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Nothing in the forest can live without them: fungi

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Fungi perform important functions in the forest. We study the interaction between fungi and trees, and examine which factors affect fungal growth. In the SwissFungi data centre, we gather information on the distribution of fungus species that exist in Switzerland and provide the basis for their protection.

 

Fungi decompose dead organic matter like wood, leaves and needle litter, and thereby keep the nutrient cycle going. In the root zone, as mycorrhizal fungi they help almost all higher plants to absorb water and nutrients, even our forest trees. While some fungi can cause disease in plant, others are prized delicacies for people.

We examine what functional importance mycorrhizal fungi have in forest ecosystems and how they affect the stability and regenerative capacity of forests. Our research also focuses on the fruit bodies of these fungi as an important non-timber forest resource. We examine how forest management, tree growth and changing environmental conditions, for example increased drought, affect fungal growth and productivity. In particular for the summer truffle (Tuber aestivum), a mycorrhizal fungus which fruits underground, we analyse how environmental and climatological factors affect the productivity and phenology of this valuable truffle species as part of a long-term monitoring project, and use genetic methods to study its life cycle and distribution.

 

Which fungus grows where?

In the national data and information centre SwissFungi, we compile collection data and environmental data on the species of fungus that exist in Switzerland, and thereby document spatial and temporal changes in their populations. SwissFungi provides the basis for implementing conservation measures for fungus. We advise the federal government, cantonal authorities and the public on how fungi can be nurtured, produce species protection pamphlets and publish the Red List of Macrofungi together with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

 

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