Filling the gaps: completing the Lactifluus phylogeny by assessment of its biodiversity in the Neotropics and forming a bridge between taxonomists and environmental ecologists

For a long time it was wrongfully assumed that ectomycorrhizal fungi were poorly represented in the Neotropics, so this area remained rather unexplored. However, recent research suggests that the Neotropics contain a treasure of unknown species of ectomycorrhizal fungi.

When including the few recent collections from the Neotropics in the world-wide phylogeny of the genus Lactifluus (Russulaceae), entirely new clades arise. So it is clear that there is a substantial gap in our knowledge of this genus. This PhD project aims to fill this gap by thorough sampling of Russulaceae in the Neotropics.

Furthermore, environmental sequencing in the Neotropics is emerging, but solid taxonomic data essential to interpret the metagenomic datasets resulting from these studies are lacking. This PhD aims to bridge the gap between data generated by environmental ecologists and the knowledge gathered by taxonomists, in order to make a full assessment of biodiversity possible by linking above ground diversity to below ground diversity. In function of this, a well-documented database will be established, in which historical and recent data of Russulaceae specimens will be linked.