• 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
Susana C. Gonçalves, Tsutomu Hattori
Tsutomu Hattori

Assessment Status 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 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 oil palm plantations can destroy local biodiversity including this rare species. Have been reported that forest fires in Borneo have become a large-scale cause of forest degradation and loss since the El Niño droughts of 1983 (Wooster et al., 2012; Malingreau et al., 1985; Siegert et al., 2001). Once the forest has burned, the increased risk of subsequent fires leads many forests to cycles of repeated burns (Hoscilo et al., 2011). 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 known from Borneo Island, Sarawak, Lambir Hills National Park, about 0.5 km from road on trail to 52-hectare long-term forest dynamics research plot, 4u209N, 113u509E, in Malaysia (Desdarjin et. al., 2011)

Since 2011 until now there is no new records exist from any efforts or localities except other species of thailandica but found 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)

Timber license concessions alone cover a total of 6,542,852 hectares (nearly 16 million acres), over half (53 percent) of Sarawak’s total land area. The logging concessions are concentrated toward inland Borneo, on the border with Indonesian Kalimantan.

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: Deteriorating

Habitat and Ecology

Solitary, epigeous on ground under undetermined dipterocarp trees, known only from the holotype locality in Lambir Hills National Park, northern Borneo, Malaysian state of Sarawak. Lambir is an a seasonal, tropical rainforest, receiving ca. 3000mm rainfall per year, with maximum and minimum
daily temperatures 32–24 °C (Lee et al. 2002). The forest at Lambir contains 1000 tree species but is dominated by the ECM family Dipterocarpaceae. Detailed descriptions of the neighboring plot are available in Lee et al. (2002) and Davies et al. (2005).

Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland Forest


According to new maps of industrial logging, oil palm, and planted forest concessions complied and published by Global Forest Watch, these concessions cover over half the state of Sarawak, often overlapping with sensitive intact forests that are being exploited and degraded at one of the highest rates in the world (Petersen et.al., 2015). This situation is not only reduce the population of dipterocarp forest but also a natural habitat of Spongiforma squarepantsii in Borneo.

Agriculture & aquacultureLogging & wood harvestingNatural system modifications

Conservation Actions

Lampir National Park need to protect of this rare species as well as dipterocarp forests in Borneo.

Site/area protectionEx-situ conservation

Research needed

Study on they favorable habitat need to be investigated.

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