Thousands of Welsh drivers fined over ‘misleading’ signage on bus gates – The Pembrokeshire Herald

Thousands of Welsh drivers fined over ‘misleading’ signage on bus gates – The Pembrokeshire Herald

MUSHROOMS and other fungi spread their spores in a more localised way than previously thought and more similar to the way animal and plant species migrate, new research has found.

Published in the journal Nature, it is the largest global air sampling project ever undertaken and looks at how climate affects the growth and spread of fungi.

The study used air samplers to collect airborne fungal spores at 47 sites on every continent except Antarctica over a two-year period.

Most fungi spread by releasing airborne spores, and detecting these spores through air samples can tell us when they are released and how far they travel.

Mapping the global distribution of fungi can establish the ecological ranges of rare or threatened species to observe. This allows us to detect changes in these patterns caused by climate change or habitat destruction.

This also means that the spread of fungi that are potentially harmful to humans or cultivated plants can be monitored.

Fungi are essential for the functioning of ecosystems, but they are largely invisible to the naked eye, so the factors that determine their distribution and activity are still poorly understood.

It is estimated that there may be up to five million different species, but most of them remain unknown.

For decades, scientists have debated what factors determine the distribution of fungi and other microbes.

It was originally believed that the dispersal of fungi over long distances in the air meant they could reach all parts of the planet, but would only grow under suitable conditions.

This contrasts with animals and plants whose spread is more strictly limited by mountain ranges, seas, and other geographic barriers.

However, the new research paper shows that the spread of fungi, like animals and plants, is determined by climatic factors, and that they are also locally distributed, not only in where they grow, but also in how their spores are spread.

Professor Gareth Griffith from Aberystwyth University’s Department of Life Sciences said: “Sampling airborne DNA in the way we did for this study is a major step forward in understanding how fungi grow and disperse in different parts of the world. Overall, our results suggest that the factors that affect where microbes live and grow are similar to those that determine the distribution of plants and animals.

“The highly diverse kingdom of fungi follows highly predictable global patterns. These patterns resemble those described for other major groups of organisms. This research makes a major contribution to this long-standing debate.”

The study found that airborne fungal species found in different regions were most strongly affected by the local average annual air temperature, with diversity and numbers increasing from the poles towards the equator.

The results also confirm that temperature influences fungal reproduction and that spore release peaks when wind speeds are high.

Professor Gareth Griffith from Aberystwyth University added: “Our results highlight the role of temperature as an underlying driver of fungal dispersal, with fungal diversity increasing in warmer climates and more spores being released on warmer days. This finding suggests that global climate change, and generally warmer climates, will play an important role in restructuring fungal communities.

“While previous large-scale studies of soil fungi have found clear effects of climate on community composition, the fact that air temperature explains most of the variation in fungal distributions in our data is striking.”

Speaking about the importance of air sampling, Academy researcher Nerea Abrego from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland said:

“Air is a treasure trove for nature research; it is full of DNA from plants, fungi, bacteria, insects, mammals and other organisms. This knowledge is essential not only for understanding where and when different fungal species thrive, but also for predicting their fate under ongoing global change.

“A particularly interesting topic for future research is a more detailed review of the sequences of fungi that are important to humans. This includes fungal diseases of humans, crops and livestock, as well as fungi that indicate the progress of nature loss and the weakening of natural ecosystem processes.”

The Global Spore Sampling Project was funded by several bodies including the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council.