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Bush Botany Feature


Lane Cove Bush Fungi See the Light

Dr Ray and Elma Kearney
Amateur mycologists

Amateur mycologists do play an important role in the discovery of new species of fungi and their conservation. Amateur mycologists DR RAY AND ELMA KEARNEY* report on their collaboration with a professional taxonomic mycologist.

For the first time, such interdependent teamwork has led to the listing of a community of fungi under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, 1995 and helped register the bushland habitat under the Australian Heritage Commission Act, 1975.

Just as many plant and animal species have become endangered by failure to take constructive action to protect them, fungi are equally threatened. The mimicry of fungal pheromones by orchids to attract mushroom gnats as pollinators highlights the interdependent ecological role of fungi,of which some are mycorrhizal, in our complex life support systems.

This account illustrates how initiative and the keenness of observation of amateur mycologists when coupled with the taxonomic skills of a professional mycologist can achieve prototype listings of fungi for conservation.

Photo: Ray Kearney
Formally classified as endangered, the Hygrocybe lanecovensis has only been found, to date, in LCBP

As members of the Sydney Fungal Studies Group Inc. (SFSG), we have photographically recorded colourful fungi in the family Hygrophoraceae in Lane Cove Bushland Park (LCBP). Unlike Lane Cove National Park, six kilometres away, LCBP measures about 800 m long and up to 300 m wide. Described as a warm-temperate wet sclerophyll forest, LCBP is the habitat for more than 25 species of Hygrophoraceae.

In 1998, Dr. Tony Young, a Queensland taxonomic mycologist, received grants to study species of Australian Hygrophoraceae. His attention was directed, by the authors, to these mostly unclassified fungal species in LCBP and culminated in a productive site visit and ensuing publications.

In January 1999 we submitted two applications on behalf of SFSG to the Scientific Committee established under NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act, 1995. The first sought to list the species of Hygrocybeae of LCBP as an Endangered Ecological Community. For the first time in Australia, the Scientific Committee determined that the assemblage of more than 20 species in this family “. . . is likely to become extinct in NSW unless circumstances threatening its survival cease to operate” (NSW Government Gazette, Week No. 9, item No. 32, pp. 1586–589, 3 March, 2000).

The companion application sought to nominate the now nine holotype species of Hygrophoraceae as Rare Native Species within the meaning of the Act. In March, 2002, the Scientific Committee made a Determination to list three species as endangered, three as vulnerable, and the three recently described new species, so far unique to LCBP, are soon to be determined.

In the knowledge that the site ranks of national significance according to Rald’s Classification for Conservation, the authors prepared a Submission, on behalf of Lane Cove Council, to nominate LCBP for listing on the Register of the National Estate. In November, 2000, the recommendation by the Heritage Commission was formally gazetted.

These initiatives have for the first time enshrined mycology in State and Commonwealth Legislation. The protype listings afford the nominated fungal species conservation protection under such legislation. In a landmark Court decision this legislation has already been applied to prosecute builders who allowed spoil from a construction site to enter the creek running through LCBP.

The responsibility for ensuring that the listing of LCBP is adequate for the preservation of the nominated fungal species rests squarely with Federal, State and Local Government authorities. But without the co-operation of local people in a Recovery Plan required under the Act, little of permanence will be achieved.

Dr Ray Kearney is Associate Professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases, the University of Sydney.
Elma Kearney is an Executive member of the Sydney Fungal Studies Group Inc

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