Monday, 30 December 2013

Fungi, Keystones of Evolution and Earth Processes

 Meeting report, Linnean Society, London, 17 October 2013 

Fungimap folk are well aware of the challenges for a mushroom in a fauna-and-flora-centric world. Along with the trials of rapidly changing environmental conditions on local and global scales, there are also socio-cultural factors of trying to increase public and political awareness of the kingdom Fungi. The Fungimap Conservation Committee and interested individuals are working to improve the profile and conservation of fungi in Australia. One approach is to look at what's happening in fungal conservation elsewhere in the world.

The British Mycological Society, British Lichen Society and Linnean Society of London recently held a meeting, 'Fungi, keystones of evolution and earth processes'. The diverse program aimed to engage a broad audience on the role of fungi in terrestrial evolution; their diversity, interactions and ecological significance; as well as address scientific and political conservation issues. Advancements in molecular taxonomic techniques and the value of fungi in the global economy were also presented.

FIG 1. Ectomycorrhizal pine tree grown in a root
observation chamber on natural soil at the University of Sheffield.
Image © Prof. JR Leake and Dr DP Donnell.
The symposium opened with a journey back in geological time with Jonathan Leake asking us to consider the evolutionary history of fungal-symbioses and the significance of mycorrhiza in driving biogeochemical cycles. 

Bryn Dentinger, head of mycology at the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) Kew, then discussed the difficulty of estimating fungal diversity and the daunting reality that fungal extinction rates likely exceed rates of discovery and description. He also explored the promises and pitfalls of next-generation sequencing, particularly in the context of unseen and cryptic biodiversity.

FIG 2.  A tiny selection of fungal diversity collected from an Ecuadorian cloud forest. Image © Bryn Dentinger

Peter Crittenden and Rebecca Yahr both presented cutting edge lichen research. Peter discussed lichen dominance in boreal-artic environments and their role as principal primary producers in these systems. Rebecca reported on her lichen research on the building materials of pre-industrial English houses, lifting the lid on the huge magnitude of biodiversity losses in the temperate zone before descriptive science had really been born. Paul Cannon and James Wearn from RBG Kew introduced us to the role, significance and exploitation of endophytes, reminding us that almost every leaf in every corner of the world contains endophytic fungi! David Minter gave us a fervent yet worrisome update on the current representation of fungi by various conservation organisations, highlighting the commonplace disregard for and misrepresentation of fungi.

FIG 3. Bow Cottage on the Holnicote Estate, Exmoor Somerset. Thatched roofs like this can hold treasure-troves of pre-industrial materials. Image © Dr Rebecca Yahr

In the evening, truffle expert, Jim Trappe, delivered an interesting exploration of how Australia came to be the centre of global truffle evolution and the curiosities of mammalian mycophagy. Contemplating such evolutionary significances seemed especially apt in the room (according to the commemorative plaque) where Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace first discussed the concept of the origin of species by natural selection. However, apparently this was not the case and neither Darwin nor Wallace were actually present at that historic meeting and their paper was read to the Fellows by Lyell and Hooker. All the same, the historical setting added an interesting dimension to discussions on a kingdom that had yet to be properly recognised or defined in their time. 

FIG 4: Truffle expert Jim Trappe at the Linnean Society.
Image: Alison Pouliot.

Following the conference I visited RBG Kew and the appropriately named Fungarium that houses over 1.2 million specimens. Bryn Dentinger and Begoña Aguirre-Hudson share the formidable task of decrypting 'fungal identity', compounded by the subjectivities of interpretation, hieroglyphics of mycologists' handwriting, and a further dimension introduced by recent molecular approaches.

FIG 5: Fungal specimen collections at the RBG Kew Fungarium. Images: Alison Pouliot

FIG 6:  Fungal sculptures by Tom Hare.
Images: Alison Pouliot

Wandering through the gardens later in the afternoon, I stumbled across a cluster of Craterellus cornucopioides towering an astonishing three metres high! Meanwhile up on the hill, giant Coprinus comatus had begun to deliquesce. These particular specimens were in fact woven from willow by sculptor, Tom Hare. Fungal conservation needs ways to access new advocates and the arts play an important role in increasing the visibility of these often less visible organisms, as well as re-enchanting the fungal world. Hare has arguably captured both an intriguing aesthetic while maintaining a level of morphological accuracy.

