Include macrofungi in biodiversity targets

From 3 May to 9 June, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical, and Technological Advice met to negotiate the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework for formal release at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Like the previous CBD agreement (1), the current proposed draft does not explicitly mention macrofungi (2). This major lineage of life should not be overlooked again.

Macrofungi include species in the fungal kingdom with sporocarps (fruiting bodies) visible to the naked eye. They are a primary source of food and pharmaceutical products that contribute to the sustainable livelihood, health, and well-being of humankind (3). The global mushroom trade reached USD54.58 billion in 2020 (4). However, macrofungi are threatened by habitat decline and degradation, land use change, and climate change (5). About 5% of the macrofungi in Europe and Central Asia are at risk of extinction (5). Important macrofungi, such as Ophiocordyceps sinensis, a caterpillar fungus thought to have valuable medicinal qualities, and Tricholoma matsutake, a popular edible mushroom, have considerably declined (67).

Recent advances have paved the way for macrofungal assessment and monitoring. For instance, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) initiated the Red List Initiative for Fungi in 2014 and has nominated 1764 species for assessment (8). So far, 425 species, mostly macrofungi, have been assessed and given a global conservation status (9). A more comprehensive list should be enacted for worldwide macrofungal conservation, supported by approaches such as rapid triage by artificial intelligence (10). Molecular technologies, such as DNA (meta)barcoding (11), could be used in conjunction with morphological identification of macrofungal species to ensure rapid, large-scale, and efficient monitoring.

The CBD has proposed a series of monitoring elements for flora and fauna, such as trends in population and extinction risks, wild species used for food and medicine, and biological resources harvested for legal use (12). By extending such monitoring to macrofungi, the CBD could emphasize the importance of assessing and protecting these species. The post-2020 global biodiversity targets will be agreed upon at the COP15 in October, locking in international conservation priorities for the next decade. Mycologists and decision-makers should seize this critical opportunity to ensure that macrofungi are included.

Cao Y., Wu G. & Yu D., 2021. Include macrofungi in biodiversity targets. Science 372(6547): 1160. Article.

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