The fungal herbarium of Ghent University: a valuable source of information hidden in boxes

Mycologists are now routinely analyzing fungal communities directly from the soil using metagenomics. In order to link these environmental sequences to actual species, a solid taxonomical framework is needed with which sequence data can be compared. As most ecosystems worldwide, tropical and subtropical African forests are depending on ectomycorrhizal associations, often with fungi that form mushrooms.
This project wants to contribute to the knowledge of the diversity in these ecosystems by constructing a reference framework for the African ectomycorrhizal fungal genera, making use of a wealth of hidden information: the fungal herbarium of Ghent University. The fungal herbarium contains over 35000 collections, of which at least 5000 are African. The majority of specimens and their associated data is not digitized and hence hidden for research. We aim to digitize the African collections and their associated data, provide the 1000 most important collections with a DNA barcode and make this data publicly available on different portals. Together with our collaborators, we will combine this information with existing data and phylogenies, to construct a comprehensive taxonomical framework on African ectomycorrhizal genera. Such a reference framework will augment metagenomic studies to a higher level.