An Arubescens fungi
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An Arubescens fungi.

June 1, 2010
More about this Image With support from a grant from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Microbial Observatories program, scientists from Duke University are establishing a unique facility in the Duke Forest for the study of microbial diversity--the Duke Forest Mycological Observatory (DFMO).

Lying near the eastern edge of the North Carolina piedmont plateau, the Duke Forest is one of the nation's premier outdoor laboratories for studies on the effects of environmental change, different land use histories and the dynamics of naturally-evolving forest communities. Using tools of molecular biology and genomics, the DFMO will provide new information about the diversity and ecology of fungi and other microorganisms from forest ecosystems.

One of the projects that will take place at DFMO is the detection and identification of new species of mushrooms and other fungi using powerful tools of molecular taxonomy. They form essential components of terrestrial ecosystems where they function in diverse roles as pathogens, decomposers and mutualists. With an estimated 1.6 to 3 million species worldwide, fungi represent one of the most diverse groups of organisms in forest ecosystems. The project will be one of the first to apply a DNA-based approach for biodiversity assessment on a large scale, and will serve as a model for future studies of microorganisms from other diverse habitats.

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