UK: A rare fungus and the forgotten Kingdom


The discovery of a rare fungus - a type of puffball - at the Wildlife Trusts' Attenborough Nature Reserve reminds us of the greater need to look after nature's forgotten Kingdom.

The puffball - Tulostoma brumale - commonly known as a winter stalkball was spotted during an organised fungi identification course at the Nottinghamshire reserve on 6 November.

The last known record of this species in Nottinghamshire dates back to 1898 so identification has now been confirmed after a sample was analysed by a member of Nottinghamshire Fungi Group.

two fungi growing in mossy ground

The winter stalkball was found for the first time in 112 years in Nottinghamshire, but fungi globally need more recognition and better protection. © Richard Rogers

The winter stalkball is normally found from September to January on sandy alkaline soils in moss or short grass. The small puffball, which grows up to about 5cm high, was more common in the Victorian era and its reappearance may have something to do with a return to more traditional building methods.

Speaking about the find, Richard Rogers, a local naturalist said: "It has been postulated that recent inland finds are due to old building conservation moving away from using concrete and back to lime mortar."

But finds like this illustrate a much more serious point. Fungi truly are the forgotten Kingdom despite being absolutely fundamental to life on Earth. They have been consistently overlooked by the conservation community who either lazily aggregate them with plants or forget them altogether. But times could be changing in this post Nagoya lull.

Dr David Minter, co-ordinator of the recently formed International Society for Fungal Conservation (ISFC) - said: “The news from Nagoya was that the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) has been changed to make it clear that fungi, including lichen-forming fungi, are not plants, but need a conservation strategy of their own. That discussion may well be the first time fungi have been explicitly considered by the CBD as something separate from plants."

The IUCN Species Survival commission now recognise fungi as separate organisms according to Minter and his final call is a rallying one: “I am asking everyone, whether talking or writing about biodiversity, to describe it in the form of ‘animals, fungi, micro-organisms and plants’, alphabetical order - to make clear that none is less important than the others. Describing biodiversity as just "animals and plants" is scientifically incorrect, misleads the public, and perpetuates an old mistake."

Related links:

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

International Society for Fungal Conservation

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