Laccariopsis mediterranea is a characteristic european saprotrophic fungal species, occurring mainly in the western Mediterranean, associated with fragile and fragmented coastal dune habitats.
These biotopes are subject to severe threats from climate change, urbanization and other human activities.
A recent study on the impacts of climate change on dunal habitats in Italy (main country of occurrence of Laccariopsis mediterranea) estimates a decline of more than 90% in 40 years for the suitable habitats of the species, notably 2120 Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria and 2250* Coastal dunes with Juniperus spp. (Prisco et al. 2013), and it is likely that similar decline rates will be experienced by neighboring western mediterranean countries.
Moreover, coastal habitats all over Europe are also severely disturbed by urbanization: based on the 2006 European Commission data about the time span 1990 - 2004, we can estimate a loss of habitat to artificial surfaces of more than 20% in 1990 - 2019. Also coastal erosion has a devastating effect on dunal habitats, and the mediterranean coast has the highest erosion rate in Europe, aggravated by urbanization, coast armoring and dams on rivers which lead to a sediment deficit (EEA 2006).
On these premises, we can estimate the projected habitat loss at more than 50% in the next 20 years (3 generations). This meets the treshold for Endangered (EN) category under criterion A3(c).
This species was recently recombined in the new monotipic genus Laccariopsis Vizzini, on morphological and molecular bases. The correct binomium is now Laccariopsis mediterranea (Pacioni & Lalli) Vizzini.
Belongs in family Physalacriaceae, close to genus Gloiocephala and Rhizomarasmius.
Laccariopsis mediterranea is a well recognizable species of agaric, strictly associated with coastal sandy dunes with presence of Juniperus spp. and Ammophila arenaria.
It is reportedly distributed on the coasts of central-western Mediterranean and the atlantic coast of France and Spain.
Coastal dunal habitats are threathened by several sources of anthropic pressure, and very sensitive to climate change. They have been subject to severe decline and fragmentation all over Europe in the last century, and they are projected to sharply decline in the near future.
Laccariopsis mediterranea is reported from Portugal, from both the atlantic and mediterranean coast of France and Spain, including the Balearic Islands, all along the coast of Italy (where the species was described and most of the records are from), including Sicily and Sardinia, and it is also reported from Greece, including Crete, and Tunisia (Vizzini et al. 2012).
The number of reported localities is low (15 - 20) but the species is probably often overlooked due to the growth in winter and the unusual habitat, possibly not so frequented by mycologists.
The exclusive habitat of Laccariopsis mediterranea is the shrub vegetation of coastal sand dunes, especially habitat 2250 (*Coastal dunes with Juniperus spp.), a biotope which is subject to strong pressures, with a severe past and ongoing decline in the Mediterranean region (Picchi 2008).
Thus we can consider the population of this species declining, and prone to further decline.
A 2006 European Commission report on european coastal habitats estimates the expansion of artificial surfaces in European coastal areas around 12%, and states that western Mediterranean is the most affected (e.g. Portugal: 34% increase, Spain 18% increase); more recent assessments are missing, but these trends are likely to continue.
Moreover, coastal dunal habitats are projected to be severely impacted by climate change, and among those 2250 (*Coastal dunes with Juniperus spp.) is likely to be the most sensitive to weather extremes (Prisco et al. 2013).
On these bases, we infer that the population of Laccariopsis mediterranea has declined of at least 30% in the last 30 years, and is likely to decline of 30% or more in the next 30 years.
Population Trend: Decreasing
Like other taxa of the same family, Laccariopsis mediterranea is a saprobe growing on buried plant matter, and the fruit bodies develop a deeply buried rooting stem.
The substrate is supposed to be dead roots of Juniperus spp. or Ammophila arenaria, always on sandy soils in coastal dune habitats (Vizzini et al. 2012).
These habitats, 2250 (*Coastal dunes with Juniperus spp.) and 2120 (Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria) are currently highly fragmented and subject to strong anthropic pressures.
