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FUNGI AND LICHENS
Fungi Generic Action Plan
Fungi are protected by two items of legislation. Un-
der The Theft Act 1968, it may be an offence to up-
root and/or sell fungi without the landowner’s per-
mission. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as
amended), protects four species of fungi, none of
which are found in the Durham area. Areas of land
designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest
(SSSIs) or National Nature Reserves (NNRs) have
special protection which may restrict the collection of
WHAT ARE FUNGI ?
the processes of decomposition of dead plant and ani-mal material as well as forming mycorrhizal associa-
Fungi are living organisms but technically they are
tions with plant roots. These mycorrhiza assist in plant
classified as neither plants or animals, being placed in
growth by making nutrients such as nitrogen and phos-
a separate kingdom - Fungi. In non-technical terms,
phorus available to the vascular plant whilst the fungus
they are often referred to, along with a number of
obtains sugars from the plant. Some fungi also form
other groups as ‘non-flowering plants’.
inseparable associations with algae to produce lichens.
The term fungi includes puffballs, cup fungi, moulds,
Fungi are very sensitive to environmental pollution.
mildews, rusts, smuts, toadstools and mushrooms.
They accumulate certain pollutants (e.g. heavy metals,
Unlike plants they do not produce food by using en-
radioactive elements) and are effective measures of the
ergy from sunlight but grow by absorbing food and
environmental health of their habitat. Some mycorrhi-
water from their surroundings, mainly from dead ani-
mals, plants and their waste products (saprobes). A
few fungi are parasitic and an important group form
Some fungi appear to be indicators of ancient wood-
mutually beneficial mycorrhizal associations with the
land. They are also used extensively by invertebrates
roots of trees and many other plants (e.g. orchids).
as a food source, even species that are poisonous to
humans. Mice and deer also use fungi as a food
Most fungi are made up of minute tubes called hy-
source. The process of the breakdown of wood pro-
phae. Individual hyphae are small, but they can form
vides a suitable habitat for a wide range of inverte-
large interconnected masses called mycelia which
brates. In the UK, over 1,000 species of invertebrates
grow on or in plant and animal material, or in the soil.
are dependent on fungi. Some of these species are
When conditions are right, often in the autumn, the
mycelium produces a spore-bearing growth known as
the fruiting body. The fruiting bodies of fungi may be
Many drugs, currently in use are derived from fungi.
small and inconspicuous (microfungi) or much larger
Examples include antibiotics such as penicillin and
and appear as toadstools, brackets, puffballs or jelly
cyclosporin as well as the migraine drug, ergotamine.
fungi (i.e. macrofungi). The fruiting bodies bear
Fungi are also used in genetic research.
spores which are dispersed through wind, rain or by
Fungi also have considerable cultural value, having a
contact with insects and animals. If they are deposited
strong mythology and folklore relating to their occur-
on a suitable substrate the spores germinate.
rence, growth and properties (some species of fungi
are hallucinogenic). Mushrooms and toadstools visu-
Their biochemical diversity means that fungi have
ally enhance the habitats where they grow; people like
great pharmacological potential and fungi are used in
to see them, collect them and take part in ‘fungus for-
many fields of medicine. Fungi are also a source of
food, flavouring and an ingredient in human food pro-duction e.g. bread, beer.
FUNGI IN THE DURHAM AREA
WHERE ARE THEY FOUND IN THE UK?
HOW HEALTHY ARE THE POPULATIONS OF FUNGI?
It is unlikely that any of the fungi listed in the na-
Fungi are present everywhere - even on rocks and arti-
tional Short, Medium or Long lists are found today in
ficial materials. Approximately 13,000 described spe-
County Durham. Two species from this list which
cies are known to occur in Britain. Many others await
were present in the Durham area - Poronia puctata
and Haploporus odorus
are thought to be extinct and
WHY ARE FUNGI OF CONSERVATION IMPORTANCE?
other species on the national lists are unlikely to oc-cur, because their habitats no longer exist in the area.
Fungi play a vital role in maintaining the dynamic
An example is Hygrocybe spadicea
, a wax cap, which
equilibrium of natural ecosystems and are important
may have occurred in the past along with many other
in the global carbon cycle; they are essential recy-
wax cap species but whose habitat, unimproved sheep
clers. In woodlands, fields and wetlands they assist in
There is evidence, however, that some species with a
Pollution of land and water from agriculture - the
more southerly provenance are moving into the area,
widespread use of fungicides, herbicides and pesti-
possibly as a result of climate change. Indeed some of
cides adversely affect populations of fungi.
these may prove to be important monitors of such
change. Moreover, a few new British records have
The increased amount of recreational time now avail-
been made in the Durham area. Some species with a
able to the public and the consideration given to the
northerly distribution are also moving into County
Health and Safety at Work Act. Many old trees are
Durham. This might be due to the planting of conifers
now being felled due to the perceived danger to the
on high ground which reduces the level of sheep graz-
public from falling, dead wood and the increasing
ing. This, in turn, allows a few broad-leaved trees and
trend of claiming for compensation in such incidents.
shrubs to become established, adding variety to the
habitat, which encourages fungal diversity.
Lack of baseline knowledge due to the fact that there are only a very small number of competent mycolo-
HOW MUCH DO WE KNOW ABOUT
gists to collect and disseminate information regarding
FUNGI IN THE DURHAM AREA ?
