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Mycologists become rarer than the species they study

Fears over demise in fungi experts prompts new project

November 17 2016

Despite the enormous interest in edible wild fungi, the decline in expert mycologists has hit an all time low in the UK with a 70% decline in the last 20 years.

Today, less than a dozen remain in employed posts. As a result Plantlife Cymru are launching a new project which aims to create a new generation of fungi experts.

Why? For its size, Wales is one of the richest countries in the world for fungi. It supports for example over half the UK’s grassland fungi, 112 species in total, many of which are incredibly rare and in decline. With a drastic shortage in experts to conserve them they risk disappearing without anyone knowing.

But thankfully the Wonderful Waxcaps of Wales have been thrown a much needed lifeline. Plantlife Cymru are delighted to announce that they have received £24,900 of support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a new 3-year project starting in 2017 which aims to engage at least 12,000 people across Wales – including school children, land owners, local communities and budding new experts whom will become Waxcap Fungi Apprentices, going on to study and conserve these threatened species and their habitats.

Anita Daimond from Plantlife Cymru said “We’re delighted that the HLF has given us this support and we will be working with schools, communities, conservation partners and land owners across Wales to breathe new life into what has become an almost forgotten field of science. Welsh grasslands are home to some extraordinarily beautiful fungi – remarkable things like Parrot Waxcap (Gliophorus psittacinus), Scarlet Waxcap (Hygrocybe coccinea) and the Pink Ballerina (Hygrocybe calyptriformis - below) - but these wild and wonderful waxcaps are highly sensitive to ploughing and the application of fertilizers so they need urgent care and protection. The current shortage of fungi experts meant their future looked bleak but we are confident that this new project will help by finding and training the next generation of fungi fanatics.”

Richard Bellamy, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Wales, said “Our natural heritage is a most precious resource and, thanks to National Lottery players, HLF grants have helped to protect an amazing range of landscapes, habitats, and species of plants and animals. We are delighted to support this important project which will stimulate people’s interest in the natural world and so help them conserve it for future generations.”

Did you know?

  • With their wet climate and long history of sheep grazing and low fertilizer use, some Welsh grasslands are amongst the most important in the world for waxcap fungi. Fifteen sites in Wales have been identified as being of global importance and new sites rich in grassland fungi are still being discovered.
  • The 5 most threatened grassland fungi in Wales are: the big blue pinkgill, the violet coral, the dark-purple earthtongue, the date-coloured waxcap and the olive earthtongue, all of which are top conservation priorities.
  • Churchyards and gardens are also excellent hunting grounds for these grassland jewels. They can appear in their hundreds on old, unfertilized lawns that are mown regularly in spring and summer.

Find out more about Wales’ new waxcap project.