Fungi from coastal and marine ecosystems are a neglected but significant part of marine biodiversity. Fungi in general are able to degrade a wide range of recalcitrant biological molecules and particularly in coastal ecosystems fungal activity may be critical in the early stages of biodegradative pathways. Fungi in the marine environment have only been fully recognised since about 1960, and within the group, marine fungi have shown high decadal indices (% increases in species number over a 10 year period). Between 1981 and 1991, Hawksworth (1991, Mycological Research 95, 641-655) calculated that marine fungi had the highest decadal index (49%) for any fungal group. Furthermore, Hawksworth put forward the opinion that less than 10% of fungal biodiversity had yet been discovered. Recent collections of marine fungi have largely been restricted to the Far East, with only slight extension of the European list over the last 15 years. Although no precise figure presently exists for a total worldwide number of marine fungal species, this is probably in excess of 1000. Our provisional list for European marine fungi extends to 319 species, largely of ascomycetes and deuteromycetes, but also 4 basisidiomycetes (see accompanying list).Two problems have arisen during the production of this list. Firstly, maximal fungal activity in marine systems is found adjacent to terrestrial areas. No precise definition of a marine fungus exists, although they are generally defined as fungi that can complete lifecycles in marine environments. In coastal regions where fungal isolations are made many terrestrial species are found. The sporulating nature of fungi means that it is unclear whether such species exist actively in the marine environment and, except where there is clear evidence that they fulfil our definition, they have been excluded from this list. Secondly, the taxonomy of microeukaryotes is very confused and molecular evidence now restricts the Fungi to a monophylletic group consisting of chytridiomycetes, zygomycetes, ascomycetes and basidiomycetes. Only members of these have been included.The list at present is preliminary and it is expected that further species will be added. Nevertheless, we believe that the list at present includes in excess of 90% of identified European species. We continue to identify and approach experts in this area to validate this list. We are grateful to Mr G. Bremer and the University of Portsmouth Marine Fungal Collection who have allowed us to use information from this collection and Dr. E.B.G. Jones of the University of Hong Kong for his expertise and editorial input.
- Kohlmeyer, J. & Kohlmeyer, E. 1979 Marine Mycology - The Higher Fungi. Academic Press, New York.