• Proposed
  • Under Assessment
  • 3Preliminary Assessed
  • 4Assessed
  • 5Published

Spongiforma squarepantsii Desjardin, Peay, T.D. Bruns

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Scientific name
Spongiforma squarepantsii
Desjardin, Peay, T.D. Bruns
Common names
IUCN Specialist Group
Mushroom, Bracket and Puffball
Assessment status
Under Assessment
Proposed by
Andrew Anak Ngadin
Andrew Anak Ngadin
Anders Dahlberg, Gregory Mueller
Annya Ambrose, Tsutomu Hattori, Michael Krikorev, SuSee Lee, Cherdchai Phosri, Olivier Raspé
Gregory Mueller

Assessment Notes

In 1973, old-growth forests covered 55.8 Mha (76%) of Borneo’s land area (Gaveau et al., 2014). An estimated 18.7 Mha (34%) were cleared between 1973 and 2015, with 14.4 Mha in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) and 4.2 Mha in Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak), respectively (David et al., 2016)

The total area developed as industrial plantations reached 9.2 Mha in 2015 (minimum size of a plantation = 90 ha; max = 560,000 ha; mean = 4,600 ha) or 12% of Borneo’s land area. More than a half of these plantations (4.8 Mha) were planted between 2005 and 2015.

Approximately 7.0 Mha (76%) of the total area of industrial plantations in 2015 (9.2 Mha), were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5 Mha had been planted rapidly, i.e. within five years of forest clearance

In addition, have been reported that approximately, 83,362 ha of forest have been permanently flooded by the creation of the hydroelectric power dams of Bakun and Murum between 2011 and 2014 in Sarawak (Sovacool & Bulan, 2013; Keong, 2005)


This very rare species is found only in dipterocarp forest in Borneo. This fungus has an interesting structure/ fruiting body that can absorb water such as sponges in wet, fresh and humid habitats as described by Desjardin, 2011. This shows that this fungus needs its own habitat that may exist in the Borneo archipelago where its population is limited.

Taxonomic notes

The species was first described scientifically online in May 2011 in the journal Mycologia, authored by American mycologists Dennis E. Desjardin, Kabir Peay, and Thomas Bruns. The description was based on two specimens collected by Bruns in 2010 in Lambir Hills National Park, in Sarawak, Malaysia.

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

The dipterocarp-dominated forest in Borneo is a natural habitat for Spongiforma squarepantsii and deforestation for the agriculture activities can destroy local biodiversity including this very rare species. Such cycles have converted millions of hectares of old-growth and selectively logged forest to degraded scrublands (Hoscilo et al., 2011; Guhardja, 2000). Some of the remaining forests were converted to industrial plantations (mainly oil-palm and pulpwood) (Abood et al., 2014; Wicke et al., 2011), small-scale agriculture and mining operations (Brearley, 2007), while some have been flooded by dams (Sovacool & Bulan, 2013; Keong, 2005).

Geographic range

Spongiforma squarepantsii is only known from Lambir National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia, with a single collection from 2010, about 0.5 km from road on trail to 52-hectare long-term forest dynamics research plot, 4u209N, 113u509E (Desdarjin et. al., 2011).  Since 2011 until now there are no new published records, but there is an unpublished and unconfirmed record from Terengganu, Peninsular Malaysia by Su-See Lee.  Another species in the genus S.  thailandica was published in 2010, collected from Thailand.

Population and Trends

Only found in Sarawak in the dipterocarp-dominated forest of the Lambir Hills in Sarawak, Malaysia (Desjardin et al., 2011). There is unpublished and unconfirmed record from Peninsular Malaysia by Su-See Lee. 

This species found in 2008 at Lambir Hills National Park, about 0.5 km from road on trail to 52-hectare long-term forest dynamics research plot. It is very limited reports, and understanding of this species, it’s tough to assess the trend. The greater part of natural habitat within its distribution Sarawak has been lost during the last 100 years; due to logging and oil palm plantation. The continued decline of natural habitat suggest that this species is deterioration.

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology

Spongiforma squarepantsii is a solitary, epigeous on ground under undetermined dipterocarp trees, known only found from one National Park in Sarawak at Lambir Hills National Park. Lambir has the same habitat of plant community and soil type (per com Annya Ambrose SFC employer). There is a possible unpublished and unconfirmed record from Peninsular Malaysia by Lee Sue See, because of its distinction and apparent unique and uncommon habitat estimated that there are up to 50 additional localities each with 4-5 mature individuals, <250 total.

Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland Forest


According to new maps of industrial logging, oil palm, and planted forest concessions compiled and published by Global Forest Watch, these concessions often overlap with sensitive intact forests (Petersen et.al., 2015). This situation has reduce the population of dipterocarp forest and the natural habitat of Spongiforma squarepantsii in Borneo. 

The National Park is protected area however this species might be threaten by agriculture activities surrounding national park (Yamashita et. al., 2018) and the main road construction. It is expected that road infrastructure and road transport will also be effected favorable habitat of this species.

Shifting agricultureSmall-holder farmingRoads & railroadsLogging & wood harvestingRecreational activitiesNatural system modifications

Conservation Actions

There are currently no conservation efforts or actions taken in the sites. Conservation actions are needed for this very rare species, especially to protect the habitat of the dipterocarp growth forests. Agriculture, roads construction and logging activities in mature forests should be controlled to protect this species particularly in Borneo.

Site/area protectionEx-situ conservationPolicies and regulations

Research needed

Study on this species favorable habitat need to be investigated and well as monitoring of species in other locations.

Population size, distribution & trendsActionsSpecies Action/Recovery PlanArea-based Management PlanPopulation trendsHabitat trends

Use and Trade


1. Petersen R., Gibbes S., and Weisse M. (2015) New GFW Maps Show Vast Logging, Oil Palm and Plantation Concessions in Sarawak. http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/11/new-gfw-maps-show-vast-logging-oil-palm-and-plantation-concessions-sarawak
2. Lee HS, Davies SJ, LaFrankie JV, Tan S, Yamakura T, Itoh A, Ohkubo T, Ashton PS. 2002. Floristic and structural diversity of mixed dipterocarp forest in Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. J Trop For Sci 14: 379–400.
3. Davies S, Tan S, LaFrankie J, Potts M. 2005. Soil-related floristic variation in the hyperdiverse dipterocarp forest in Lambir Hills, Sarawak. In: Roubik D, Sakai S, Hamid A, eds. Pollination ecology and rain forest diversity, Sarawak studies. New York: Springer-Verlag. p 22–34.
4. Desjardin (2011) Meet SpongeBob Mushroom, a Funky New Fungus. https://www.livescience.com/14626-spongebob-mushroom-species-fungus.html
5. Wooster M., Perry G. & Zoumas A. Fire, drought and El Niño relationships on Borneo (Southeast Asia) in the pre-MODIS era (1980–2000). Biogeosciences 9 (2012).
6. Malingreau J., Stephens G. & Fellows L. Remote sensing of forest fires: Kalimantan and North Borneo in 1982–83. Ambio 14 (1985).
7. Siegert F., Ruecker G., Hinrichs A. & Hoffmann A. Increased damage from fires in logged forests during droughts caused by El Nino. Nature 414, 437–440 (2001).
8. Hoscilo A., Page S. E., Tansey K. & Rieley J. O. Effect of repeated fires on land-cover change on peatland in southern Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. from 1973 to 2005. International Journal of Wildland Fire 20, 578–588 (2011).
9. Guhardja E. Rainforest Ecosystems of East Kalimantan. (Springer Verlag, 2000).
10. Abood S. A., Lee J. S. H., Burivalova Z., Garcia‐Ulloa J. & Koh L. P. Relative contributions of the logging, fiber, oil palm, and mining industries to forest loss in Indonesia. Conservation Letters (2014).
11. Wicke B., Sikkema R., Dornburg V. & Faaij A. Exploring land use changes and the role of palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia. Land Use Policy 28, 193–206 (2011).
12. Brearley F. Q. Another threat to Borneo’s rainforests? Science-New York then Washington - 317, 1032 (2007). [PubMed]
13. Sovacool B. K. & Bulan L. They’ll be dammed: the sustainability implications of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) in Malaysia. Sustainability science 8, 121–133 (2013).
14. Keong C. Y. Energy demand, economic growth, and energy efficiency—the Bakun dam-induced sustainable energy policy revisited. Energy policy 33, 679–689 (2005).
15. Gaveau D. L. A. et al. Four decades of forest persistence, clearance and logging on Borneo. PloS One 9, e101654 (2014).
16. David L. A. Gaveau,a, Douglas Sheil, Husnayaen, Mohammad A. Salim, Sanjiwana Arjasakusuma, Marc Ancrenaz, Pablo Pacheco, and Erik Meijaard (2016) Rapid conversions and avoided deforestation: examining four decades of industrial plantation expansion in Borneo. Sci Rep.; 6: 32017

Known distribution - countries

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted