Creating Fungal Refugia
Fungi are central to the life on our planet. The role they play in decomposition is generally appreciated but their ubiquitous biological presence is only now coming to light. Fungi are entangled in complex associations with all life on earth. From the rainforests of the tropics to the frozen expanses of antarctica, from the depths of the ocean to the barren deserts, fungi serve the living world around us, stewarding biological cycles and shepherding ecological succession.
Overlooked and neglected in 20th Century science the interplay of fungi and other organisms in creating the building blocks of life on earth, in the formation of soil on which we all depend is still little understood. We are also now finding that fungi live within plants, in some case many species, supporting plant health and metabolism in ways we have yet to fully understand. What we can be certain of is that fungi play a significant role at the heart of most ecosystems.
We want to encourage a greater appreciation and understanding of this significance and support the development of the study of fungi, mycology. However, while interest in fungi is growing, there are still relatively few mycologists in the UK. We want to help change that by inspiring a new generation of mycologists through a practical engagement in eco-restoration.
It is likely that there are over 15000 species of Fungi in Britain. Many of these are extremely under-recorded with just a few British records and there is little reason to expect every species which are not recorded are absent. With more training in mycology, greater recording efforts and breakthroughs in DNA identification, we can work towards a more up to date picture of the diversity and abundance of fungi.
Woodlands support the most diverse fungal assemblages. Unfortunately, the UK has one of the lowest amounts of woodland cover in Europe. Furthermore, with increased environmental pollution, economic pressures on productivity of land use, alongside the ecological disruption caused by climate change fungal diversity is under threat
Only 56 species of fungi have had their conservation status globally evaluated by the IUCN red list compared with 25,452 plants and 68,054 animal species. Considering that it is estimated to be somewhere between 2.2 to 3.8 million species (a number that far exceeds the diversity of the plant and animal kingdoms) of which we have only, as yet, identified approximately 150,000 it is likely that there are significantly more species at risk.
Habitat destruction, climate change, and environmental degradation are all contributing factors for the abysmal loss of bio-diversity we are seeing today, we are causing a mass extinction event because of the way we choose to live and our ignorance of our interconnectedness with all living beings. We need to create more refugia that will serve as havens of biological preservation while we, hopefully, take action to prevent this catastrophe.
At Coed Talylan, we would like to contribute towards making such havens by entrusting a 30 acre semi-natural woodland area as a living Fungarium with the aim to host one of the highest concentrations of fungal diversity in the UK. We are developing a long-term management plan with fungal biodiversity as a primary objective that conserves and restores provisions for all the plant and animal fungal interactions that proliferate in a healthy bio-diverse ecosystem.
It is through the creation of this fungal refugium as a practical eco-restoration action research project that will bring together the diverse and growing community of interest in fungi and find this next generation of pioneering mycologists. The process of building such a key woodland habitat provides a unique perspective to engage and reconnect with the natural world through Fungi. We hope that this shared practice can then form the basis for new connections with each as we work with fungi to build a better world together.
If this idea inspires you then please join us on this journey. No matter what your background, skills or experience the Refungium is an opportunity for us all to learn from fungi and each other. So follow the link below to find out how you can get involved.