A person sampling sediment on an Arctic shore. 
Teppo Rämä/UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Human activities alter ecosystems and in most cases lead to biodiversity loss. Animals, plants and fungi are responsible for the processes and services the ecosystems provide. The loss of species threatens the ability of ecosystems to provide these services and to remain stable over time. 
Scientists have raised awareness of this threat for decades and in response, policy has established biomonitoring programs that help to assess change in ecosystem status and biodiversity over time and space. However, despite their importance for ecosystems, no monitoring program yet includes aquatic fungi, i.e. fungi living in freshwater and marine ecosystems. 

Aquatic fungi (AF) are crucial in ecosystems as resources for higher trophic levels, as parasites that control animal and plant populations, and as decomposers and pathogens that control carbon and nutrient cycling. AF thereby contribute to all four categories of ecosystem services: i) regulating services, like leaf litter decomposition and the self-cleaning capacity of ecosystems; ii) supporting services, like nutrient cycling and bioindicators of environmental conditions; iii) provisioning services, notably metabolites and clean water; and iv) cultural services, particularly educational and inspirational values. 

The new European project MoSTFun aims at reducing our knowledge gap on AF by adding these vital organisms to biodiversity monitoring programs. 


MoSTFun (Monitoring Strategies and Tools to address knowledge gaps on aquatic Fungal biodiversity) is funded through the
Biodiversa+ EU Biodiversity Partnership and thus part of a  new wave of innovations in biodiversity monitoring across Europe. Over the next three years, MoSTFun will develop the tools and knowledge needed to include aquatic fungi in biodiversity monitoring programs.
For this goal, MoSTFun unites scientists, biomonitoring experts and conservation professionals. It will perform new and specific sampling campaigns and reanalyze samples from existing biomonitoring programs, thereby mainly focusing on DNA-samples in both approaches. MoSTFun will establish collaborations with these biomonitoring programs to identify and use synergies but also to ensure that the tools and knowledge generated can be integrated in the very different types of existing monitoring programs. It will also closely interact with stakeholders and end-users to create the motivation and momentum to uptake of the tools and knowledge generated into biodiversity policy.

The MoSTFun way:

Test current monitoring programs and initiatives for their potential to include monitoring of aquatic fungi taxonomic and functional diversity.

Fill methodological knowledge gaps to make routine monitoring of aquatic fungi biodiversity possible and effective.

Develop datasets on aquatic fungi biodiversity from ongoing monitoring programs and expand them to understudied ecosystems (estuaries, coastal, (peri-)glacial ecosystems).

Integrate different data sources and technologies on AF biodiversity for predictive modelling and to develop Essential Biodiversity Variables for aquatic fungi.

Develop a stakeholder-accepted monitoring strategy at the European level through an Aquatic Fungi Knowledge-to-Action Hub.

    “Society and environmental policy tends to care about the big animals and plants, but in ecosystems it’s often the small and inconspicuous beings, such as fungi, that do the heavy lifting. They contribute disproportionately to the good functioning and stability of ecosystems. If we as a society care about the health of ecosystems, we need to understand and monitor how the biodiversity of aquatic fungi is changing across space and time, and for this we need their inclusion in standardized biomonitoring programs. MoSTFun is making the first steps towards this goal.” 

    Andreas Bruder, Senior Scientist, University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland

    MoSTFun is one of the 33 projects funded in the Biodiversa+ and the European Union joint call for projects in 2022 on “Improved transnational monitoring of biodiversity and ecosystem change for science and society” (BiodivMon). Biodiversa+ is the European Biodiversity Partnership supporting excellent research on biodiversity with an impact for society and policy. This call represents a financial commitment of more than 46 million Euro from the participating countries and co-funding from the European Commission.