Ecology of Fungi

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

1. Introduction A brief overview of ecological terms and subjects covered in this course. The importance of fungi in the organization of biological communities and ecosystem functioning. Interspecific interactions including fungal components. The non-equilibrium paradigm in ecology. Experimental approaches to ecological problems, long-term ecological studies. The role of biological diversity in ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services.

2. Fungi in various habitats Occurrence of fungi in terrestrial and aquatic biotopes. Major environmental factors detemining the habitat distribution of fungi: water, temperature, CO2 and O2 concentration, pH, chemical properties of the substrate, and mineral nutrients. Adjustments (adaptation and acclimation) to the habitat environment, and the ways how fungi may alter the environment.

3. Population biology of fungi The interpretation of individual and population among fungi. Gene flow, sexual and asexual reproduction in fungi. Speciation. Population structure and dynamics. Life history traits and ecological strategies among fungi.

4. Interactions between fungi and prokariotic organisms Endogenous bactaria in fungi. Geosiphon pyriforme. Triplicate symbioses. Helper bacteria in the rhizosphere. Bacteria and BLOs in arbuscular mycorrhizas. The role of bacteria in ectomycorrhizae.

5. Animal - fungi interactions Parasitic fungi - animal interactions. Effects of mycotoxins on animals. Fungi-animal symbioses, coevolutional phenomena. The role of mycophagous animals in the dispersal of fungi.

6. Fungi-fungi interactions Possible inter-fungal intractions. Fungal parasites on fungi. Hyperparasitism.

7. The role of fungi in ecosystem biogeochemical cycles The importance of fungi in the decomposition of dead organic material in aquatic and terrestrial habitats (marine and freshwater biotopes, soil-, litter-, wood- and animal faeces decomposing fungi).

8. Ecological importance of lichens (lichenized fungi) Peculiar organisms from the symbioses of algae and fungi. Taxonomical, geographical and ecological distribution. The role of lichens in the organization and dynamics of biological communities, and in the functioning of ecosystems. Application of lichens as environmental bioindicators (air pollution, lichen distribution maps, etc.).

9. Ecological consequences of plant - fungi interactions Phytoparasite fungi. The role of parasitic fungi in plant communities. Coevolution and cospeciation between pest fungi and their hosts. Mycorrhizae: mutualism - parasitism continuum. The "non-mycorrhizal"plants. Mycorrhizal characteristics of major plant groups.

10. The role of mycorrhizae in plant communities The influence of fungi on the structure and diversity of plant communities. Wood-wide-web. Mycorrhizal characteristics of major plant community types. The „cheating” strategy.

11. Fungal endophytes Distribution and comonness of fungal endophytes. Systemic and localized endophytes. Ecological importance of fungal endophytes. Root endophytes and their specific role in plant communities.

12. Biogeography of fungi Dispersal of fungi, and their phylogeography. The Asa Gray disjunction. The problem of invasive species. Invasive fungi, their dispersal. Invasive plants and mycorrhizae.

13. Sociology of fungal communities Interpretation of association (community type) among fungi. Research into the structure of fungal communities. Succession.

14. Nature conservation of fungi Mycological aspects of nature conservation, ongoing research in this area. Protection of fungi, protected species. Regulations on mushroom collection. Nature conservation problems associated with applied mycology.

15. Major recent environmental changes and their effects on fungi Global environmental changes (climate change, fragmentation and isolation of habitats, increasing disturbance, biological invasions, atmospheric N deposition, tropospheric ozone, etc.) and their influence on biological communities with specieal reference to fungi. Two applied ecological fields: conservation biology and restoration ecology.

  • Townsend, C.R., Begon, M. & Harper, J.L. 2003: Essentials of Ecology. 2nd. Edition. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

  • Carroll, G.C. & Tudzynski, P. (ed.) 1997. The Mycota V.A-B Plant Relationships. Springer.

  • Hock, B (ed.) 2000. The Mycota IX. Fungal Associations. Springer

  • van der Heijden MGA, Sanders IR (ed.) 2002. Mycorrhizal Ecology. Ecological Studies 157. Springer