The power of citizen science to advance fungal conservation

Fungal conservation is gaining momentum globally, but many challenges remain. To advance further, more data are needed on fungal diversity across space and time. Fundamental information regarding population sizes, trends, and geographic ranges is also critical to accurately assess the extinction risk of individual species. However, obtaining these data is particularly difficult for fungi due to their immense diversity, complex and problematic taxonomy, and cryptic nature. This paper explores how citizen science (CS) projects can be leveraged to advance fungal conservation efforts. We present several examples of past and ongoing CS-based projects to record and monitor fungal diversity. These include projects that are part of broad collecting schemes, those that provide participants with targeted sampling methods, and those whereby participants collect environmental samples from which fungi can be obtained. We also examine challenges and solutions for how such projects can capture fungal diversity, estimate species absences, broaden participation, improve data curation, and translate resulting data into actionable conservation measures. Finally, we close the paper with a call for professional mycologists to engage with amateurs and local communities, presenting a framework to determine whether a given project would likely benefit from participation by citizen scientists.