The 7th of November marks a century since Alfred Russel Wallace's death. I wonder how this revolutionary naturalist, renowned for his unconventional ideas and interest in both scientific and social issues would tackle the challenges of biodiversity loss in 2013. While fungal conservation issues are inevitably complex, solutions are also likely lie in unconventional and imaginative ideas that incorporate both scientific and social approaches.

*Many images available for use, please contact Alison for details. Thanks to Prof. JR Leake, Dr DP Donnell, Dr Bryn Dentinger and Dr Rebecca Yahr for the use of their images in this blog.

Thanks also to Paul Cannon, David Minter and David Hawksworth for organising the symposium. The full program of talks is available here.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Australian Fungus Forayers in France

Text and images by Alison Pouliot

Autumnal forests of the French Jura
Driving rain and wild winds did little to deter over 30 participants who attended a fungus foray in the French Jura last weekend.

France, the home of the world's first mycological society is of course also famous for its prized truffles.  These long scientific and cultural connections have embedded fungi deeply within the consciousness and knowledge of local folk.

Last Sunday's forayers, however, originated from further flung lands including a mob from Downunder.  The mainly expatriate group was keen to see what fungi inhabited the hills beyond the NGOs in nearby Geneva that had brought many of them to Europe.

Mt Mussy provided an idyllic foray location complete with falling leaves swirling through shafts of soft autumnal light.  Forayers wended their way through chestnut and oak, birch and beech as well as various conifers, eyes glued to the ground

Fungus forayers at Mt Mussy.

Although many of the larger fleshy fungi had disappeared by this late stage in the season, the abundance of large old wood proffered an interesting array of saprobic species. Among the highlights were various Helvella species and Thelephora anthocephala. The mycophagists in the group were excited to discover Hydnum repandum.

A helluva lot of competition seems to exist among the Helvella genus to maximise the kookiest mophological manifestation. Helvella lacunosa, H. crispa and H. macropus.

Hypholoma sublateritium busily decomposing a log.

A French echidna?  No, but Thelephora anthocephala is also an extremely interesting organism.
Even the slime mould Lycogala epidendrum braved the cold to decorate this fallen log.
Some lovely specimens of Hydnum repandum kept the mycophagists happy.

It was inspiring that half our group were children, whose young minds and memories retained the names, knowledge and curiosity from the previous autumn's foray. Our canine companions however, proved less helpful with none managing to unearth a single truffle.

The foray finished around the fire with vin rouge and afternoon tea at the home of Aussies, Bron and Nico Lay who generously hosted the event and also organise the annual Australia Festival.  As we left the darkening forest, a conversation arose among the Australians about Abbot's war on science.  A young voice chipped in, 'How silly!  How are we supposed to discover the world without science'.  Oh for the refreshing wisdom of a six-year old and a new science minister in the making perhaps?

Australian fungal advocate, Roman (Banjo) Lay Clark demonstrates how well a tree can grow if accompanied by its mycorrhizal fungal partners.
Time to head home....


Fungi of Central Victoria's Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Grasslands

by Alison Pouliot

Hundreds, possibly thousands of species of fungi inhabit Central Victoria's Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands and Derived Grasslands. Although rarely a focus of biodiversity management, fungi are vitally important to the health and resilience of these ecosystems. 

Many fungi may be threatened by processes that have resulted in widespread destruction or deterioration of these woodlands, especially as they are now largely restricted to isolated remnants. While awareness of threatened plants and animals is increasing, fungi are still in need of greater focus to ensure their conservation.

Fortunately, these woodlands are now recognised in both State and National legislation, including the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1998 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2000. Various community programs are underway to maintain and restore woodlands on both private and public land.

One hundred fungal species from these woodlands have been recorded and documented by some enthusiastic mycophiles at the Wedderburn Conservation Management Network (WCMN). These are illustrated on the WCMN website.

