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International study stresses the urgent need to protect aquatic fungi

6 june
Arthrobotrys oligospora
Arthrobotrys oligospora
© H. Masigol

An international study, in which the University of Coimbra (UC) has participated, argues that the conservation of aquatic fungi has not been given due importance, and needs to be urgently recognised as a management priority.

The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and focused on the role of aquatic fungi, the threats they face and the means available for their protection. The research, led by scientists of the Biology Centre of the Czech Academy of Sciences and had the participation of Susana C. Gonçalves of the Centre for Functional Ecology of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of e University of Coimbra (FCTUC).

It is known that aquatic fungi play a fundamental role in food chains, nutrient cycles, matter and energy, and in water purification. However, as Susana C. Gonçalves highlights, "like other organisms that tend to be discrete and often invisible to the naked eye, society mostly neglects them and forgets their enormous importance in the support and stability of aquatic ecosystems".

"Even more worrying is that we forget that aquatic fungi are exposed to a wide range of threats resulting from human activities. Without adequate conservation measures, their populations may decline, or may even become extinct, just like all other more conspicuous aquatic organisms, with unpredictable consequences for marine and freshwater ecosystems," warn the authors of the study.

"All management efforts should aim at both protecting fungal diversity and maintaining its key functions in the ecosystem," suggests Susana C. Gonçalves, who is also a member of the Fungal Conservation Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), adding that "conservation can probably be achieved most effectively through the approach of ecosystem conservation".

This study points out some promising management measures, such as reducing and prohibiting the import of nutrients and contaminants, controlling introduction pathways of invasive aquatic alien species, re-naturalizing water bodies and restoring key habitats, as well as maintaining ecologically relevant hydrological regimes, adopting strict policies and developing and applying new bioassays. However, the authors stress that all these measures should be adapted in order to consider the particular features of fungi.

The published article is available at:


Original news article in Portuguese: Cristina Pinto

Abridged version in English: Diana Taborda