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Zooming in, zooming out

After I read this very interesting article about lichen and moss determination written by Dina (“a closer look inside”) I felt inspired to also write about determining species. In my case, these species are fungi. Since I also spend hours, days and weeks in front of a microscope and burry myself in scientific articles and books I can relate to her blog entry a lot. And although wood dwelling fungi differ in some regard from lichens, there are also many parallels and the identification of a species is many based on macro- and micromorphological features, on chemical reactions and sometimes on molecular methods. But as I don’t want do bore you with a copy-and-paste blog entry, I thought this could be a good chance to build on the former entry and show you some pieces of the puzzle I call the bigger picture.

While spending so much time at the microscope, checking spore sizes and many other things, I often wonder what my results in the form of species occurrence data want to tell me. Here are some recurring questions: Are there species that depend on structural rich forests, as intended in the literature, and if so, why? Possible candidates, that are so rare that they don’t even have a common name, are Phellinus nigrolimitatus and Skeletocutis odora. Another question is: Are there species, that can cope with the harsh conditions after a clear cut better than others and if so, which fruitbody traits could give me a hint? Maybe the split gill (Schizophyllum commune), that opens and closes its gills with changing moisture content and often grows on sun exposed wood is such a species. Resupinatus poriaeformis does the same thing but has a more reduced fruit body. And last but not least: Who wins and who loses in a highly fragmented landscape? Most probably those species, that bet on a high dispersal capacity such as the so-called powderpuff bracket (Postia ptychogaster), who always grows next to its powdery mould stage and thereby produces billions of meio- and mitospores.

So, as you see, I’m asking many questions and I’m trying to trust my ecological gut feeling in all of this. But it’s also getting clear, that I cannot answer these questions without carefully chosen statistical methods and the use of additional data on forest structure, climatic conditions and species traits. I never thought that I could say this, but I’m really much looking forward to the statistical analysis of the data!

by Max Wieners (B9)