Enhancement of Croatian forest ecosystem services through assessment of fungal diversity based on DNA barcoding (ForFungiDNA)
Ecosystem services are the ecological characteristics, functions, or ecosystem processes that contribute to human wellbeing. Conservation of the overall biodiversity in the forests has strong positive effect on the enhancement of forest ecosystem services. About 47% of the total land area of the Republic of Croatia is covered by forests.
Croatia is distinguished by the great biodiversity due to its position on the dividing line between Continental, Mediterranean, Pannonian and Alpine biogeographical regions. Forests are the most complex terrestrial ecosystems and the most important habitat for fungi. Fungi play key ecological roles in the forests and are necessary for the forest health and existence. Human over-exploitation of natural resources and the geographical position of Croatia in the climate change hot-spot area, make biodiversity of its forests highly endangered.
Fungi are the far least studied group of organisms in Croatia with only 23% of species recorded so far out of the total estimated number. The main project aim is to study fungal biodiversity of Croatian forests through the DNA barcoding methods and to analyze its impact on forest ecosystem services. The project will result in the addition of fungal DNA sequences to international bioinformatic databases for a number of species that are not represented in these bases to date. All DNA barcoded species in this project will be categorised in trophic groups (pathogens, saprotrophs, and mycorrhizal species) and the intensity of their impact on the forest ecosystem services will be assessed.
The project results will have great potential for different applications in forestry, food industry, pharmacy and nature conservation. Application of DNA fungal barcodes will be especially important in forestry for relatively fast and accurate identification, control, and suppression of plant pathogens, as well as for identification of mycorrhizal and saprotrophic species.
Main objective of ForFungiDNA project is to explore fungal biodiversity in the Croatian forests using DNA barcoding methods, and to analyse its impact on the forest ecosystem services.
In the forest ecosystems of all four Croatian biogeographic regions it is planned to perform:
- Biodiversity research of epigeous fungi from the phylum Basidiomycota,
- Biodiversity research of epigeous fungi from the phylum Ascomycota,
- Biodiversity research of hypogeous fungi,
- DNA barcoding of minimum 1500 fungal samples,
- Analysis on the impact of fungal species on forest ecosystem services in Croatia.