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Professor Lynne Boddy

Professor Lynne Boddy


+44 (0)29 2087 4776
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX



I am a decomposition ecologist / fungal ecologist, particularly fascinated by the activities of the mycelia of woodland fungi. I have researched the ecology of wood decomposition and wood decay fungi since the mid-1970s. I have pioneered work on the fungal community structure and dynamics in wood. My team has investigated the outcome of fungal interactions, how these change depending on biotic and abiotic factors, and have used this information to explain patterns of fungal community structure and development. A deeper understanding of interactions has come from studying gene expression during interspecific interactions and production of volatile and diffusible organic compounds during mycelial interactions. We have revealed the foraging ecology, network architecture and key roles of cord-forming basidiomycetes in nutrient translocation and wood decay in forest ecosystems, and made major advances in understanding the effects of invertebrate grazing on these processes. Recent work has revealed major phenological trends in fungal fruiting and distribution, with major implications for mycelial activity and ecosystem functioning. We are currently focussing on decay communities in the centre of veteran trees, ash dieback and climate change.

Education and Outreach

For many people, when fungi are mentioned their first reaction is "can I eat it or will it kill me?" or "yuk! How can we get rid of them?; they rot our food and homes, kill our plants and even sometimes grow on us".  I am determined to change this view, since without fungi the terrestrial ecosystems of planet Earth would not work. There is very much more to them than just the fruit bodies that reveal themselves occasionally. Hence, I am an ardent communicator of the mysteries and importance of the amazing hidden Kingdom of Fungi to students and to the general public, both in the UK and internationally, including TV and radio programmes, popular talks, videos, films, articles, books, shows and exhibitions.


I am Professor of Fungal Ecology at Cardiff University UK, where I have worked since 1983. Prior to this I was a post doc at Bath University, I did my PhD at Queen Mary College, London University, and was an undergraduate at the University of Exeter. I have taught and researched into the ecology of fungi associated with trees and wood decomposition for over 40 years. I am currently studying: the fascinating communities of fungi and other organisms that rot the centres of old trees; the ash dieback fungus that is rampaging across the UK from Europe; the ways in which fungi fight each other and form communities; how fungi search the forest floor for food resources and respond to their finds; interactions between fungi and invertebrates; and how climate change is affecting fungi. I have co-authored the books “Fungal Decomposition of Wood” and “The Fungi”, and most recently (early 2021) I have written “Fungi and Trees: their Complex Relationships”. I have edited five books, written about 300 scientific papers, and am chief editor of the journal Fungal Ecology.

I am an ardent communicator of fungal science not only to students but also to a wider audience, by giving talks, short courses, participating in biology/nature events and through the media. Events have included UK Fungus Day (which we are hoping to expand to International Fungus Day), Soap Box science, and the RHS Chelsea Flower show, at which, I was a prime mover with the British Mycological Society Gold Medal winning exhibit "Out of sight out of mind" in 2009. As well as being a hit with the judges, the display received wide acclaim from the public, including the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, and had a few minutes on prime-time BBC TV. This success was followed by a large exhibition on "Amazing Fungi" which ran for 4 months at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 2010, and then for several years at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, where it was viewed by several hundred thousand visitors. Coinciding with the start of this exhibition, we published for a general audience "From Another Kingdom", which is RBGEs best-selling book.

I have spoken about fungi in numerous Radio and TV programmes and film documentaries, including: Radio 4 Farming Today, Saving Species, Living World, Forum, Radio 4 ‘Life Scientific, ‘In our time with Melvyn Bragg’, ‘The curious cases of Rutherford and Fry’, BBC World Service programmes, Radio Wales, BBC TV ' Afterlife', 'Great British Food Revival', 'The One Show' and Chanel 4's 'Sunday Brunch', and BBC1 ‘Trees’ with Judi Dench. I also participated in the award winning French produced film "Will fungi help save the world?" first shown on the European cultural television channel 'Arte' in Autumn 2013, and the 2018 award winning documentary “The Kingdom”. I am an active member of the British Mycological Society, of which I was president in 2009/10; I have organized, on their behalf, many conferences/events not only for academics but also for the wider public.

Honours and awards

My contributions have been recognized by the award of an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2019 for Services to Mycology and Science Outreach.

