The science behind this debate

Is focused foraging for edible fungi justifiable?

The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:29 am

This was posted on another board during a discussion about ethical/sustainable foraging.

http://www.pnw-ms.com/publications/1995.html#0001

CONTENTS: A fully referenced overview of the Oregon Mycological Society's ground-breaking study conducted entirely by volunteers, the first in North America to establish permanent experimental and control plots to compare the impact of sporocarp removal upon subsequent fruiting. Provides a background on possible causes for decline in mushroom productivity in America and overseas (pollution, habitat destruction, over-harvesting), details the experiment site, project design and protocols, and offers the first preliminary conclusions inferred from three years baseline and six years of harvesting data. These data suggest: (i) no statistically significant correlation between sporocarp removal and productivity, (ii) an outcome not influenced by harvesting method (pulling versus cutting); (iii) a significantly positive correlation between chanterelle abundance and average summer temperature; and (iv) no correlation between chanterelle abundance and precipitation. The author also notes that the chanterelle being studied probably represents the endemic Cantharellus formosus and not C. cibarius. [Ten-year harvesting data now imply that chanterelle removal may stimulate future chanterelle abundance, see Norvell & Roger, 1998, above. (See also Projects: Chanterelles)]


The suggestion is that, at least in the case of Chanterelles, there is no such thing as "overpicking." I am interested to hear some responses to this.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Leif Goodwin » Fri Oct 08, 2010 8:17 pm

I had a look at the link, and it raises many questions.

What are the details of the study. The summary has none. How large are the plots? Where are they? What forms the borders of plots? The chanterelle is fairly common, so does the result hold for less common species that have less foothold in the country? The chanterelle is mycorrhizal, so do the results apply to leaf mould decomposers, wood decomposers, and those that live on soil, but are not mycorrhizal?

On a related issue I read that killing foxes does little to control numbers since the number is limited by scarcity of resources, so if you kill some, all that happens is that more young ones survive as they have more to eat. I'm not sure if that is true. It would be nice if fungi were like that, but we need evidence to say one way or the other.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:28 pm

Leif,

Thanks for responding, and I am now thoroughly convinced that the science behind this debate does not exist.

Geoff
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Neil » Fri Oct 08, 2010 10:40 pm

Now you're beginning to sound like the pope.

Nuff said.

Neil.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Fri Oct 08, 2010 11:11 pm

Neil wrote:Now you're beginning to sound like the pope.

Nuff said.

Neil.


I assume that is directed at me.

I am like the Pope in what way?
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Sat Oct 09, 2010 2:37 pm

Neil,

I am not behaving like the Pope. All I am doing is trying to separate fact from fiction with respect to the debate about foraging for fungi. And the more I investigate that debate, the clearer it becomes that there is only fiction and no fact.

I don't particularly like serial over-pickers. I could give examples from various websites in the past month of people claiming their freezer was already full and that they had two sweet jars full of dried boletes and they are still going out and picking 7kg of leccinums, or people saying they've picked a full basket every day for the last five days (and showing the pictures to prove it.) This is just greedy and antisocial, unless you have a very large family or are selling to restaurants (which these people were not apparently doing). It's a bit like a fox which kills all of the chickens in the hut. You might also argue that it is denying other people the pleasure of seeing the fungi. HOWEVER...none of this has anything whatsoever to do with science.

I have challenged some of these people, and in the ensuing debate I was told that "the problem" was in fact "ludicrous policies" coming from people like English nature and local wildlife groups. They were basically accusing such people (i.e you) of creating policies which are not based on science, but which are claimed to be based on science. In fact this would be a textbook example of pseudoscience - claiming scientific authority for a belief/policy when none actually exists.

So I am asking again: where is the science behind this debate? Is there any at all? I would like an informed opinion on these matters and at the moment all I am getting is polemic and speculation from both sides. One lot claim that picking mushrooms encourages further fruiting and spreading the spores about (by carrying them about) actually benefits them, and say that that people like you are just reactionary "do-gooders" who need a dose of reality. The other lot claim that mushroom foraging is having a serious negative effect on fungi populations and would like to see it banned completely. As far as I can tell, both sides are just making stuff up.

I find it rather ironic that I'm being accused of being like the Pope (i.e. anti-science). For most of the time it existed, I was Richard Dawkins' forum administrator. You can't get much less like the Pope than that. I'm just trying to find out the "truth". It is quite important to me that I do this, because I am in the process of putting together a website which will contain a section about exactly this debate. This is your chance to influence what I put in that section, but you won't do so by accusing me of acting like the Pope. Give me some science please.

