Plant and Soil

, Volume 244, Issue 1–2, pp 291–305 | Cite as

Ecological role of hypogeous ectomycorrhizal fungi in Australian forests and woodlands

  • Andrew W. Claridge


The Australian continent is characterised by a harsh climate and highly weathered, nutrient-poor soils. Trees and shrubs in these stressful environmental conditions typically form ectomycorrhizae with a variety of fungi, many of which form hypogeous (underground) fruit-bodies. The total number of hypogeous fungi Australia-wide is unknown, although recent systematic studies in the far south-eastern corner of the country suggest that they may number well over a thousand. Similar surveys elswhere are urgently required to clarify the situation. The precise ecological role of many hypogeous fungi remains to be determined, although most presumably facilitate nutrient and water uptake on behalf of their mycorrhizal partners. Others may also protect their plant host from root pathogens. One key function of hypogeous fungi is the role their fruit-bodies play as a food resource for a large range of terrestrial mammals. For a few animals, hypogeous fungi form the single most important dietary item year-round, whereas for others they may only be of seasonal or supplementary value. The extent to which fungi form part of the diet of any mammal species is reflected in the various levels of adaptation toward acquiring, then processing and digesting these cryptic and nutritionally challenging foodstuffs.

Australia ecology forests fungi woodlands 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew W. Claridge
    • 1
  1. 1.New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife ServiceThreatened Species Unit, Southern DirectorateQueanbeyanAustralia

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