John Wright attacked in Daily Mail

Is focused foraging for edible fungi justifiable?

Re: John Wright attacked in Daily Mail

Postby Leif Goodwin » Thu Sep 10, 2015 10:58 pm

GeoffDann wrote:
Leif Goodwin wrote:I don't accept your arguments about species survival. Not that I think you are wrong, but simply that you have no evidence so it can only be a guess. I guess that highlights the fact that research is needed to learn far more about the needs of fungi, how they propagate and so on.


I'd argue that it is more than just a guess. I think the guesswork is involved in the original claim that long-term, systematic picking of certain species causes a decline in those species. But if you take that claim as hypothetically true, then the consequential claim that other species would benefit from the decreased competition (or increased availability of habitat) must surely follow. The only logically possible alternative is that there are some specific habitats currently occupied by popular, common edible species like B. edulis and C. cibarius which no other species would colonise if those popular edibles didn't get in there first.

I think the argument boils down to a simple claim that whereever there is habitat suitable for fungi, some sort of fungi or other will colonise it. The activities of humans can only alter the balance of species, rather than decreasing the total amount of fungi. And if you accept that argument, then the picking of relatively common species isn't a problem as far as ecology or biodiversity is concerned.


This is all supposition on your part. I could argue that if macro fungi are pushed away from leaf mulch, other organisms, such as bacteria and microfungi will dominate. But I could be competely wrong. Without evidence, what you say is unsupported, and cannot be used as the basis for any real argument. That is why research is needed.

GeoffDann wrote:
Incidentally I think we have to distinguish between species that are on the edge of their range, and which are common elsewhere, such as Norway, or Italy, and those which are genuinely rare everywhere, perhaps because they have a very specific niche e.g. very old oak trees. The latter require habitat conservation, by maintaining nature reserves with old trees, for example.


I agree.

I think the 'free food' craze will not go away, so it is surely better for people such as yourself to take people on fungi walks, and help instill in them a realisation that fungi might be threatened by over collection, so the precautionary principle applies. The alternative is for them to go on walks with people who have no concern for fungal conservation.


Yes. Although I don't think it is quite accurate to describe it as a "free food craze". If the fact that it was free was the main driving force, then John Wright probably wouldn't have a load of courses fully booked up for 15-20 people paying £70 a head to go foraging in the New Forest. His clients aren't getting much food for their £70, for sure. I'd wager most of them don't need any free food. There is a sort of "free food" or rather a "no waste" thing going on at the moment, but it is focused on attempting to stop both supermarkets and people from throwing away so much perfectly good commercially produced food, and also growing your own food in gardens. The "wild food" thing is motivated by other things than the cost of the food - including a romanticised "getting back in touch with nature/ancestors", eating natural products that have nothing to do with the commercialised world, learning survival skills and getting hold of food products that are interesting in terms of taste/texture and which aren't available by any other means.

None of which makes any difference to the basic point you are making, which is that it is better that they are taught by somebody like me, than somebody with no care for fungi conservation. Although the counterpoint is that the sort of people who have no care for fungi conservation aren't likely to be interested in teaching other people where/how to find edible species anyway, because they tend to have got involved in this area in the first place for commercial motives (i.e. selling valuable wild species to fancy restaurants).

I'd also say that in my experience, most of the people who come on walks with me want to learn about fungi in general, not just the edible types. They like to have something they can eat in their basket at the end of the day, but on the whole they do not arrive hoping to leave with a basketful of penny buns and chanterelles.


Fair point, I stand corrected. Let's call it a 'wild food' craze. The no waste thing is different. I find it offensive that so much food is wasted, both before it even hits the shelves, and after it has been bought, or not, as the case may be. Growing your own helps solve that problem.
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Re: John Wright attacked in Daily Mail

Postby GeoffDann » Thu Sep 10, 2015 11:29 pm

Leif Goodwin wrote: I could argue that if macro fungi are pushed away from leaf mulch, other organisms, such as bacteria and microfungi will dominate. But I could be competely wrong. Without evidence, what you say is unsupported, and cannot be used as the basis for any real argument. That is why research is needed.


OK, fair enough. But is there any reason to think that human activity benefiting bacteria and microfungi at the expense of macro-fungi is bad in some way?
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Re: John Wright attacked in Daily Mail

Postby Leif Goodwin » Fri Sep 11, 2015 8:28 am

GeoffDann wrote:
Leif Goodwin wrote: I could argue that if macro fungi are pushed away from leaf mulch, other organisms, such as bacteria and microfungi will dominate. But I could be competely wrong. Without evidence, what you say is unsupported, and cannot be used as the basis for any real argument. That is why research is needed.


OK, fair enough. But is there any reason to think that human activity benefiting bacteria and microfungi at the expense of macro-fungi is bad in some way?


Is driving fungi to extinction bad in some way? (I'm not assuming that picking can do that, we don't know. Loss of habitat might be the greater threat.)
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Re: John Wright attacked in Daily Mail

Postby GeoffDann » Sat Sep 12, 2015 9:41 pm

Leif Goodwin wrote:
GeoffDann wrote:
Leif Goodwin wrote: I could argue that if macro fungi are pushed away from leaf mulch, other organisms, such as bacteria and microfungi will dominate. But I could be competely wrong. Without evidence, what you say is unsupported, and cannot be used as the basis for any real argument. That is why research is needed.


OK, fair enough. But is there any reason to think that human activity benefiting bacteria and microfungi at the expense of macro-fungi is bad in some way?


Is driving fungi to extinction bad in some way? (I'm not assuming that picking can do that, we don't know. Loss of habitat might be the greater threat.)


I was talking about common species like B. edulis and C. cibarius, neither of which are in any danger of extinction globally - and both of which are doing very well indeed near me, if today was anything to go by. Driving Hericium species to extinction in the wild, for example, would be bad.
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