I received the British Mycological Society (BMS) Berkeley Award in 1989, the Microbiology Society Fleming Award in 1991, the European Mycological Association outstanding achievement award in 2015, The British Ecological Society Marsh Award in 2016, The Frances Hoggan Medal of the Learned Society of Wales in 2018, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Abertay in 2018.

I am a fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (2011) and of the Royal Society of Biology (2013).

In 2021, I was awarded the Arboricultural Association Award for significant and positive contribution to the arboricultural profession.



























Interactions between saprotrophic fungi

BIOSI collaborators: Hilary J. Rogers, Carsten Müller
External collaborators: Daniel P. Eastwood (Swansea University), Yu Fukasawa (Tohoku University, Japan)

Basidiomycete fungi are the major agents of decomposition and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems. Different species and individuals encounter each other both within colonized organic resources and in soil/leaf litter during outgrowth in search of new resources. They defend and obtain new territory by combative, antagonistic interactions. These interactions are, thus, crucial to fungal community development and functioning in dead organic matter. The overall outcomes are deadlock, where neither species gains headway, or replacement where one species wrests territory from the other, but sometimes partial replacement or reciprocal replacement. Outcomes vary depending on species, site of interaction (i.e. in soil or wood etc.), microclimate and relative size of mycelia and resources occupied etc. Outcome of interactions can be affected by microclimate and resource status amongst others. We have shown that soil invertebrate grazing alters mycelial interactions, dramatically. With the complexity of multiple species and environmental conditions, many different antagonistic mechanisms operate. Responses to antagonists include rapid cell division and death, production of pigments, volatile (VOCs) and diffusible organic compounds, other antimicrobial agents, changes in enzyme production and gene expression. We are trying to understand both how interspecific fungal interactions determine fungal community structure and development, and the underlying mechanisms of antagonism. Ultimately we want to know how wood decay communities function in natural ecosystems. We are investigating the physiological and gene expression changes during interactions between species of decay fungi in wood representing the succession from primary coloniser to secondary and tertiary decomposers, under differing environmental conditions, using new post-genomic tools to allow us to get a complete picture of the genes that are switched on and off during interactions.

Heart rot of standing trees, and ecology of endangered woodland basidiomycetes and decay habitat

BIOSI collaborator: Hilary J. Rogers
External collaborators: Emma Gilmartin (Woodland Trust), Ted Green (Windsor)

In living trees, most decay occurs in the central heart of the tree (termed heart-rot), where water content is lower and aeration better than in functional sapwood. Despite heart-rot study beginning almost 200 years ago, there has been limited research in the last 50 years, probably because forestry practices largely involve cultivation of younger trees. We do not know how the fungi become established, how their communities change over time, the location, rates and patterns of decomposition in relation to wood anatomy. Nor do we know how this impacts the organisms dependent on this habitat. Our initial studies on beech revealed the 3-dimensional structure of decay fungi in wood, and showed that records of fruit bodies give a poor indication of the fungi responsible for decay, and of their internal distribution. We are now extending our explorations into oak.
We are also seeking to reveal whether a set of wood decomposer species, thought to be rare based on paucity of fruiting records, are actually rare and endangered, and if so then why? Fungi in the genus Hericium (hedgehog fungi) are decomposers of wood and other plant litter. H. erinaceum is a UK BAP priority species, H. coralloides appears even rarer, and H. cirrhatum is also uncommon. Concentrating on these species, we have obtained probably the most in depth autecological knowledge of any putatively rare fungal species. In a similar project with Piptoporus quercinus – the rare oak polypore, we have found that populations appear to be inbred, sexual spores rarely germinate, but thick-walled asexual spores allow survival under adverse microclimate. Having developed specific PCR primers for these fungi we are now in a position to discover whether they are really rare or whether they just produce visible fruit bodies infrequently.
We are also trying to bolster populations by investigating approaches to inoculating rare fungi into standing living trees, and also more common fungi that will cause heart-rot to veteranise young trees to counter disappearing habitat.

