Contributed by Tom May, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
Fungi Festival 2012, recently held in Hobart, Tasmania, combined a two-day Symposium on the Conservation and Management of Fungi, a debate on eating wild fungi and a weekend of forays and workshops.
The first day of the Symposium included overviews of the roles of fungi in ecosystems, covering different nutritional groups such as mycorrhizal fungi, lichens, saprotrophs and pathogens. There were also presentations on weedy fungi, managing fire for fungi and vegetation as a surrogate for fungi.
Peter Buchanan, representing the newly formed International Society for Fungal Conservation, shared his experiences of promoting the three F’s (Flora, Fauna and Fungi). An overview of fungal conservation in Australia preceded discussion about a strategy for the conservation of Australian fungi.
The second day of the Symposium focused on the roles of fungi in soil health, compost and food production as well as practical applications of fungi in areas such as mine site restoration, carbon sequestration, biocontrol and germination of rare orchids. Walter Jehne highlighted how lack of fungi in agricultural systems can lead to a reduction in the nutritional value of food.
On Friday evening, the debate on ‘Eating wild fungi: fun or foolhardy’ provided an entertaining mix of opinions about the topic, with audience acclamation supporting the ‘fun’ side.
Over the weekend there was a variety of forays and workshops. Topics covered included identification of different groups of fungi and techniques for documenting and surveying fungi. There was also a foray for children—with a search for smelly, slimy and tiny fungi!
Fungi Festival 2012 was organised by Fungimap and NRM South (the natural resource management agency for southern Tasmania). The success of Fungi Festival 2012, with several hundred participants, suggests that it could become a regular event. In addition to the demand for learning opportunities about fungi, there is certainly scope for further discussions about utilising fungi in restoration, and for connecting researchers and practitioners in this area.
This article is an abridged version of a report that will appear in the next edition of Australsian Plant Conservation.