Fungi (including lichen-forming fungi) and bryophytes constitute a major component across most ecosystems on Earth. With a known species diversity of 120 000 fungi and 20 000 of bryophytes, the impact of these species to their ecosystems and all life is crucial. Knowledge of species diversity of fungi and bryophytes is essential for understanding the sustainability of ecosystems and their resilience against environmental perturbation. The target of research of our team is the global diversity of fungi and bryophytes.
Our focal topics have for long been taxonomy and systematics of lichens and bryophytes, and systematics and ecology of polypores. With fungi, our researchers work on both Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes; and with bryophytes, on all three groups of mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Our research is integrative and comparative, we use phylogenetic approach with data we generate from morphology, development, biochemistry, DNA sequence fragments, comparative genomics, genetics, population genetics, and ecology. With these approaches, we aim to explore taxonomic questions at different levels, trait evolution, origin and diversification, and conservation of fungi and bryophytes.
Basidiomycetes are one of the two most diverse groups of fungi. Our research is focused in the class Agaricomycetes, but involves also other classes such as Atractiellomycetes and Darymycetes. Main morphological groups include agarics, polypores, corticioid fungi and jelly fungi. We collect specimens from around the world in natural environments and deposit them in the museum collections. We then use them in our research by combining morphological analyses and DNA phylogenies. We also culture fungi and utilize whole genome sequences. We value type studies and careful nomenclatural analysis, aiming for high-quality taxonomic publications.
Bryophytes, including three major groups, mosses, liverworts and hornworts, diverged from their embryophyte ancestor around 500 million years ago. They occupy a critical position for understanding of the origin and diversifications of embryophytes, their morphological and reproductive changes that enabled successful radiation and adaptations to life in a terrestrial environment.
Based on the early establishment of world-class research in bryophyte taxonomy in the University of Helsinki, we are able to study bryophyte diversity on global scale. Focus of our research is taxonomy of numerous bryophyte groups. We use both morphology and DNA sequence level characters to study phylogenetic relationships, and aim to provide robust evidence for taxonomic classification. We further analyze potential evolutionary mechanisms resulting in phenotype variation. Our studies also assist bryophyte conservation.
We work on the evolution, ecology and systematics of lichenized fungi (lichens), which constitute about one-fifth of the known extant fungi. Our target organisms are, among others, ascomycete families Cladoniaceae, Parmeliaceae, and Pilocarpaceae. Voucher specimens, deposited in the Botanical Museum of the University of Helsinki (H), are of invaluable importance as reference material for our studies. Lichenology is traditionally strong in the strategy of the Museum, because our lichen collections (470 000) are among the five largest ones in the world and truly global, deriving from all the continents.