Australasian Fungi Conservation Group

Introduction

Certain species of fungi are rare or are associated with specific rare hosts or restricted habitats. Such fungi need to be conserved and managed with the same degree of attention as applied to plants and animals. Unfortunately, formal recognition of rare and endangered fungi has been historically difficult to obtain in Australasia. There appears to be a number of reasons for this. First, fungi are often invisible for the majority of the year until environmental conditions are briefly suited to fruiting body formation and even then encounters with different species may only occur by chance. Second, because of their cryptic nature, understanding biological aspects that are necessary for their listing as rare species (such as population size) is a major challenge for mycologists. And third, there are few qualified mycologists currently working in Australasia who can provide information about the identity, biology and ecology of any fungal species, let alone rare ones.

The Australasian Fungi Conservation Group has been reactivated as a formal subcommittee of the Australasian Mycological Society to improve this state of affairs. The work of the Group will build on initiatives that are improving knowledge and facilitating the ability to assess the conservation status of Australasian fungi, including citizen science mapping schemes like Fungimap (https://fungimap.org.au/), development of explicit criteria for estimating population numbers of fungi (Dahlberg & Mueller, Fungal Ecology  4:147-162, 2011), and the Global Fungi Red List Initiative that seeks to increase the number of assessed and listed species under the IUCN criteria (http://iucn.ekoo.se/en/iucn/welcome).

Left, Hygrocybe cheelii with attached insect exoskeleton (© Ian Milinovitch). Centre, Morchella sp. in Southern Queensland (© John Dearnaley). Right, Mycologists in the field at Ravensbourne National Park (© John Dearnaley).

Above, Hypocreopsis amplectens or “Tea-tree fingers” (© Tom May), the only macrofungus listed under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. As yet, no action plan for this species' survival and recovery has been developed. Recent surveys by Fungimap and the local community suggest that in the last decade it has disappeared from two of the three known locations on the Mornington Peninsula and Coastal Gippsland in Victoria.

Australasian Fungi Conservation Group

A Conservation Subcommittee of AMS was active in the early years of the Society, but has not met for some years. The ‘Australasian Fungi Conservation Group’ of AMS was re-activated after discussion between AMS Council members and participants in the Workshop on Threat Status Assessment, held at the AMS Scientific meeting in May 2016 in Queenstown, New Zealand. The Group was approved at the August AMS Council meeting, with the same status and reporting arrangements as other subcommittees of the AMS. Tom May and Peter Buchanan have agreed to act as co-conveners.

There are a number of other formal and informal groups active in conservation in the region, including: the Fungimap Conservation & Biodiversity Subcommittee, and the Oceania Group of the Global Fungal Red List Initiative. In relation to the International Society for Fungal Conservation, several persons active within AMS have formal roles: Peter Buchanan is the Membership Secretary and Sapphire McMullan-Fisher is the Australasian Regional Delegate on the ISFC Council (representing the Organization Member Fungimap). There are also AMS members who are involved with the IUCN Mushroom, Bracket and Puffball Specialist Group. Regional fungal studies groups are increasingly involved in fungal conservation.

Given the various groups already  involved in fungal conservation, part of the role of the Australasian Fungi Conservation Group will be to create good networks among these groups. It may turn out that merging some of the functions may be the best outcome (particularly for the Oceania Group of the Global Fungal Red List Initiative).

There are several dozen people already involved in the Oceania Group of the Global Fungal Red List Initiative, and it is expected that about the same number will participate in the Australasian Fungi Conservation Group.

Roles of the Australasian Fungi Conservation Group include:

  • Disseminating information about the conservation status of Australasian fungi, including research publications, additions to threat status lists etc

  • Providing informed comment on government conservation and biodiversity policies and strategies

  • Investigating formal adoption of Mueller & Dahlberg protocols for carrying out threat assessment of macrofungi, and producing case studies using these protocols, for Australasian Fungi

  • Facilitating peer/expert review by mycologists of fungal threat assessments

  • Holding training workshops on threat status assessment

 

A Google Group has been set up for the subcommittee to facilitate discussion. If you wish to participate in the Group discussion, please contact: tom.may@rbg.vic.gov.au

Red-Listing of Australasian Fungi

Two Australasian fungi have been recently included on the IUCN Red List of rare and endangered species. Claustula fischeri is a rare fungus that has only been documented at a few locations in Tasmania and New Zealand. It is a very unusual fungus consisting of a white egg-shaped fruiting body initially covered by a purplish outer layer. Unusually for a stinkhorn, the spore mass is devoid of smell. For more details on its IUCN red-listing see http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/75720773/0).

A second listed fungus is Boletopsis nothofagi, a recently described species from New Zealand. It is a quite large fungus with a grey cap and stipe (see below), which bruise black. It has white pores, looks like a bolete and is only known from two sites in New Zealand: one near Wellington, the other in Nelson Lakes National Park in the South Island. Its closest relatives are all in the northern hemisphere and some are on European Red Lists. For more details on its IUCN red-listing see http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/80188388/0

Upper figure, upper surface of Claustula fischeri. Lower figure, Section through the fruit body of C. fischeri. showing the spore mass. Pictures courtesy of Genevieve Gates and Michael Pilkington.

Above, Boletopsis nothofagi in New Zealand.

Picture courtesy of Patrick Leonard