Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bellarine Coast fungus workshop

by Alison Pouliot

Fungi workshop report #2

Workshop participants observe the fungus display
 Image: Maddie Glynn
Maddie Glynn works at the Barwon Coast Committee of Management and her days involve all sorts of activities from monitoring seals, untangling pelicans caught in fishing line to patiently convincing some beachgoers of the importance of retaining seaweed on beaches.

Maddie has also been actively involved in coordinating the Bellarine Peninsula Coastal Moonah Woodland project with the aim of enhancing biodiversity values. Fortunately she also recognises the role of fungi as a vital part of biodiversity and recently organised a fungal ecology workshop that attracted participants from far and wide including representatives from -  Barwon Heads Golf Club, Bellarine Catchment Network, Breamlea Coastcare, Bellarine Bayside Committee of Management, Friends of Edwards Point, Gordon TAFE and Barwon Coast Committee of Management.

Bolbitius vitellinus. Image: Alison Pouliot
The workshop was held at the 13th Beach Surf Club and participants arrived armed with specimens for identification including Agaricus xanthodermus, Chlorophyllum brunneum and Volvariella speciosa. Following an introductory session on the role of fungi in terrestrial ecosystems we spent a hands-on session looking at the main features used to identify fungi in the field. 

After lunch, Barwon Heads Golf Course Vegetation Manager and keen fungus hunter Steve Wilkie guided us through the Moonah woodlands of the 13th Beach Golf Course, which backs onto the Barwon Heads coastal dunes. The main EVCs of the area include Coastal Alkaline Scrub with patches of Coastal Dune Grassland, Coastal Saltmarsh and Coastal Dune Scrub. Steve is one of thirteen people who manage the course. The other twelve focus on the bits the golfers are interested in – fairways and greens – and Steve does the exciting stuff, that is, the 'rough', or the part where there's biodiversity including fungi.
Specimen table. Image: Alison Pouliot

Ducking in among the scrub we found Amanita xanthocephala, Coprinus comatus, an immature orange-yellow coloured Cortinarius sp., Agaricus austrovinaceus, Bolbitius vitellinus, Scleroderma cepa, Piptoporus australiensis, Geastrum triplex and various lichens including Lichenomphalia chromacea, Flavoparmelia and Parmelia spp. While our list is not extensive, Steve enthusiastically reported that some decent rains a few days later "set the joint off and the course exploded with fungi"! 

Lichenomphalia chromacea. Image: Alison Pouliot
While golf courses typically don't make ideal habitat for fungi due to intense manicuring and chemical use, the course is located in the vicinity of Ramsar-listed wetlands that provide significant habitat, refuge and feeding grounds for threatened and endangered migratory bird species. Swan Bay, Lake Connewarre and Reedy Lake form part of the Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula Ramsar Site. The course includes the eastern extension of the Ramsar-listed Murtnaghurt Lagoon. While the section on the golf course is not Ramsar-listed, it is covered by covenants that essentially require that it be managed in the same way as the listed area. Steve has been instrumental in influencing course management and especially the limitation of chemical application in wetland areas. While something is known of the birds that visit the wetlands, the fungi of these coastal ecosystems are not well documented and we hope to develop further surveys in the future to record the fungal diversity of the region.

While reconnoitring the field site with Steve the day before the workshop, I was secretly delighted to see that the immaculately-maintained clubhouse lawn had been colonised by Marasmius oreades, which had formed three giant conspicuous fairy rings comprised of hundreds of fruitbodies, to greet the golfers as they climbed the clubhouse steps....

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