, Volume 8, Issue 7, pp 977-1004

Biodiversity of palm fungi in the tropics: are global fungal diversity estimates realistic?

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Abstract

Two questions are addressed: 'How many species of fungi can occur on a single host palm?' and 'What are the implications of this for global estimates of fungal diversity?' Fungal diversity estimates found in the literature are reviewed. Data on the numbers of fungi occurring on the above-ground tissues of six individual palms in the genus Licuala in Australia and Brunei Darussalam (Borneo) are provided. A total of 189 species of fungi were isolated and/or collected from the six palms. In addition, 53 'morphospecies' of mycelia sterilia were isolated, giving a total of 242 taxa from the 2672 isolates/collections made. The three palms in Australia (sampled once) yielded 100 species (each palm supporting an average of 54.7 taxa), while the three palms in Brunei Darussalam (sampled three times) yielded 172 species in total (approximately 111.3 taxa each). The magnitude of global fungal diversity, estimated at 1.5 million species, is discussed. Our results indicate that 33 to 1 would be a more accurate estimate (than 5.7 to 1) of the ratio of host specific fungal to palm species in the tropics. We therefore propose that global estimates of fungal diversity, based on temperate studies, require revision upwards.