The section’s main focus is to study, document and preserve information on Kenya’s fungi and lichen diversity as well as maintain a reference research collection at the East African Herbarium. Apart from conducting research, we are involved in training on systematics, ecology and conservation of fungi including lichens. The section also promotes the utilization of fungi as food resource by providing farmers with mushroom spawn and training them on how to cultivate them. Presently, the focus of our research is on macro-fungi (mainly mushrooms), mycorrhizal fungi, ascomycete fungi and lichens.
Currently there are over 5,000 specimens comprising Basidiomycota (mushrooms), Ascomycota (sac fungi), arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and lichens preserved at the East African Herbarium. This collection is growing rapidly with over 1000 specimens having been collected in the last one year.
- Mycorrhizal research
Mycology section has expertise and extensive skills in Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF). The research carried out aims to establish the taxonomy and ecological role of the AMF on the natural and agricultural ecosystems. In this regard we have largely focused our research on;
- Documenting the diversity of AMF in both agricultural and natural ecosystems.
- Generation and preservation of reference research collection of mycorrhizal fungi and germplasm for use on research in agriculture, forestry and restoration of degraded habitats.
- Assessment of the ecological role of mycorrhizal fungi with specific interest on their significance in agriculture and forestry.
2. Ascomycota (sac fungi) research
Studies have entailed diversity, ecology and evolution of saprophytic ascomycete fungi. This undertaking has resulted in the development of the first of its kind research collection on this group in the country and the region. We employ modern tools of research including the use of DNA sequences to resolve taxonomic problems within this group. Over 20 new taxa have been named and described by scientists in the section in the past few years. Research into this group thus concentrates on the following:
- Document the diversity and preserve information on ascomycete fungi of Kenya
- Use DNA sequence data to generate phylogenies and hence assess the validity of previously used morphology based classification.
- Study the distribution pattern and ecology of saprotrophic ascomycete fungi in Kenya.
3. Lichen research
Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a fungal and a photosynthetic partner living in a symbiotic association. The photosynthetic partner is in most cases green algae or rarely blue-green algae. Documentation of the diversity and research into this group has gathered pace in the past two years and research collection is rapidly growing. Plan to produce the first field guide for lichens of mount Kenya is in progress. Work in this group focuses on:
- Document the diversity and preserve information including reference collection on lichens of Kenya
- Long-term monitoring of lichen species distribution (especially in montane forest areas) to assess the effect of global warming on the biodiversity- lichens as indicator species
- Ecological studies to assess the correlation of plant species distribution and lichen diversity
4. Basidiomycota (Mushroom) research
The section has been involved in the documentation of mushroom of Kenya as well as promoting the cultivation of the edible fungi. The section has one of the leading laboratories in the production and supply of high quality mushroom spawn in the country. We provide the local farmers throughout Kenya with quality spawn of target species upon request.