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Jakob, Sigrid [1], Roy, Bitty A. [2], Swearingen, Christin [3], Vandegrift, Roo [2], Vellinga, Else C. [4], Haelewaters, Danny [5].

The Rare 10 Challenge, a community-science project documenting rare and threatened fungi in service of conservation.

Determining which fungal species are thriving and which are rare or declining is crucial for targeting conservation action. Decision-makers need accurate information on the distributional trends of fungi, but data are lacking for the majority of species. Of the thus far 120,000 species that have been assessed for the IUCN Red List only 371 are fungi. This hinders their inclusion in conservation discussions, access to funding programs, policy decisions, and conservation action. Inspired by the British Lost and Found Fungi project, a volunteer-based pilot was launched in Fall 2020 to document 10 rare and threatened species of West Coast fungi with the following goals: collect data on incidence and distribution, generate sequences, and prepare vouchers. The 10 species were selected to cover a number of rarity levels, geographies, habitats, form groups, and seasonality. For example, one of the target species, Pachycudonia spathulata, was only known from 6 verified collections before our pilot. Downloadable pamphlets were created for the project with detailed information on habitat, distribution, morphological characteristics, and lookalikes. Using email lists and social media, volunteers reached out to mushroom clubs, “mushroom influencers”, and nature and conservation-focused non-profits. This drove awareness, word of mouth, and significant documentation activity on iNaturalist and MushroomObserver. After 6 months, the pilot clocked 91 verified observations of 7 of the 10 target species by 62 observers, including major range extensions for two species. Throughout the project, awareness for the 10 Rare Challenge was maintained by posting species information and celebrating finds and finders on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). One-on-one outreach to finders resulted in rich descriptions of habitats and hosts, and netted 20 vouchers, some of species with almost no sequence data in NCBI Genbank. In addition to the observations and vouchers, the pilot also increased general recognition of the importance of documenting rare and threatened fungi. The project demonstrated that partnering with amateurs is a valuable strategy to generate high-quality biodiversity data at minimal cost, while at the same time raising awareness for fungal conservation. The success of the pilot has resulted in the project being extended for five years, in order to generate longitudinal data. Similar projects are in the planning phase, including a 20-species project in the northeastern US.

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Related Links:
FunDiS West Coast Rare 10 Fungi Challenge
Rare 10 Challenge iNaturalist observations

1 - Fungal Diversity Survey, 205 Three Oaks Drive, Athens, GA, 30607, USA
2 - University of Oregon, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, 335 Pacific Hall, Eugene, OR, 97403-5289, USA
3 - University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1731 South Chandalar Drive, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA
4 - University of California, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 111 Koshland Hall, Berkeley, CA, 94720-3102, USA
5 - Ghent University, Department of Biology, Research Group Mycology, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, Ghent, 9000, Belgium

Fungal conservation
Citizen science
Fungal diversity

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: MY1, Mycology: Ecology and Conservation
Location: /
Date: Monday, July 19th, 2021
Time: 11:00 AM(EDT)
Number: MY1001
Abstract ID:395
Candidate for Awards:None

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