The WCMN actively work towards conserving and enhancing the biodiversity of the Wedderburn area.
The area managed incorporates approximately 170,000 hectares between the townships of Wedderburn and Wychitella and comprises fragmented public land blocks and freehold properties important for conservation of Box-Ironbark forests and woodlands. This also includes Wychitella Nature Conservation Reserve and Kooyoora State Park as well as smaller areas supporting large remnant trees and rare native pastures.

In addition to various projects such as Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands revegetation, weed control and reconnecting remnant vegetation, the group has also had an active interest in fungi.  In conjunction with Parks Victoria the group has held several fungal ecology workshops in recent years and members have developed considerable skills in fungus identification. The group is setting a fantastic example of working towards including fungi in the conservation of biodiversity in the region.

A selection of species recorded in the Box-Gum Grassy Woodlands is shown below.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Fungi of the Wombat Forest and Macedon Ranges

By Alison Pouliot

Only an hour's drive from Melbourne, the diverse ecosystems of the Wombat Forest are a perfect place to experience an incredible variety of fungi. Hundreds of species have been documented and several of the Wombat Forestcare members have contributed records to the Fungimap database.

A collage of some of the Wombat Forest and Macedon Ranges' fungal species.
Wombat Forest and Macedon Ranges Guide.

Wombat Forestcare has been actively promoting the importance of fungi through its guide – ‘Fungi of the Wombat Forest and Macedon Ranges’. The guide documents 108 of the more familiar local species and provides some basic identification information.

The guide can be ordered directly via the Fungimap bookshop or from Wombat Forestcare and is also on sale at:

•    Paradise Book Shop, 46 Vincent Street, Daylesford
•    Daylesford Visitor Information Centre, 98 Vincent Street,  Daylesford
•    Trentham Newsagency, 41 High Street, Trentham
•    Trentham Visitor Information Centre, Victoria Street, Trentham
•    Aesop's Attic Bookshop, 24A High Street, Kyneton

Monday, 9 December 2013

International Society of Fungal Conservation Congress (ISFC) Report

By Alison Pouliot

The town of Akyaka on the Turkish Turquoise Coast is usually pretty quiet at this time of year, or rather, it was until 75 mycologists and fungal enthusiasts descended on it to participate in the third International Congress on Fungal Conservation.

The congress brought together representatives from 38 countries to discuss issues, progress and achievements in fungal conservation.  Fungimappers, Lyn Allison, Sapphire McMullan-Fisher and Alison Pouliot all gave presentations at the conference on various aspects of Australian fungal conservation. 

A full conference report will appear in the next Fungimap and ISFC newsletters.

Image by Alison Pouliot. Participants foraying for fungi in the local Kazanci forests.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Most Reported Fungi of 2013

     Fan-shaped Schizophyllum commune, the most commonly-recorded fungus by
Fungimappers in 2013. Photo by Ray Palmer, CC-BY-SA.
With the dry, hot summer approaching the southern states of Australia, we say goodbye to the typical 'fungi season' in this part of the country and consider what a bountiful season it has been. Many Fungimappers will use this quieter time before the holiday-rush to organise the observations they made during the year and write up their records to send to Fungimap. So it is good time to report on what has been recorded so far to give you the opportunity to compare these against your own observations and reflect on what local conditions may have contributed to some species being more common in your area than in other years. 

We are, of course, still receiving records for 2013, and our office volunteers will be processing these as received so please send in your records when you have the chance. If you have any questions about how to send in your records, please feel free to contact us at

Here are the 25 Most Common Fungi Recorded in Australia in 2013(Not including records made during the Fungimap 7 Conference in Rawson, Victoria. Details of these records can be found here.)

