Conservation of mountain biodiversity: Efforts to understand Fomitiporia nubicola distribution, a Drimys exclusive fungus from threatened cloud forest
The Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund (2020) project n. 20252455. Coordinator: Genivaldo Alves-Silva. Duration: January 2021 to june 2022.
Fomitiporia nubicola is an endemic fungus from the Cloud Forests of Brazil and is found growing only on Drimys trees, thus representing an exclusive host-fungus relationship. Despite almost a decade of research, it is restricted to two sites in Santa Catarina state. This species was recently proposed as endangered in the “Vulnerable” category, but extant data used to evaluate the species are mainly from Santa Catarina state, biasing the understanding of its real distribution.
This project aims to gather quality data to the knowledge of extinction risk and give basis to the conservation of F. nubicola. Some questions, such as “Does F. nubicola prefer mature hosts and/or mature forests?” and “Is F. nubicola restricted to Cloud Forests in SC?” In order to answer these questions, a broader field study will be carried out in search of new populations, besides new rounds of morphological and molecular analyses. As soon the species distribution is better understood, we will update the assessment of the extinction risk, eventually reducing its endangered category or, more likely, confirming or rising its status as an endangered species.
Based on our findings and previous data is possible to hypothesize three different suitable areas, in which low-suitability areas are the most fragile. Every visited site, even those inside protected areas is under threat e.g. land-use change with vegetation replacement, the introduction of alien species, fire as a management tool, and cattle grazing (Fig. 1). And, unfortunately, despite our efforts, no new sites have been added to the species distribution and no specimens have been found in the site with the smallest number of individuals, being currently found only in a conservation unit (i.e. in the São Joaquim National Park, Santa Catarina state) with high-suitability areas (Fig. 2).
The current results reinforce the hypothesis that the species is more restricted than expected since we collected it for the first time in 2011 and when we proposed it as new in 2020 as well. Thus, faced current data, for a reassessment, it is expected to be found at up to only 25 sites, each potentially containing around 50–100 mature individuals for a total of no more than 2,500 mature individuals all within one subpopulation. Due to the continued expected loss of required habitat, F. nubicola is expected to undergo an additional 50–80% reduction in the next 50 years (3 generations), driven mainly by the degradation of its required habitat and impacts of climate change.
See more details of this project in MBZ Fomitiporia nubicola.