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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

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
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:
Semi-natural ancient woodland
Broadleaved woodland

Coniferous woodland
Target 1
aintain current population
Unimproved grassland
and diversity of fungi species ONGOING
in the Durham area.
Dead wood
Urban areas including parks and cemeteries.

Target 2 Enhance the knowledge of the
Coastal sand dunes
number and diversity of fungi
Herbivore dung
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.

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
Lichens ***
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.
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. FUNGI ACTIONS
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 ONWARDS Owners
land and to manage the land to encourage 4. 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 ADVISORY
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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