  1. Schizophyllum commune 
  2. Pycnoporus coccineus 
  3. Amanita muscaria 
  4. Amauroderma rude
  5. Gymnopilus pampeanus (also known as Gymnopilus junonius)
  6. Lactarius eucalypti 
  7. Armillaria luteobubalina 
  8. Boletellus emodensis 
  9. Amanita xanthocephala 
  10. Omphalotus nidiformis 
  11. Oudemansiella radicata 
  12. Bolbitius vitellinus 
  13. Cyptotrama aspratum
  14. Stereum illudens 
  15. Stereum ostrea 
  16. Coprinellus disseminatus
  17. Dictyopanus pusillus 
  18. Gymnopilus junonius 
  19. Macrolepiota clelandii
  20. Mycena cystidiosa
  21. Coltricia cinnamomea
  22. Hypholoma fasciculare 
  23. Mycena interrupta 
  24. Mycena kuurkacea 
  25. Mycena nargan

The dark brown cap of Oudemansiella radicata
contrasts against its white gills.
Photo by Patricia Harrisson, CC-BY-SA.

Lactarius eucalypti, seen commonly this year in
both Victoria and Queensland. Photo by Paul George, CC-BY-SA.

The genus Mycena was well-recorded this year in Victoria. This Mycena cystidiosa was seen  during the Fungimap VII Conference in the Moondarra State Park. Photo by Bob Rowlands, CC-BY-SA.

Recorders in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland have been busy, contributing the most number of records to Fungimap this year. Perhaps political upheavals in Canberra this year can be blamed for the solitary record received from the Australian Capital Territory and, sadly, yet another year has passed without any records from the Northern Territory. 

As always, groups and passionate individuals make a huge impact on citizen-science efforts around the country, helping people to connect with other similar-minded fungiphiles and build skills in identifying and recording species. Over 70% of Victoria's records this year were submitted by the Fungi Group of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, and the Friends of the Westgate Park's fungi foray in July 2013 resulted in a great little list of fungi present in this beautiful sanctuary in Melbourne. The Queensland Mycological Society, co-organisers with Fungimap of the 2014 Queensland Fungi Festival in Brisbane, sent in 94% of the records from that state so far this year; the Fungi Festival in April 2014 will be a great opportunity to meet with members of this keen fungi group and get tips for starting a similar group in your area (Northern Territorians, we are looking at you!) 

Individuals make a phenomenal impact as well, especially when they are able to cover a patch in an area of Australia where few records are otherwise received. Genevieve Gates and David Ratkowsky of Tasmania gave in to Fungimap the records they had been making for the past couple of decades, totalling over 55,000 observations! A singular achievement, and great role-models for Australian fungiphiles.

We were happy to see that 19% of  records this year were accompanied by photographs, a steady increase over 2012's 15%. Photographs of key characteristics on the fungus, such as the gills/pores/gill folds, the stem, etc can be very helpful to our volunteers who attempt to confirm the determination of each record that is submitted before it is entered in the National Australian Fungimap Database.

Here are the Most Common Sightings in 2013 by State:

Caps of Coprinus comatus turning to black
ink at maturity. Photo by Malcolm McKinty, CC-BY-SA.
Gymnopilus pampeanus
Armillaria luteobubalina
Bolbitius vitellinus
Schizophyllum commune
Amanita xanthocephala
Lactarius eucalypti
Mycena cystidiosa

Stereum ostrea

New South Wales
Amanita muscaria
Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa 
Omphalotus nidiformis

Boletellus emodensis
Pycnoporus coccineus
Coltricia cinnamomea
Trametes modesta
Lactarius eucalypti
Trametes hirsuta

Western Australia
Fragile branches of the distinctive slime mould
Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa.
Photo by Sarah Lloyd, CC-BY-SA.
Amanita muscaria
Fuligo septica

Gymnopilus junonius

Cyttaria gunnii
Ileodictyon cibarium
Poronia erici

Tubaria rufofulva

Fuligo septica

South Australia
Abortiporus biennis
Coprinus comatus

Morchella elata/conica

Pycnoporus coccineus, the second-most recorded fungus of 2013.
Photo by Robert Bender, CC-BY-SA

Cyttaria gunnii can be found growing on Myrtle Beech.
Photo by Richard Robinson, CC-BY-SA.
Fuligo septica is said to look like scrambled eggs, or dog-vomit.
Photo by Lynn Alison, CC-BY-SA.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Svampvänner (mushroom friends)