Changes in habitat and weather extremes due to climate change are likely to increasingly influence coastal habitats negatively, and particularly mediterranean dunal habitats with Juniperus and Ammophila are likely to experience a sharp decline, and there are estimates of a loss of more than 90% in the next 40 years (Prisco et al. 2013).
Moreover, changes in the morphology of the coastline due to urbanization, touristic facilities, port infrastructures and coastal defenses directly and indirectly threathen sand dune habitats: many european dunal areas have been physically replaced by housing facilities, beach resorts and similar, and the alteration of the sedimentary balances deriving from these facilities coastal defense infrastructures and river dams often causes erosion and eventually destruction of neighboring areas of untouched dunal habitats (Picchi 2008; Calvão et al, 2013).
The invasion of coastal sand dunes by alien plant species like Acacia saligna can alter the ecological balance of these delicate habitats (Del Vecchio et al. 2013), and also the practice of using tree plantations to stabilize the dunes causes the regression of natural coastal shrubs, replaced by Pinus spp. or Eucalyptus spp. stands (Picchi 2008).
Additional threats to this fragile habitats are overgrazing, quarrying for sand, indiscriminate access by tourists (also with motorized vehicles) and pollutants deposited by the seawater aerosol (Picchi 2008).
Forest fires are another possible threat to these habitats, especially the ones with Juniper spp., due to the low fire resistance and slow regeneration rate of juniper shrubs. Moreover, the extreme habitat fragmentation is particularly critical, because very small and scattered subpopulations of Juniperus, a dioic plant, are likely to have very low pollination rates (Picchi 2008).
The conservation of Laccariopsis mediterranea is directly linked to the conservation of its habitat, coastal dunes with Juniperus spp. (2250) and coastal dunes with Ammophila arenaria (2120).
Some possible conservation actions include the protection of known sites of growth and in general the protection of the sites of these habitats, especially those few in which a good habitat continuity persists.
Controlling grazing, fires and indiscriminate access by tourists is also advisable, and in already disturbed dunal habitats the planting of native shrub vegetation could help restore the stability and naturality of the dunes, preventing further erosion. Also the removal of alien species is advisable when those are threatening the naturality of the habitats.
Initiatives are also advisable to raise awareness in the population and especially in tourists about the importance and the fragility of these habitats, thus reducing the pressure from tourist misbehaviour.
Particular attention has to be payed to the building and implementing of harbors, coast protection facilities and fluvial dams, that produce sedimentary deficit or imbalance which affect areas also quite far from the infrastructure itself.
More research is needed to better understand the ecology of Laccariopsis mediterranea. It is almost certainly a saprobe like all the more closely related taxa, but understanding of the precise substrate of growth would be a useful tool for conservation.
Also a more clear image of the population size could help planning for conservation actions.
No use or trade of Laccariopsis mediterranea are reported.
Vizzini A., Ercole E., Voyron S. “Laccariopsis, a new genus for Hydropus mediterraneus (Basidiomycota, Agaricales).” Mycotaxon 121.1 (2013): 393-403.
Picchi S (2008) Management of Natura 2000 habitats. p. 2250* Coastal dunes with Juniperus spp. European Commission.
Calvao, T., Pessoa, M. F., & Lidon, F. C. (2013). Impact of human activities on coastal vegetation-a review. Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture, 926-944
Del Vecchio, S., Acosta, A., & Stanisci, A. (2013). The impact of Acacia saligna invasion on Italian coastal dune EC habitats. Comptes Rendus Biologies, 336(7), 364-369.
Prisco, I., Carboni, M., & Acosta, A. T. (2013). The fate of threatened coastal dune habitats in Italy under climate change scenarios. PLoS One, 8(7), e68850.
EEA Report (6/2006). The changing faces of Europe’s coastal areas. (https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/eea_report_2006_6)