Fungi new to the UK discovered in the Cairngorms - Plantlife

Two species of fungi new to the UK have been discovered in Scotland’s Cairngorm mountains by a team of volunteers working with Plantlife, the international wild plant conservation charity and the James Hutton Institute.

Amanita groenlandica is an arctic species originally described from Greenland and circumpolar in its distribution, with Scandinavia its previously recorded most southerly location. Acrodontium antarcticum is a fungus originally described from Antarctica.

Volunteer sampling soil on Munro ©Andrea Britton
Volunteer sampling soil on Munro ©Andrea Britton

These rare fungi, previously found poles apart, both favour the unique cold habitat and climate of Scotland’s Cairngorms. This internationally important landscape which, due to its elevation and distance from the sea, experiences an exceptionally cold and snowy climate, supports the best examples of arctic-alpine vegetation found anywhere in the UK.

This unique collaboration of mountain enthusiasts, cutting-edge science at the James Hutton Institute and experts from Plantlife is helping us to understand the pressures from climate change and atmospheric pollution on this fast-changing habitat. Our knowledge of the close connection between plants and fungi means that the data collected can be used to prioritise habitats for conservation and restoration and provide a baseline against which the effects of climate and environmental change can be monitored.

219 soil samples were collected by the hillwalking community at various altitudes from 55 of the 58 Munros of Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park last summer, and DNA was extracted from the soil and sequenced by scientists at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, resulting in over 17000 records of 2748 fungal species in just three months.

Other notable discoveries include the unforgettably named “Strangler” fungus (Squamanita contortipes), which was considered very rare, with only one previous record in the UK from the 1950’s, until recent studies - its name derives from its parasitic ability to take over other fungi. While another species of the “Squamanita” genus that was previously unknown to science was also uncovered.

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Posted On: 14/07/2022

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