Australian fungi and the environment


Australian Fungi and the Environment poster

Australian fungi are poorly known. Some are restricted to Australia, others we share with close or even distant parts of the world, and some are introduced. We could have up to 250 000 species, yet we have names for only 5 to 10% of that number. Even for many known fungi, knowledge of their distribution, behaviour and ecology is poor.

Fungi are neither plants nor animals. Lacking chlorophyll (like animals), they rely on pre-existing organic material for food. They are found everywhere around the world, from rainforest to desert, stream to ocean, and poles to the equator.

Fungi have a number of different lifestyles, all of which have critical impacts on ecosystem function. Saprotrophic fungi feed on and recycle about 85% of the carbon from dead organic matter—such as plants, animals and other fungi. (Bacteria and animals are responsible for the other 15%.) These fungi release the locked-up nutrients that can then be used by other living organisms, making them vital to the health of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems around the world.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2002.

The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) supports research and publications on the classification, identity, biology and relationships of Australia’s rich biodiversity.

Text: H.Lepp. Background: Original image copyright B.Fuhrer. Printer: Inprint.

Environment Australia logo
ABRS logo

About the poster

Related series: Fungi of Australia
Publisher: Australian Biological Resources Study
Year: 2002

Photographs provided by

  • Bruce Fuhrer
  • Ray and Elma Kearney
  • Heino Lepp
  • Peter McGee
  • NSW National Parks and Wildlife