Welcome to IMC 2018 International Mycological Congress
Experimental Fungal Communities: tools for testing theory and determining mechanisms - Plenary Presentation
- T. Bruns
We are in golden age of fungal community ecology. An explosion in research has been driven by a combination of high-throughput sequence methods, expansive public databases, improved statistical tools, and raw computational power. Together these have allowed us to sample and analyze fungal communities at levels that were impossible just a few decades ago. Collectively this work has now provided the first global views of fungi in some of the most important guilds and ecosystems, and has allowed us to sample fungi in forms and habitats that were previously inaccessible. Along with this expansion in our knowledge of patterns has come an increasing integration of fungi into the broader field of community ecology. In particular the fit of observed pattern to theory has become a common theme within this body of work, and this focus has resulted in a greater understanding of the drivers and functional consequences fungal community structure. However, the greatest impact of fungal systems on community ecology may be in their use for testing, revising, and creating new theory. This potential is based in part on the fact that community ecology theory is heavily biased by plant ecology. This is an advantage because like plants, fungi are sessile, territorial, and frequently limited by rates of dispersal and establishment. These shared features mean that much current theory developed in plant ecology applies well to fungi. However fungi also differ from plants in the dominant types of competition employed and in the wealth of symbiotic interacts in which they are involved. Furthermore many fungal communities are much more amenable to manipulation and replication on rapid time scales than are plant or animal communities. This means that theory can often be tested more rapidly and under more controlled conditions than is possible with other types of organisms. This talk will illustrate these points with recent and historical fungal research within the broad field of community ecology.