The Lost and Found Fungi (LAFF) project is a volunteer-based conservation project which started in 2014. It aims to increase awareness, recording, and knowledge of 100 rarely-recorded fungi in the UK (LAFF100). At the same time, we hope to promote knowledge-sharing, skills, and engagement with rarely recorded species amongst the UK’s amateur fungus recording community.
The list of 100 species contains something for everyone, including distinctive mushrooms, puffballs, brackets, smut and rust fungi, tiny cup fungi, leaf-spot parasites, lichenised fungi, and more. Each fungus has its own strangely beautiful fruiting bodies and mysterious ecology. The species have also been selected for many reasons, some haven’t been recorded in the UK for over 50 years, or are known from only a few sites. There are species new to science; new (potentially invasive) arrivals; species of current conservation concern; and species restricted to rare plants and habitats. They can be found in many different habitats, from dune systems to mountain plateaus, bogs, calcareous marshes, ancient woodland, orchards, or urban areas and gardens.
Over the past three and a half years we’ve been encouraging people to look out for these species in their areas, to check sites of historical records, and survey known sites. We’ve also been joining recording groups and individuals in their surveys across the UK.
The project involves encouraging and supporting citizen scientists in the hunt for some of our most rarely seen fungal treasures across the UK. Engaging with the public and acting as a friendly and accessible mycological resource to help with advice and identification has been essential to every aspect of the project.
Engagement has been achieved partly by developing a website and associated Facebook and Twitter feeds as well as working directly with interested people through mentoring, training and joining expeditions.
The records of fungi collected since July 2014 now stands at around 1000 new records of 65 species. Gathered over three and a half years, the records will help establish a robust baseline distribution for the project, increase our knowledge of their identities and ecology, and underpin forthcoming Red List conservation assessments.
Field trips are some of the most enjoyable parts of the project, and throughout the project we’ve been privileged to visit recording groups across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Most recently we visited the Cornwall Fungus Recording Group. As the ‘Beast from the East’ settled upon the country, we faced challenging and frosty fungus-hunting conditions during the first three days of our visit. Thankfully, expert guidance from our hosts ensured that we found plenty of fungi for a two-day microscope workshop at the end of the week, as well as successfully surveying for several project-specific species. Unfortunately the snow soon descended, cutting our time and number of participants for microscope and identification training in half. Nevertheless this proved a rewarding and enjoyable week with some interesting finds.
As the project approaches its final year of funding we plan to make the most of our last complete foraying year. We are consolidating existing data for publication and distribution; and working through our backlog of rarely recorded ‘bycatch’ specimens sent into the project. We’re also exploring options and resources to help encourage further work after the project ends.
If you would like more information about the project and to find out how to get involved, please get in touch with Oliver Ellingham or Brian Douglas, or visit the Lost and Found Fungi project webpage.
Each species within the project has its own story, and we’ve seen these develop during the Lost and Found Fungi project:
This project is supported by the British Mycological Society and the British Lichen Society, and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
Many thanks to Pauline Penna for organising the visit to the Cornwall Fungus Recording Group.
- Oliver, Brian, Martyn and Paul -
Find out more about the work that Oliver does at Kew.
Brian Douglas describes how the Lost and Found Fungi project at Kew aims to help develop British fungal conservation, by trying to find out which 'lost' species are truly extinct and which species are simply under-recorded due to lack of survey work.
Kew's Fungarium contains specimens from every part of the globe and reflects the importance of fungi as providers of food, medicines, enzymes and essential ecosystem services.