The fungal kingdom dominates our planet: fungi decompose detritus, recycle nutrients, form mutualistic associations with plants, you name it. Commonly cited estimates for global fungal species diversity usually revolve between 1.5 million and over 6 million species. A conservative minimum of 720 000 species has been published, with the caveat that the true richness is probably much higher. All of these estimates vastly outnumber the number of officially described species, which was about 90 000 in 2011, but rising steadily. What they show beyond a doubt is that the fungi are astonishingly diverse – and that we know very little about their true diversity. What we know even less about are patterns of fungal species distribution and turnover. Now is the time to take on this challenge.
WHAT IS THE GSSP ALL ABOUT?
We have made a methodological breakthrough that allows for cost-effective and systematic surveying of fungal diversity (Abrego et al, in press; download preprint below). Briefly, you use a cyclone sampler to collect spores from the air, and apply DNA extraction and molecular species identification to identify the taxa in the sample. This accumulates species much faster than e.g. wood or soil sampling, and the sampling can be done by anyone after a short practice session. In the GSSP, we will survey fungal diversity in this way all over the world – with your help.
The building up of the network has succeeded in an excellent way: currently the network involves 50 confirmed sampling locations that cover all continents.
HOW TO JOIN?
Sign up here
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I JOIN?
You will receive the sampling package, which includes most importantly the cyclone sampler. The sampling package includes everything you need, except a car battery that you need to purchase yourself. You set up the sampler in a place where you can operate it easily, e.g. the yard of a biological station or your department. The device is easy to run, see the 2 minute youtube video here (to come). You will take 24 hr samples twice a week (e.g. on Monday and Tuesday) for at least one year (excluding e.g. holiday weeks if there are no personnel to operate the machine). This will take about 5 minutes per sampling day. The device collects spores directly into an eppendorf tube. You will mail us the samples at three month intervals. As each mailing includes about 24 eppendorf tubes, they will fit in a regular envelope.
We will take care of the DNA extraction, sequencing, and taxonomic placement. After one year of sampling, you will receive a manuscript with you as a co-author, describing global fungal diversity, targeted at a high-level journal. Your comments and edits to the manuscript will of course be most welcome. All data will be published together with the paper. In particular, you will gain access to the taxonomic placements of your own samples, at weekly time-resolution, for any use you may have for them.
If you wish to conduct some other sampling in addition to the basic sampling (the “Monday and Tuesday samples”), you are most welcome to do so. We will be happy to discuss collaboration e.g. concerning sequencing and bioinformatics related to your own samples.
WHAT WILL IT COST ME?
The cyclone sampler and its shipping costs come to about 2500-3000 euros, depending on which part of the world you live in. You can either pay for it yourself and get the GSSP discount, or apply for the GSSP to pay for it. In the starting phase, we will purchase at least 20 cyclone samplers. The recipients of these will be prioritized among countries/organizations with limited funding possibilities, and so as to ensure global sampling coverage. While registering as a project participant, you will be given the options to 1) participate only if the project covers the expenses of the cyclone sampler to be sent to you, that 2) cover the expenses yourself, or 3) prefer the project to pay for it, but if that is not possible, you wish us to contact you again to still examine the option that you would cover the expenses yourself.
The project will cover the costs of sequencing and bioinformatics (e.g. taxonomic placement of the sequences) for all accepted participants, whether you purchased the cyclone sampler yourself or whether the project pays for it.
Abrego, N., Norros, V., Halme, P., Somervuo, P., Ali-Kovero, H. and Ovaskainen, O. Give me a sample of air and I will tell which species are found from your region – molecular identification of fungi from airborne spore samples. Molecular Ecology Resources, in press.