree project, we are applying basic research on mycorrhizal networks to examine how retention of old trees in different patterns and density, as well of migration of tree genotypes to keep pace with the velocity of climate change, interact with climate to affect seedling regeneration, mycorrhizal fungal networks, carbon storage, plant species diversity, and tree productivity across a 900 km gradient of Douglas fir forests. Early effects on forest recovery will be discussed regarding potential application of partial cutting as a strategy to cope with climate change in the forests of western Canada.