A Report from the Swedish Mycological Society Week 16-22 September 2013

Words & Images* by Alison Pouliot

A lectotype for Homo sapiens?
Statue of Carl Linnaeus in
Humlegården Park, Stockholm.
Sweden - the home of both Carl Linneaus and Elias Magnus Fries - seemed a promising land to participate in the Mykologiveckan, or mycological week of the Swedish Mycological Society this glorious European autumn. Having spent the last dozen years trying to get my tongue around multisyllabic German fungal common names such as gallertfleischiges Stummelfüßchen (Crepidotus mollis), I was then confronted by further linguistic gymnastics with Swedish names including rödskivig kanelspindelskivling (Cortinarius semisanguineus). So much for Linneaus' system of binomial nomenclature! This is, however, my only quibble (but in truth, delight in the quizzical riddles of language) of the most memorable few days among some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable mycologists and fungal enthusiasts I've ever encountered.

Sweden has a long mycological history with the Stockholm Mycological Society founded in 1879 and the Swedish Mycological Society (SMF) exactly a century later. The SMF aims to promote knowledge of fungi as well as producing the Swedish Mycological Journal, Svensk Mykologisk Tidskrift, and runs an annual Mykologiveckan among other activities.

This year's mycological week was held about 40km southwest of Stockholm at Hagaberg in the municipality of Södertälje (possibly better known for the manufacture of Scania trucks than fungal curiosities). A coterie of folk in gumboots (fancy Swedish lace-up ones) with dangling magnifiers and baskets slung over arms was a definite clue I'd arrived at the right place. Within moments I was bustled into a van with a dozen others and off we headed, whizzing by glistening lakes and forests of turning birch.

In a similar format to many mycological gatherings, each day began with a foray to various designated field sites. Sweden has various nature reserves and national parks in close proximity to Stockholm and many of these are among the 70 field sites that were surveyed by the 70 participants during the week. The country's 28 national parks and 3200+ nature reserves protect about 12% of Sweden's ecosystems, roughly equating with the area of land protected in Australia.

Map of sites surveyed for fungi.
On arrival at the Stora Alsjön Nature Reserve I was delighted to note that the reserve's information board acknowledged the Third F in mentioning that rare Sarcodon species (S .fennicus, S. glaucopus, S. versipellis, S.lundellii and S. scabrosus) are protected. Stora Alsjön is recognised for its high natural values and also has the highest number of RED-list fungi in coniferous forests within the Södertälje municipality. The group then dispersed into the forests and mires and among the lichen-carpeted boulders, sporadically reappearing with whoops of excitement at the discovery of a rare or curious fungal specimen. RED-listed species recorded included Boletopsis grisea, Tricholoma colossus and Sarcodon squamosus.

A perfect lunch spot in
Stora Alsjön Nature Reserve.
As well as being an exceedingly handsome fungus, Sarcodon squamosus has also been used to prepare dyes.

 Tricholoma colossus is ectomycorrhizal with Pinus sylvestris and is characteristic of 'natural' or 'near-natural' oligotrophic pine forests. It is considered critically endangered on a European scale,
its main threats being silvicultural intensification and eutrophication.

Sweden has developed an interesting system to assess biodiversity based on various indicator or 'signal' species that includes flora, fauna and fungi. The system is used to locate and identify forests and ecosystems with high natural values. Some species, for example, Phellinus pini, Tricholoma matsutake and Fomitopsis rosea, are indicative of old forests.

Although fungal foraying is rarely considered a sport (relative, for example, to the twitchers' 700 club) there was a definite sense of spirited competition between foray groups to see which might record the greatest number of species; the record being a remarkable 210 species on one foray. While Australia may be able to boast a greater (predicted) fungal diversity than Sweden, the sheer biomass of fungi in Sweden is something less commonly experienced in Australia, at least in dryer regions. Old logs were literally covered in hundreds if not thousands of fruiting bodies of various Hypholoma, Coprinus, Armillaria and Flammulina species among others, all working away relentlessly to convert wood to soil. Among the mycorrhizal species, fruit bodies were encountered with every step, members of the Russulaceae being especially abundant.

