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    photo:©Zoe Wilderspin 2019;desc:Tawny Funnel Cap, Cambridge, UK

    Climate change, it’s a fact. We’re seeing it more and more every year. From burning hot summers with excruciating long droughts to short sharp springs and non-existent autumns blurring into a wet winter. Everyone and everything living is affected, big and small and this includes our local mycology of the UK.

    But who is noticing?

    Well actually, it’s quite a few people and more than just a few mushrooms. Professional and amateur mycologists (Those are people who like fungi and study them) have noticed the decline for a while but recently shroomers and psychonaughts (These are people who take magic mushrooms for the hallucinogenic purposes) are also noticing the decline and talking about this on drugs forums such as Bluelight.

    Fungi play a huge role in our ecosystems more than what most people usually think about, they’re responsible for decomposition, ecological recycling and creates nitrogen, this is the gas which makes up 78.09% of dry air.

    Fungi decompose the hard-to-digest organic material into easier to-digest-forms that other organisms can use. Fungi also play a role in floods with water infiltration and soil water holding capacity.

    “Climate impact is already apparent: fungal reproduction, geographic distributions, physiology and activity have changed markedly in the last few decades, through direct climate change effects on fungal growth and indirect effects on their habitats” – Peter G. Kennedy, Carrie Andrew (State of the World’s Fungi 2018 9. Climate change: Fungal responses and effects)

    Fungi play a major component in the regulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide, they help store carbon dioxide in soils and according to Clemmensen, K. E., et al. (2013) “approximately 50–70% of carbon stored in boreal forest soils in Scandinavia was derived from dead roots and associated fungi.”

    This vividly highlights the large role in which fungi play amongst our ecosystem and how fragile and delicate this balance is and how much carbon dioxide mycelium locks away in the soil.

    Seasons play a huge role in fungi, and have a fruiting season depending on the species. Mushrooms are in essence like apples, the mycelium is the tree and the mushroom is the fruiting body.

    The fruiting body contains millions of spores of which are transported by many ways from woodland animals to casual, not professional, foragers who will carry these fungi far and wide spreading their spores.

    Naturally because of this damper seasons tend to be the best for fruiting bodies, and with British summers lasting longer and drought becoming more prevalent drought, as a rule, reduces the length of the reproductive season.

    Andrew, C., et al. (2018) discovered that fungal reproductive timing (called phenology) has become extended because little as 0.2°C can shift the production of spore-bearing fungi by one day (especially for fungi that reproduce in autumn). The temperature also drives the rate of compositing patterns across Europe.

    photo:©Zoe Wilderspin 2019;desc:Crystal Brain Fungus, Cambridge, UK

    Some fungi are more adaptable to climate change than others. For example species of jelly fungi like the Crystal Brain Fungus (above), have cell walls that can contract down to become hard and resistant when dry but go back to a gelatinous structure when moisture is available.

    These fungi are particularly resistant to droughts which is particularly useful in British climates which are becoming increasingly susceptible to summertime droughts.

    Other fungi have thicker spore walls which can deal with environmental stresses better than fungi which produce thinner celled wall spores. Depending on the thickness, these could survive prolonged high temperatures, droughts and even fires.

    Zoe Wilderspin
    Amateur Mycologist With Questionable Morels. Follow me on Twitter.

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