In common with the rest of the world, comparatively
Lack of general awareness about the ecological im-
little is known about fungi in County Durham, due to
portance of fungi and the need to conserve them.
a shortage of mycologists and the inherent difficulties
in finding fungi in perfect condition and identifying
Vandalism - this is a more serious problem in and
them. Before 1980, the total species count for the
near urban areas. Many fruiting bodies, especially
Durham area was 850. Many of these species had not
puffballs and toadstools, are destroyed.
been recorded for over 100 years. By mid-2001, the total had reached circa. 2,300. New records are rou-
FUNGI BENEFIT FROM:
tinely being made but it is only possible to estimate the number actually present. Over 1,100 species have
Habitat management and protection - this is a key fac-
been recorded in the highly artificial environment of
The recognition of dead wood as an important habitat
WHERE HAVE FUNGI BEEN FOUND IN THE DURHAM AREA ?
and the necessity of its presence in woodlands as an
Fungi are found everywhere in the Durham area, al-
though some habitats support larger and more varied
populations of fungi. Woodlands, wooded valleys and
The re-creation of semi-natural habitats such as unim-
unimproved grasslands all support large numbers of
proved meadows and pastures, woodlands, bogs and
Notable sites include: Chopwell Wood, Gibside, Der-
The creation of wildlife corridors and conservation
went Reservoir (south-west shore woods), Derwent
Gorge, Rainton Park and Moorhouse Woods, Kepier
Wood, Elemore Wood, Tunstall Reservoir, Castle
Informing landowners of the presence of rare or un-
Eden Dene, Baal Hill Wood, Hamsterley Forest, Rosa
common fungi and offering conservation advice.
Shafto, Low Barns (Witton-le-Wear), Bowlees area -
Teesdale, Kings Walk - Middleton-in-Teesdale, Auck-
Reduction of the adverse effects of agriculture.
land Castle grounds, Hardwick Hall Country Park,
Wynyard Park, Flatts Wood - Barnard Castle, Whorl-
Ongoing surveying and monitoring of the range of
ton and Winston river bank woods, Darlington West
fungi species present in the Durham area.
Cemetery, Blackwell Carr, Darlington, Thornley
Further research and monitoring into the ecology and
FUNGI ARE AT RISK FROM:
conservation requirements of local fungi.
Habitat loss and fragmentation - loss and disturbance
Responsible collection and the implementation of the
of old woodland, heathland, unimproved grassland,
“Wild mushroom pickers code of conduct” (British
wetlands as well as urban encroachment have all ad-
Mycological Society et al,
English Nature 1998) by
versely affected fungi populations. Minor losses have
occurred through road realignment, scrub encroach-ment on heath, infilling of old quarries, ploughing of old pastures, loss of boundary features and inappropri-ate tree surgery and felling. Acid rain and air pollution - there is some evidence that fungi are susceptible to acid rain, particularly my-corrhizal species.
IMPORTANT HABITATS FOR FUNGI:
TARGETS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF
FUNGI IN THE DURHAM AREA:
Semi-natural ancient woodland
aintain current population
and diversity of fungi species ONGOING
in the Durham area.
Urban areas including parks and cemeteries.
Target 2 Enhance the knowledge of the
Coastal sand dunes
number and diversity of fungi
found in the Durham area by
Sites of recent fires
increasing the number of re-
cords and recorders by 5%
each year from 2002 to 2005.
OTHER SPECIES AND HABITAT ACTION PLANS COVERING
ISSUES RELEVANT TO FUNGI:
Target 3 Raise general awareness of
fungi, their diversity and eco-
Upland calcareous grassland *
nomic importance by support-
Upland and coastal dene ash woodland **
ing the organisation of 10
Upland oakwood **
fungi-related events (media/
Wet woodland **
public) by 2005.
Parks and amenity grasslands *
Lowland pastures and meadows **
Target 4 Support the setting up and
Lowland heathland **
maintenance of a database for
local fungi records.
Coastal lichens ***
Coastal sand dunes ***
Provide guidance for 50 local
Target 5 landowners and managers re-
N.B. ** indicates action plan produced in 1998.
garding the conservation of
* indicates action plan produced in 2000.
fungi by 2003 and for 200, in
*** indicates action plan produced in 2001
total, by 2005.
FUNGI AND THE LAW
None of the species known to occur in the Durham plan area are specifically protected in law, though protection may be conferred on them at some sites due to site designation.
POLICY AND LEGISLATION
1. Consider the designation of protected areas
SPECIES MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION
2. Identify habitats and areas of conservation 2002
3. Encourage site managers and land owners
to survey and record fungi present on their
land and to manage the land to encourage
Encourage site managers and land owners to
include contingencies for fungi in the produc-
tion of management plans and practical site
5. Identify any species that are rare, scarce un-
RESEARCH AND MONITORING
6. Provide support for the maintenance of a
7. Encourage the submission of all records to
8. Investigate the ecology of fungi to gain in-
sight into the management required to con-
9. Provide support for the Fungi Group in the
11. Provide management guidance to relevant
12. Support the use of EN’s fungi guidance
document. Distribute to all major land own-
COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLICITY
13. Publicise the existence of the Fungus
and support events to encourage people to
14. Publish information to the public about
15. Increase public awareness of the ecologi-
cal importance of fungi and their conser-
vation by means of events, provision of interpretation.
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