An Introduction to Aquatic Fungi

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Aktiviteten avslutades 15 maj 2024
Biotopia, SLU

Did you know that some fungi live under water?

This Wednesday evening Jennifer Anderson, researcher at SLU, will introduce you to the wonderful world of aquatic fungi. The presentation will consist of three parts:

What are aquatic fungi?

What does it mean for  a fungus to be aquatic and how are they suited to life in water? We will explore these topics including examples of fungi that spread their spores using air bubbles, make super-sticky glue that helps their spores stick to surfaces, or have shapes that get trapped and then dispersed in the foam that forms on rivers – some even swim!

What do aquatic fungi do?

These tiny fungi play important roles in aquatic ecosystems. These roles include decomposers of organic matter, degraders of pollutants, pathogens, and endobionts (organisms that live within another organism without causing notable damage). Jennifer mostly works with fungi that are decomposers in streams. They transform carbon and nutrients that are trapped in plant parts (like leaves that fall into the streams) into forms that animals such as insects can eat. In our diet, we call these tough plant parts that we cannot digest, fiber. We will talk a bit about the other roles aquatic fungi play as well.

Why and how should we protect these fungi?

Currently, aquatic fungi are not covered in any major conservation or protection scheme in the world. What do we know, and don’t know about the state of these fungi? As for why we should protect them, in addition to their critical roles in maintaining healthy aquatic ecosystems, Jennifer will talk about the novel chemistry and discoveries being made from aquatic fungi that can help with industrial and medical applications.

About the speaker

Jennifer Anderson is an accomplished researcher at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) specializing in aquatic fungi.

“As a biologist, I am curious about many things, but I focus mostly on aspects of diversity and evolution. How different are the individuals that live in a population? What differences do we see between populations? How many different species live here? What can explain these patterns? These are the kinds of questions I ask in my work. To get answers I am some times working in the streams to collect samples, sometimes in the lab to study the samples or working with the DNA from the fungi I have found, and I am sometimes at the computer analyzing data about genomes, and genes, and how fast different fungi grow and so on.”

A new part of Jennifer’s work focuses on the protection and monitoring of aquatic fungi. Jennifer is working with colleagues across Europe and even North America on two projects and that are changing the possibilities for us to protect and keep track of diversity in aquatic fungi in the future to meet goals to reduce biodiversity loss and protect healthy aquatic ecosystems. They are working closely with the IUCN, the organization that publishes the RedList, and have a newly formed specialist group at the IUCN focused on aquatic fungi.

The presentation will be held in-person, but also live streamed on Biotopias’ YouTube channel. The stream is availabe here:


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