Foraging patterns, architecture and memory of mycelia systems in soil

External collaborators: Mark D. Fricker (University of Oxford), Yu Fukasawa (Tohoku University, Japan)

Wood-decaying basidiomycete fungi are the major agents of decomposition in forests and hence crucial to nutrient cycling. On the forest floor, decay fungi that produce ‘root-like’ linear organs - termed cords, exhibit remarkable patterns of biomass and nutrient reallocation on locating new resources. They also deploy biomass differently and operate different search patterns depending on species, microclimatic regime, nutrient status of the system and surrounding soil. The complex mycelial networks that form in soil are constantly being remodelled in response to nutrient discovery and demand, changes in microclimate and destructive disturbance, e.g. by invertebrate grazers. We are currently investigating, mathematically, the architecture of networks, routes between different regions, resilience to damage, etc. using graph/network theory, in collaboration with Mark Fricker at Oxford. We have recently demonstrated that mycelia have some sort of ‘directional’ memory, and are further investigating this with Yu Fukasawa (Japan).

Detection, distribution and identification of pioneer fungi latently present in functional sapwood

External collaborators: Emma Gilmartin (Woodland Trust), Michelle Jusino (William and Mary, USA), Daniel Lindner (USDA, Madison, Wisconsin)

Wood decomposition and fungal community development begins while branches are still in the canopy and trunks still standing. In the absence of wounds, initial colonisers develop from propagules distributed extensively but sparsely throughout the sap stream, but do not develop overtly because of the high water content when sapwood is functional in water conduction. Next generation sequencing approaches are now allowing us to determine the diversity and role of latently present fungi in early stages of decay development in the natural environment. We are addressing the following hypotheses:
*All woodland angiosperm trees contain wood decay fungi latently present within functional sapwood.
*Conifers also have wood decay fungi latently present within functional sapwood
*Fungi latently present in one tree species have a much wider distribution in other species than has been shown to date by conventional methodologies, i.e. are not host-specific.
*In addition to known and suspected latent fungi, there are many other fungal species, which have not been identified as such.
*The spatial distribution of latently present fungi varies between fungal species.

Ash dieback disease: ecology and pathology

External Collaborator: Joan Webber (Forest Research, Surrey)

Ash dieback disease has been the focus of intensive study in the past ten years, however, there are still many lacunae in our understanding of both the disease and the behaviour of the pathogen. We are investigating climatic effects on the timing and intensity of spore release at a range of ash dieback infected sites around England and Wales, on spore survival and germination, and extent of colonization of fallen leaf stalks. Armillaria can be a major factor in the mortality of trees affected by ash dieback, however, the frequency of Armillaria infection, and the species of Armillaria involved are not yet known. The project aims to fill these knowledge gaps to aid management.

Global change effects on fungi

External Collaborators: Alan Gange (Royal Holloway, University of London), ClimFun consortium (Håvard Kauserud (Oslo), Carrie Andrew and numerous other collaborators from European countries), Iain Hartley (Exeter University)

Fungi provide vital ecosystem services through decomposition, nutrient cycling and soil aggregation, and are an important component of ecosystem responses to global change. We have analysed extensive data sets from the UK and continental Europe. In a series of 14 in depth papers, we have shown that fruiting phenology is dramatically changing as are hosts and species distributions, due to climate and other global changes, though this varies between species and ecosystems. These changes imply that functioning is changing. We now need to delve deeper to determine more specifically effects on different functional groups.
To be better able to predict the effect of a warming climate on wood decay and CO2 release from terrestrial ecosystems, we are investigating effects of temperature on basidiomycete fungi decomposing wood. This includes thermal acclimation of individual fungi and outcomes of interspecific fungal interactions exposed to natural diurnal temperature regimes.

Fungal invertebrate interactions

BIOSI collaborator: T. Hefin Jones
External Collaborators: Tone Bikemoe, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, Lisa Fagerli Lunde (University Ås, Norway)

Fungi and invertebrates interact intimately in decomposing wood, with both positive and negative effects on each other. Many invertebrates are attracted to fungal mycelia and fruit bodies, upon which they may graze and in which they may breed. The mycelial morphology and physiological/biochemical functioning of saprotrophic soil basidiomycetes can alter dramatically in the presence of nematodes, collembola, woodlice and other invertebrates. We are currently investigating the relationships between invertebrate communities and decay types in oak trees, and the relationships between beetles and Fomitopsis pinicola.

Cardiff research group

PhD students: Matt Wainhouse; Rich Wright
Masters students: Ian Chedgy; Oliver Lindsey; Megan Belanger; Charlotte Gurney-Read; Lizzie Walker.

Extended research group
PhD students: Matt Combes (Forest Research); Katie Journeaux (Exeter); Ed Pyne (Bangor).


Past projects