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Field survey for Section 41 fungi

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Natural England are working with contractors and volunteers to provide basic distribution data on selected Section 41 fungi. These are the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (2007 revision) species that were listed in accordance with the NERC Act (2006) and accepted as being the fungi of principal importance for conservation of biodiversity in England.
The rare bolete Boletus immutatus (with toad), a strikingly coloured British parkland fungus of conservation concern is one of the species under surveillance and study. (Photo: A.M. Ainsworth)

In the UK, there are 61 non-lichenised fungal species listed on Section 41 (S.41) in accordance with the NERC Act (2006). This is the subset of the 76 UK priority Biodiversity Action Plan fungi (as revised 2005 - 2007) known to occur in England and thereby officially accepted as the list of fungi of principal conservation concern. Many of these, such as the 11 S.41 stipitate hydnoids (ectomycorrhizal tooth fungi in the genera Bankera, Hydnellum, Phellodon and Sarcodon) currently being studied Kew and Cardiff University, were already recognised as UK priority BAP species before 2005. By contrast however, the latest additions, especially of rusts and smuts, have been subjected to very little or no conservation-related research to date. This gap in our basic knowledge of their extant distribution and, in some cases, even of their taxonomy, forms a major impediment to progress in understanding their population trends, habitat preferences and conservation requirements.

The establishment of a permanent Fungal Conservation Research post in 2010, based at Kew and currently part-funded by Natural England (NE) is helping to address this need for basic data and to act as a focal point for fungal conservation. It brings together the resources and expertise associated with the world’s largest fungarium (collection of ca. 1.2 million dried fungi), the field mycological community and the government’s advisor on the natural environment, one of whose responsibilities is to reduce the decline of biodiversity across England.

This project is addressing the large knowledge gap by specifying, managing, carrying out and reporting on field surveys of prioritised S.41 species. The work is being carried out in-house and by field mycologists, largely within Natural England’s Species Recovery Programme but also with much voluntary input and support.

The project team has already located new sites for several S.41 species rarely recorded and rediscovered Urocystis primulicola (bird’s-eye primrose smut), previously regarded as extinct, in the northern Pennines. This approach will lead to improvements in identification and awareness of these fungi and to reassessments of historic collections and records. In turn, these will yield more reliable distribution maps and conservation status assessments. Knowing where the priority species are found will significantly enhance fungal conservation in England.

Project started 2010.

Key publications

  • Spooner, B.M. & Ainsworth, A.M. (2011). Recent collections of Puccinia scirpi and other rare gall-causing rusts. Cecidology 26: 33 - 35.
  • Mahler, N. & Ainsworth, A.M. (2010). A second recent record of Myriostoma coliforme (Critically Endangered) from East Suffolk. Field Mycology 11: 144 – 145.
  • Ainsworth A.M. (2010). Urocystis primulicola RBGK species profile page.

Urocystis primulicola (bird’s-eye primrose smut)

Project partners and collaborators

Ian Taylor (Natural England)
British Mycological Society

Project funders

Natural England
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Project Department

Project Leader: