Among the “wild and fascinating species” that have been discovered in the Cairngorm highlands is a sort of fungus that has never before been identified.
As part of a project that involved hillwalkers collecting soil samples from some of Scotland’s highest peaks, a species of the Squamanita genus that was previously unknown to science was discovered.
Researchers from the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen and volunteers from Plantlife, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wild plants, collaborated on the study.
Last year, volunteers in the Cairngorms National Park gathered 219 soil samples from 55 Munros at various heights.
James Hutton Institute scientists took the DNA from the soil and sequenced it, finding 24748 different species of fungi.
One of these was the fungus Amanita groenlandica, an arctic species that originated in Greenland and had never before been discovered south of Scandinavia.
Another fungus, acrodontium antarcticum, which is native to Antarctica, was discovered that had never been identified in the UK before.
Both are extremely uncommon species that have never been discovered together and are thought to prefer the chilly environment and climate of Scotland’s Cairngorms.
The “Strangler” fungus (Squamanita contortipes), which gets its name from its capacity to enslave other fungi, was one of the strange discoveries made from the soil samples.
Additionally, two Munros’ grasslands included the vivid and colorful Violet Coral fungus, one of the UK’s rarest grassland fungi.
One teaspoon of soil contains more living species than there are people on the earth, according to Plantlife project manager Keilidh Ewan, and soil biodiversity is crucial to the health of ecosystems.
“Researchers, environmentalists, and the local community have come together to find some wild and magnificent species and to establish evidence-based foundations against which the consequences of climate and environmental change can be tracked moving forward.”
She claimed that the study was “assisting us in comprehending the problems that this delicate habitat is facing.”
In the end, she continued, the more knowledge we have, the better able we will be to safeguard these beloved locations for the future.
The James Hutton Institute’s Andrea Britton, an ecologist, stated that “Fungi are crucial to the functioning of our alpine ecosystems, but because they are largely hidden below ground and because alpine ecosystems are remote and difficult to access, we know very little about the distribution and diversity of fungi in this iconic habitat.
We will learn a lot more about this essential group thanks to the combined efforts of volunteers and scientists, and the data from this study may be used to begin determining which habitats and locations are particularly crucial for the conservation of fungal variety.
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