The Proceedings of the Conference with abstracts of all presentations are available for download [1.73mb PDF] from the website. Before the Conference, a workshop was held on on how to referee taxonomic manuscripts. A field trip to Springbrook and to the precipice of the remains of the Mt Warning caldera is organised for Friday.
Information on previous meetings can be found on the ASBS website. The last Conference was held in Adelaide and the 2016 meeting took place in Alice Springs. Proceedings of both meetings were published as Swainsona Supplements and can be downloaded from our journal website.
Cryptandra sp. Hiltaba, collected north of Cowell. Photo: J. Kellermann.
The State Herbarium is host-institution of a project revising the plant family Rhamnaceae for the Flora of Australia, with Dr Kellermann as the lead investigator. Rhamnaceae is one of the 20 largest plant families in Australia and a well-known component of Australia’s temperate and semi-arid flora: 25 genera and over 250 species occur in Australia (see ABRS 2016 Conference abstract; 1 mb PDF). However, the only Australia-wide treatment available to date is by George Bentham(Flora Australiensis, 1863). Together with interstate colleagues, the family will be examined using molecular and morphological methods. The 3-year project is funded by the Australian Biological Resources Study.
Although primarily in the UK to visit family and friends, I was delighted to find that a symposium was being held on fungi on 13th and 14th September while we were in the London area. Moreover, it was to be at Kew where I had spent many happy days in my youth amongst its strange, beautiful and amazing plants. A previous Kew project in 2016 (updated in 2017) to report on the ‘State of the World’s Plants’ had been hugely successful and it had been decided that it was timely to consider the fungi.
At the September meeting this year the report ‘State of the World’s Fungi’ was launched. It covers fungal diversity, the fungal tree of life, new discoveries, useful fungi, plant-fungal interactions, fungal genomes, fungal conservation, threats posed by fungal pathogens and climate change. Over 260 people attended the symposium, not only mycologists but botanists, plant breeders and plant pathologists, industrial chemists, those working in bioinformatics and systematics, conservationists, lichenologists, growers of fungi – anyone with a serious interest in fungi. The main aim was to review the current state of knowledge of all aspects of fungi.
Entoloma ravinense, a fungus from Kangaroo Island, described by Pam Catcheside and colleagues in 2016
There were seven sessions: conservation of fungi; plant-fungi interdependence; importance of lichens; threats and benefits of fungi to ecosystems; fungal networking; commercial value of fungi; discussion of ‘dark taxa’, i.e. those with only a molecular signature. Sixty-seven posters complemented the talks. See the programme and Conference Booklet (31mb PDF) for details and full abstracts.
Two species of fungi collected during a field survey in Kangaroo Island. Photo: D. Catcheside.
The whole conference ran like clockwork, starting with a rationale for the symposium and report and an overview of current knowledge of fungi and given by Professor Kathy Willis, Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. With an approximate number of 3 million species, knowledge of what fungal species there are is relatively scant, with only 144,000 or 5% named. With respect to conservation status, only 56 fungi are on the IUCN Red List, compared with 25,452 plants and 68,054 animals.
The symposium was by no means doom and gloom though. The estimated 350 species of edible fungi are worth approximately US$42 billion each year. The medical benefits of fungi are inestimable from their use as antibiotics such as penicillin, cholesterol-reducing statins such as lovastatin produced from Aspergillus terreus and the immunosuppressant drug cyclosporine which has made organ transplant possible and is produced from Tolypocladium inflatum. Fungi are also being used to make biofuels, in washing detergents, cotton processing, bioremediation and of course yeasts which underpin the baking, wine and beer industries. I was intrigued to learn that fungi are being used to make leather shoes, easily biodegradable when the user is tired of them. I also had not realised that Lego is made using itaconic acid derived from a species of Aspergillus.
Cortinarius austrovenetus, a species native to the Southern Lofty Region. Photo: D. Catcheside.
Especially exciting is that whole genomes have been sequenced for more than 1500 species, more than the number sequenced for plant and animal species combined. Knowledge of the genes and metabolic pathways is helping the design of effective therapies against pathogenic fungi. Genome sequencing of mycorrhizal fungi is providing insights into how to manage ecosystems more effectively and to deal with problems facing humanity such as climate change.
Cyanthus olla, the birds nest fungus. Photo: B. Baldock.
