Plants are at the pinnacle of terrestrial life and the energy they harness from sunlight flows down to every other land-dwelling organism on the planet. What is often taken for granted is that plants, as we know them, would not exist without fungi. Fungi are essential to ecosystem health. They are critical symbionts that help plants grow. They help to such an extent that they make trees possible. Think about that. Trees would not be able to achieve the sizes they do without essential nutrients supplied to them by their fungal partners. In addition, the massive amounts of structural tissue that plants produce in the form of cellulose cannot be metabolized by the vast majority of organisms. Fungi, on the other hand, are the planet’s most efficient decomposers of plant-based carbohydrate, converting an otherwise indigestible molecule into nutritious fungal matter, and providing critical resources for other organisms in the ecosystem’s food web.
The Colorado Mycoflora Project is a regional contributor to the North American Mycoflora Project. The more than 2,300 species of Colorado macrofungi accessioned in the Sam Mitchel Herbarium of Fungi represents a small fraction of the diversity likely found in the Southern Rockies. Through greater regional sampling and the use of DNA sequence data this project will provide knowledge and educational opportunities about the diversity of macrofungi of the Southern Rocky Mountains.