Bay Nature magazineOctober-December 2008

Point Reyes Mycoblitz

October 1, 2008

Scientists and fire ecologists will be studying the cause and effects of these fires for years, and that includes taking a close look at fungi in the soil. As reported in Bay Nature‘s July-September 2005 issue, UC Berkeley microbiologist Tom Bruns discovered that a different species of mycorrhizal fungi moved in to support the growth of bishop pine seedlings after the 1995 Vision Fire at Point Reyes. But Bruns’s work with fungi at Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) didn’t stop there. In 2004, Bruns paired with David Rust, founder of the Bay Area Mycological Society, to plan a mycoblitz (a quick survey of fungal species). PRNS, several universities, local mycological groups, and hundreds of volunteers have participated in five forays since 2005.

Before the mycoblitz, only about 110 fungus species were known at Point Reyes. “As a national park, we’re charged with protecting biodiversity,” says Ben Becker, a co-organizer of the blitz and the director of PRNS’s Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center. “How can we protect biodiversity if we don’t know what’s there?” Now, there are records for 499 species, and 390 specimens have been added to the collection of the University Herbarium at UC Berkeley. The next phase of the blitz will require funding and specialized training, says Bruns. “We’ve identified the most obvious ones,” he says, “but not necessarily those that play an important role in the ecosystem.”

To learn more, go to the Bay Area Mycological Society’s mycoblitz pages at www.bayareamushrooms.org. Explore the world of mushrooms at the Oakland Museum‘s Fungus Fair on December 6 and 7, presented with the Mycological Society of San Francisco (www.mssf.org). The Sonoma County Mycological Society also lists events and forays, at www.somamushrooms.org.

About the Author

Writer Aleta George trained as a Jepson Prairie docent in 2009. In addition to writing Bay Nature's Ear to the Ground column, she has written for Smithsonian, High Country News, and the Los Angeles Times.

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