Geoff
Last edited by GeoffDann on Sun Sep 23, 2012 12:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Sat Oct 09, 2010 4:52 pm

Leif Goodwin wrote:On a related issue I read that killing foxes does little to control numbers since the number is limited by scarcity of resources, so if you kill some, all that happens is that more young ones survive as they have more to eat. I'm not sure if that is true. It would be nice if fungi were like that, but we need evidence to say one way or the other.


One thing for sure is this: the air around us must be full of the spores of all sorts of fungi. It must surely be the case that for any colonisable habitat, spores of multiple species will land on it and compete for the space. It seems to me that in such a situation, if you halved the number of spores of all species then it would make very little difference to what ends up growing where. This is for the same reason as your example above - the numbers are controlled by the availability of colonisable habitat (scarcity/abundance of resources), not the number of spores released by the previous generation. I think we can make a case that this is what applies in the case of corals, for example, and most fungi have a similar reproductive strategy.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Neil » Sat Oct 09, 2010 11:42 pm

"For most of the time it existed, I was Richard Dawkins' forum administrator. You can't get much less like the Pope than that". END QUOTE

Well, that is certainly to your credit Geoff. Good for you.

But regarding the eating of wild fungi and any threats this entails, surely the main point is YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EAT THEM when there are easily grown cheap and tastier alternatives readily available in the shops.
One could be forgiven for thinking you have a chip planted in your brain which repeatedly sends out the signal MUST PICK, MUST PICK. A small Wax Cap for goodness sake (referring to a previous post) is nothing safe from your mission ?

Neil.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby Leif Goodwin » Sun Oct 10, 2010 10:30 am

Geoff

Firtly I should point out that I have no training in mycology and I have no familiarity with the research. So anything I say is to be taken with a bucket of salt.

Anyway, if there is definite proof that picking fungi does harm, I would like to see it. But neither is there proof that picking does no harm, as the studies are too simple. You say that spores are in the air, in which case why are many European species absent from North America, and vica versa? That suggests either that fungal spores do not travel far or that a certain number are needed for a species to establish itself. Hence picking large quantities of a fungus might reduce its ability to establish itself ELSEWHERE.

The suggestion that picking helps spread spores is surely silly. Most pickers place fungi in plastic buckets or carrier bags, and walk around for an hour or two. Had they left the fungi, they would have had days or even weeks to spread spores. That I think is a myth spread by pickers.

Today I saw a family in a local SSSI carrying baskets and plastic buckets full to the brim with fungi. Just 3 people were cleaning out the wood. There is no way they could have eaten them in a day or a week, as they had enough for months. That to me is greed.

My view is that we do not know enough to draw definite conclusions so we should adopt a precautionary principle i.e. be cautious. I suspect one reason for the lack of knowledge is that mycology is less well funded than botany.

GeoffDann wrote:I find it rather ironic that I'm being accused of being like the Pope (i.e. anti-science). For most of the time it existed, I was Richard Dawkins' forum administrator. You can't get much less like the Pope than that.


In my view Dawkins is just as narrow minded, bigoted and intolerant as the Pope.
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Re: The science behind this debate

Postby GeoffDann » Sun Oct 10, 2010 3:35 pm

Neil wrote:But regarding the eating of wild fungi and any threats this entails, surely the main point is YOU DO NOT HAVE TO EAT THEM when there are easily grown cheap and tastier alternatives readily available in the shops.


We can't grow most of these species, free is cheaper than cheap and there's nothing as tasty as the best wild edibles in the shops.

I accept that in the rich parts of the world, at least for now, nobody NEEDS to eat wild fungi. However, this in itself doesn't constitute a case against foraging. Nobody needs to eat wild blackerries either.

One could be forgiven for thinking you have a chip planted in your brain which repeatedly sends out the signal MUST PICK, MUST PICK.


I think you are getting me confused with other people. When I go out on my own these days, I generally come back with little or nothing for my own table. There ARE people for whom this is all about picking as many penny buns and chanterelles as possible. I got over that stage a long time ago, but I do see it in some of the people I take out who have never done it before. As said already, you can argue this is greedy and antisocial but that is not the same as claiming it is environmentally unsustainable. There may well be a case to be made that it is environmentally unsustainable, but I haven't heard it yet.

A small Wax Cap for goodness sake (referring to a previous post) is nothing safe from your mission ?


I might try a new waxcap if there are plenty, but on the whole I don't bother with them.

Geoff
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