Andes to Amazon Region Virtually Untapped in Research of Fungal Diversity
Fungal diversity is scarcely known in the Andes – Amazon region of
southeastern Peru, an epicenter of biological diversity and one of the
last pristine tropical wilderness areas in the world. Based on
preliminary research results and an extensive literature review, the
elevation gradient that stretches from 250-3500 m from the Andes to the
Amazon is expected to harbor thousands of fungus species growing in
many different habitats, from cloud forests and grasslands in the
Andean highlands to the vast rainforests and palm swamps of the
Amazonian lowlands. Understanding variation in tropical forest fungal
populations and communities in time and space is important for
assessing not only fungal diversity and natural history, but also for
understanding the regulatory roles fungi play in tropical habitats.
Natural and anthropogenic disturbances induce changes in the
environment and the abundance of different substrates, resulting in
changes in fungal communities through time, and variation over the
landscape. Severe disturbances, as well as the slight daily variations
in microclimate, profoundly affect populations of fungal decomposers
and their influence on plant nutrient availability.
was carried out by TCU-BRIT M.S. student,
Romina Gazis, who graduated in May 2007. Romina is now a Ph.D. student
at Howard University. During her three years of work with the AABP
team, Romina documented the diversity and ecology of macrofungal
communities of the Los Amigos Biological Station and Conservation
Area. She used methods of general collecting and quantitative sampling
with comparisons between dry and rainy season and different habitats.
During 2003-2007 Romina documented around 300 species of macrofungus in
the 1500-acre (500-hectare) area of the biological station forest, as
well as patterns of the variation and distribution of this diversity
between seasons and habitats. This includes numerous species of
entomopathenogenic fungi. The results of her work are being published
in mycological and ecological journals during 2008-2009.