The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) lies within driving distance of two-thirds of the nation's population. This has contributed to it becoming the most popular National Park in the United States with nearly 10 million visitors each year. The GSMNP comprises more than half a million acres and is one of the richest biological areas in the northern-hemisphere temperate zone, serving as a refuge for a diversity of life forms. An intensive effort by numerous scientists to document the Park's exceptional biodiversity, known as the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI), is currently underway. Fungi represent one of the Park's largest and most important components of biodiversity and must be surveyed to accomplish an accurate and thorough ATBI. Pyrenomycetes, which often occur as small, inconspicuous parasites or saprobes on plants and plant products, comprise a large group within the Fungi. This study will focus on the wood-inhabiting pyrenomycetes, which form an integral part of all ecosystems since they are intimately involved with such basic processes as nutrient cycling and decomposition of organic matter. Information on the species diversity, systematics, and biogeography of pyrenomycetes is fragmentary, and surveys in most areas of the world are critically needed. An intensive inventory of the wood-inhabiting pyrenomycetes at sites throughout all five major forest types within the GSMNP is proposed to document their diversity, distribution, abundance, seasonality, and host specificity, thereby furthering our understanding of their biology. This study will generate numerous products available to a broad range of users as both hardcopy and web-based. The publication of resulting specimen databases, online species pages, and an interactive identification system will greatly assist future studies of temperate pyrenomycetes. In addition, identification guides depicting the various taxa found throughout GSMNP will be produced to supplement web-based resources. This project will train a post-doctoral research assistant, a doctoral graduate student, several undergraduate students, and various amateur mycologists and volunteers in the taxonomy and ecology of a wide range of pyrenomycetes. Finally, every unique pyrenomycete taxon will be sequenced for the entire nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region, which is commonly used in the identification of fungal species. These sequences will be made available to the scientific community through public databases where they will play an essential role in future ecological, systematic, biogeographical, pathological, and biological control studies. This will be the first attempt intensively to survey the diversity of pyrenomycetes in North America and should serve as a model for future studies in the Park as well as other temperate areas of the world. Documenting what species occur within GSMNP is a critical first step to understanding the functions of the Park's ecosystems and translating this information into management decisions.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
Application #
Program Officer
Maureen M. Kearney
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
United States
Zip Code