Following the field trips, the rest of the afternoons were spent with noses jammed in microscopes as the identities of collected specimens were diagnosed, debated and databased. As with most mycological societies, there are those who are interested in the whole gamut of fungi and those who specialise in particular groups. Birgitta Wasstorp is one of Europe's most experienced Russula experts, Bo Nylén specialises in the genus Agaricus, Åke Strid with Aphyllophorales, Lennart Söderberg with Ramaria and Lennart Vessberg with Hygrocybe. Chairman of the Stockholm Mycological Society, Mattias Andersson, is an expert on fungal dyes, especially the various species of the Cortinarius subgenus Dermocybe that contain the different anthraquinone dyes. Active fungal-dyer, Karin Engerström-Gerstel was attired in fungal-dyed hand-knitted morels and russulas! Both participated in the International Fungi and Fibre Symposium held in Denmark, Australia in 2003.

Once identified, species were documented and placed on a table for the gate-keepers to confirm identifications before they were assigned to the display room. On the final day, these specimens formed an exhibition for the public to experience the great diversity of fungi found in local forests.

 Karin Engerström-Gerstel
in 'mushroom-wear'.
Hygrocybe punicea is possibly the largest member of the genus.

Boletus luridus forms mycorrhizal relationships deciduous trees including birch, beech and oak.

The following day I forayed with a different group in the Lida Nature Reserve, led by Michael Krikorev. Among the old spruce (Picea abies) and pine (Pinus sylvestris) we came across RED-listed species including, Pycnoporellus fulgens, Boletopsis leucomelaena, Hydnellum suaveolens, Artomyces pyxidatus and Onnia tomentosa. The first two species along with Lactarius scrobiculatus are also 'signal' species that were found on the foray.
 Michael Krikorev holding
Amanita magnivolvata.
 Johan Möllegård sniffs a Russula sp.

Swedish Mycological Society forayers at Lida Nature Reserve.

The Kantarell and the Krona

One notable difference between a Fungimap conference and a Mykologiveckan is that there is a second element to Swedish foraying - foraging for edible fungi, especially Cantharellus cibarius and Craterellus tubaeformis. While some participants are interested only in taxonomy and some only in edible species, many were interested in both taxonomy and the collection of edible species and were hence armed with collection boxes for specimens and baskets for edible species. The Alle Mans Rätt (The Rights of All Men) is an ancient Swedish customary law that allows any person (presumably including those sans a Y chromosome) to freely roam and pick mushrooms and berries for one's own consumption.

 A basket of freshly plucked
Craterellus tubaeformis
and Hydnum repandum.
The person deemed responsible for piquing interest in edible fungi in Sweden was the French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte (later crowned Karl XIV Johan). Famine, resulting from centuries of warfare in continental Europe and Russia, has historically been a driver of edible mushroom foraging in many European countries including Sweden. While, according to Swedish Freak, the new king encouraged the consumption of Boletus edulis (renamed to Karl-johans-svamp in King Karl's honour) it is definitely the chanterelle, or Kantarell, that seems to carry more currency than the Krona in Sweden today.

 One of the most exciting aspects of the field trips for me personally was the incredible diversity and abundance of lichens. There seemed to be barely a square centimetre of soil, rock or wood that hadn't been colonised by at least one and usually multiple species of this group.
 Lichen-moss wonderland in Stora Alsjön Nature Reserve
Cladonia coccifera is recognisable
by its bright red apothecia.
Cladonia rangiferina is a primary food source for reindeer.

Rhizocarpon geographicum on pink granite.


 Fungal Conservation in Sweden

While fungi have been included in biodiversity conservation in Sweden if the RED-listing of 746 species is anything to go by, the reality is that - as in Australia - there is only one mycologist position with a focus on macrofungal taxonomy, ecology and conservation, shared by Anders Dahlberg and Michael Krikorev. The fungi, however, are relatively well-known given the long tradition of mycology and the enormous contribution of interested fungal enthusiasts. There are believed to be 12,000 plus species of fungi in Sweden (including 5000 macromycetes and 2000 lichenised fungi) with most of the 5000 macromycetes having being considered for the 2010 Red List.

Many issues related to forestry and the clearing of old-growth forest pose a threat to RED-listed fungi, especially given that 85% of RED-listed fungal species occur in forests. As in Australia, those species restricted to old dead wood are especially threatened by the removal or destruction of their habitat. Another major threat is changed soil nitrogen levels.
 Leccinum vulpinum.
Mycena galericulata.
Stropharia hornemannii.
In an effort to increase public awareness of biodiversity, in 2002 the Swedish Parliament commissioned the Swedish Species Information Centre (SSIC) to identify all species of multicellular flora, fauna and fungi - focussing especially on poorly known groups - as part of the Swedish Taxonomy Initiative. However, despite the recording of 2,400 species new to Sweden (with at least 900 of these being new to science) the program has been crippled by recent budget cuts and its future looks bleak. However, various other conservation initiatives persist and every fifth year the SSIC reviews Sweden's RED List that currently has 4127 species listed and proposes new species.

Following the conference I headed to Stockholm to see the Wild Wonders of Europe photographic exhibition, the 'largest photography-based conservation communication initiative in the World', which featured biodiversity images from 48 European countries. While rewilding remains a controversial subject, the exhibition contained some powerful images and conservation success stories. Fungi only featured once, with an image of Marasmius androsaceus (horsehair parachute mushroom) from Pripyatski National Park in Belarus, but a least that's one more fungus image than in many exhibitions on biodiversity.

During my stay in Sweden, I thought I'd try and understand something of Swedish history via Kerstin Ekman's famous novel, 'The Forest of Hours', especially given I spent a week hiking in the world heritage-listed Skule Forest where the book is set. Its central character, a paradoxical troll named Skord, lives in the forest on the outermost fringes of society among the misfits and eccentrics (mycologists?). In the fading light on my last evening in this other-worldly forest, I admittedly made more than one sideways glance among the ferny glades for a wayward troll. I captured my last photograph of an especially lanky Stropharia semiglobata sprouting from a pile of moose pellets. As I wrangled my tripod into position, I felt a distinctive squishiness beneath my left knee, only to discover that I'd knelt in something else's freshly laid and impressively large excreta. For the record, I photographed the semi-squashed deposit. Later that evening, in the splendid company of Jacob Näslund, who once owned much of the land before it was acquired by the Swedish government and labelled as world heritage in 1972, I showed him the picture of my knelt-in deposit. His moustached lip curled into a grin as he chuckled and casually commented 'Well, that'll of course be a bear...'. Gulp. I'm certainly glad neither bear nor troll tapped me on the shoulder in the twilight forest as my shutter snapped shut on my coprophilic subject.

Stropharia semiglobata in moose pellets.
A troll lair?
Another troll lair?

Now in the supposed safety of a reinforced titanium capsule at 35,000 feet, I type this piece while listening to a track from psybient Swedish duo Carbon Based Life Forms. An overdubbed voice repeatedly asks 'What about the forests'? A pertinent question. What about the forests? With the last tracts of 'old-growth' forest under threat in Sweden, Australia and elsewhere, what are the ways in which we might consider, re-imagine and activate the conservation of the fungi that inhabit these forests? Of all biodiversity? How can we incorporate the many ways they are considered, experienced and valued by mycologists and mycophagists, farmers and foresters, bears and trolls and countless others?

Carbon Based Life Forms was recommended by Anders Dahlberg's delightful son, Jonas. 'What a great band name', I'd commented as we tucked into some tasty chanterelles. Jonas had looked at me sideways, then resignedly yet graciously commented, ' Yeah, all biologists say that...'

What about the forests?

Huge thanks to Mattias Andersson, Michael Krikorev, Bengt Boström, Johan Möllegård, Lena Wallqvist and Jan Karp for their help with this article and to all those at the Mykologiveckan for their hospitality, enthusiasm and expertise. Also to Anders Dahlberg for showing me the forests north of Uppsala and for accommodating me.

*Most images available for use, please contact Alison for details.