If I had my fungal time over again I would work with fungal endophytes. These live within plant root, stem and leaf tissue and it is thought that they occur in all plants. Though some may be harmful, many confer advantages to their host such as resistance to stresses such as drought, heat, salinity and pests. Trials have been conducted with a seed treatment containing fungal endophytes with a view to improving crop production and mitigating the effects of climate change.
The poster session was introduced by each of the 67 presenters explaining their poster in 45 seconds. The whole ‘performance’ was accomplished most impressively in one hour!
A copy of the full ‘State of the World’s Fungi’ report can be downloaded from the website. You can also listen to an interview with Dr Tom May, senior mycologist at the National Herbarium of Victoria, discussing the report with Phillip Adams on ABC’s Late Night Live program.
Darrell first became involved as a plant collector in 1957 soon after the establishment of the State Herbarium, and over the ensuing years contributed over 7000 collections. He also wrote the botanical history section prefacing the 1986 edition of the Flora of South Australia (Kraehenbuehl 1986), as well as a number of stand-alone papers on notable South Australian botanists.
In the 1980s and 90s he worked in the Native Vegetation Management Branch of the then Department of Environment and Planning where he pioneered assessments of plant conservation status within specific regions, a crucial tool in assessing vegetation clearance applications.
He was also influential as a popular speaker, sharing his knowledge of the State’s flora and remnant native vegetation with numerous local groups and schools.
Left: Darrell taking field notes in scrub at Desert Camp (now Conservation Park). Right: with Crinum flaccidum at Murtho Native Forest Reserve. Photos: P.J.Lang.
Darrell’s early interest in the flora of the Adelaide plains began as diversions into remnant patches whilst on delivery runs in a scrap-metal business with his stepfather. It culminated in the publication of his definitive and highly acclaimed book documenting the pre-European vegetation of the Adelaide Plains (Kraehenbuehl 1996).
In 1998 Pultenaea kraehenbuehlii, a bush-pea endemic to the Tothill Ranges, was named in honour of Darrell and in recognition of his botanical exploration of that area (see also original description of the species in the Journal of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens; 776kb PDF).
Pultenaea kraehenbuehlii photographed by Darrell in the Tothill Ranges, Northern Lofty Region.
A more detailed account of Darrell is available here from a speech by State Herbarium honorary associate Bill Barker on the occasion of Darrell’s retirement in 1999.
Darrell was a colourful character who is remembered for his diverse contributions to botany and passionate commitment to plant conservation, as well as his sense of humour, generous nature and infectious enthusiasm.
Contributed by State Herbarium botanist Peter Lang.
Kraehenbuehl, D.N. (1986). History of botany in South Australia (1800-1955). In: Jessop, J.P. & Toelken, H.R. (eds), Flora of South Australia.Fourth Edition. Part 1, pp. 13-39. Government Printer: Adelaide. (0.9mb PDF)
Since late 2012 dedicated and committed people from Australia and New Zealand worked together to get the plan underway. Following a grass-roots startup, we are fortunate that in last 18 months Kevin Thiele has coordinated a wide range of engagement and consultation. Teleconferences, online discussions, workshops at conferences and online writing sessions were held. Kevin also launched a taxonomy blog site noto|biotica, through which some big ideas, concepts and discussion was facilitated. Supported by the Working Group and an Advisory Committee the generation of the plan was highly collaborative and yet benefited from the unified voice Kevin gave the overall process.
Kevin was a champion at getting us to all share ideas, opinions and also to listen and convey to the community of ideas and to form a biosystematics community driven mission for the next decade. The professionalism of the Australian Academy of Science and the New Zealand Royal Society Te Apārangi, helped elevate the decadal plan Discovering Biodiversity to give us all a chance to see a way forward. The plan covers biodiversity from the bottom of the ocean to the tops of the mountains and will pave the way for coordination of new initiatives and to consolidate the immense body of work we already deliver…
I want to encourage everyone to read the plan, and also to enjoy the document itself, a great visual piece of work and well illustrated with images of the biodiversity of Australia and New Zealand! Also enjoy the artwork commissioned for the cover, Abundance by David Stacey. [Download full resolution (19MB) or smaller version (4.2MB)]. The forward by David Attenborough emphasises not only the role of taxonomy and biosystematics but the importance of recognising and valuing our biodiversity…