Wednesday, 26 February 2014

How Wikipedia can help fungal conservation

The purpose of this blog post is to encourage internet-savvy people to contribute to fungal conservation!

As you may know, fungi, invertebrates, microbes and other life forms are often poorly understood, despite the word ‘biodiversity’ becoming commonplace in the last two decades. This word’s origins come from a contraction of ‘biological diversity’ (Hawksworth 1996: p. 6). This planet’s ‘biota’ are considered ‘the diversity of all living things’. The bios part comes from the Greek, meaning ‘life’.

Become a fungal conservation champion!
Sadly, biodiversity has commonly been interpreted narrowly as including only animals and plants. In earlier times life was divided into Animals and Plants but in recent times many more kingdoms have been recognised, such as in the six kingdom system that includes: Animalia, Archaea, Bacteria, Fungi, Plantae and Protista. The three larger (macroscopic) kingdoms are animals, fungi and plants. I have ordered these in decreasing order of numbers of species (based on estimates for fungi, as significantly less taxonomic work has been carried out on this kingdom). This is the same order as if listed alphabetically. Remember that animals includes the invertebrates, which are the most species rich group.

It is difficult that so many documents consider life on our planet to be just animals and plants, often referred to in biodiversity documents as fauna and flora. This leads to the unfortunate situation where anything that is not flora or fauna is simply beyond the conceptual grasp of most people, even those who ought to know better.

It is time our usage of ‘biodiversity’ improved in accuracy and inclusivity. Where we can we need to update definitions. Wikipedia is one place this can be done. I also urge you to request or insist on the accurate use of biodiversity in reports, policy documents, council plans, management plans, articles etc. A good start would be recognising biodiversity as the diversity of all living things and even better would be to recognise all Kingdoms. This might take lobbying over some time but will be worth the effort.

If you are comfortable searching the web you will surely have come across Wikipedia. This collaborative encyclopedia can be a great tool if we, the collaborators, put our best efforts into it. If we get the momentum going on the internet then hopefully dictionaries like the Oxford English Dictionary, will change their current limited definition of biodiversity to one that includes all life.

[By the way: unlike some members of partilment I would never use Wikipedia as a reference for a scientific or professional work, but I am happy to use it as a source for general and local knowledge.]

David Minter is currently the President of the
 International Society for Fungal Conservation 
and during the recent third congress of the society 
ran a workshop on how to become fungal conservation 
champions, such as by editing wikipedia entries 
(Image Lyn Allison).
If you want to know more details about why usage matters, for fungal conservation in particular, check out ISFC website.

What Wikipedia pages can you edit? If you register, you should be able to be edit most pages. You may want to protect your privacy by signing up under a ‘pen name’ or ‘avatar’.

Good places to start updating Wikipedia include country pages (look under environment or biodiversity subsections), conservation pages, your favourite ‘patch’ such as local conservation areas or national parks, regional and local government areas, etc. The list is huge, which is why I suggest we all become part time editors. Do not forget that Wikipedia is available in many languages, so you can also update or even create pages in other languages if you are proficient!

In cases where less accurate authors simply write “fauna and flora” to mean the species found in a document and you don't want to use biota or ‘animals, fungi and plants’ you could simply use ‘organism’ (this is outlined here )

Remember that 72% of Australasian macrofungi are endemic (Mueller & Schmit 2007; Mueller et al.,  2007), so they are ours to conserve. Raising awareness of the needs of fungi for conservation are important. I hope we can increase the understanding of our region’s wonderful biodiversity. If you want to know more about Australian Biodiversity you should read Chapman (2009); his estimates suggest that Australian biodiversity comprises: 
·         Fungi 9%
·         Plants 5%
·         ‘Microbes’ 28% (Archaea, Bacteria and Protista).
·         Animals 58%:
o   Vertebrates (birds, fish, mammals, reptiles etc) less than 2%
o   Invertebrates 56%

Species scape – the larger the organism the more species! (Yves Basset & Isabelle Bachy).
So sadly to date most of our efforts in understand biodiversity have likely focused on only  around 7% of Australia’s species.

When editing, please don't forget to give a short reason as to why the text has been changed. Wikipedia protects itself from malicious robots by checking this. It is also worth keeping track of your edited text as other editors may want to revert to the status quo. Keeping edits in format free programs like notepad are best as wiki pages are in html. Remember that information that is not supported by citation is easily modified or removed. (Below are some references that you may want to cite for Australian and Australasian fungi.)

If you would like inspiration you should check out the site for Wombat State Forest particularly section 4 ‘Fauna, fungi and flora’.

If you can upload pictures into Wikipedia it takes a few days but well worth it: ‘sexy fungi’ pictures are always appealing!

If you end up wanting to change more than a word or two you should read up on how to cite in Wikipedia 

Happy editing and correcting on behalf of accuracy and fungal conservation!

Sapphire McMullan-Fisher, Chair of Fungimap Conservation and Biodiversity Subcommittee and Australasian representative on the Council of the International Society for Fungal Conservation.


Chapman, AD. (2009) Numbers of living species in Australia and the world. Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. <>

Hawksworth, DL. (1996). Biodiversity: measurement and estimation. Springer..

Minter D. (2011) Botanists and zoologists fungal conservation needs you.

Mueller GM, Schmit JP. (2007). Fungal biodiversity: what do we know? What can we predict? Biodiversity and Conservation 16: 1–5.

Mueller, GM, Schmit, JP , Leacock, PR, Buyck, B, Cifuentes, J, Desjardin, DE, Halling, RE, Hjortstam, K, Iturriaga, T, Larsson, K-H, Lodge, DJ, May, TW, Minter, D, Rajchenberg, M, Redhead, SA, Ryvarden, L, Trappe, JM, Watling, R, Wu, Q. (2007) Global diversity and distribution of macrofungi. Biodiversity and Conservation, 16, 37-48.

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