A brief history of fungus recording
Reliable biological recording became possible in the mid-eighteenth century when the binomial system of naming species was promoted by Linnaeus. Over the following two centuries explorers, biologists and botanists travelled the world collecting and naming new species, and our great museums and natural history collections were created. The British Mycological Society first produced records of the fungi found on its Autumn Forays in 1899 and on Spring Forays in 1909. The lists of species found on forays appeared in the Transactions, then in the News Bulletin, and finally in the Bulletin up to the 1983 Autumn Foray. The reports simply listed the fungi found and indicated the location but usually gave no further information. Recording cards (Cross-off cards), produced in consultation with the Biological Records Centre at Monks Wood, were made available in 1973. However, no official recording scheme was initiated at that time.
The cards were similar in pattern to those used for recording insects, mammals, flowering plants, etc. The first card listed ‘Macromycetes’, that is, it contained a selection of the more common species of Agaricales, Boletales and Russulales, as well as of gasteromycetes, aphyllophorales, heterobasidiomycetes and ascomycetes. A few years later similar cards for discomycetes, gasteromycetes and myxomycetes were produced. The records obtained using these cards were to be incorporated in the general biological records at Monks Wood. These cards were site-based and required general information about the site but gave no room for details now regarded as useful (if not absolutely necessary) such as the associated organism, the substrate on which the fungus was growing and the ecosystem. The cards are, therefore, no longer in general use. An ambitious recording scheme was started in 1981, concentrating initially on the gasteromycetes. This scheme was successful and resulted in the publication of a provisional census in 1983. The first volume of an Atlas of British Fungi, devoted to the gasteromycetes, was published in 1994/5.
With the advent of the personal computers, it became clear that they provided a convenient and efficient way of recording fungi. The concept of a BMS database to hold the records made by both amateur and professional mycologists was mooted by David Minter in 1986. With computers it would be possible to incorporate in each record more details on the organism with which it was associated, the nature of the substrate on which it was found, the ecosystem and other details. The scheme rapidly took form and in May 1987 a computer was for the first time brought to a Foray where forayers tried their hand at inputting the information and daily printouts were produced. The computer then became part of the paraphernalia of each Spring and Autumn Foray. Lists, in the form of computer printouts, were sent to all participants giving detailed information in a way not possible in the Society’s journals. The number of records on the database increased rapidly and at the end of 1993 it stood at about 40,000. From 1997 records from the herbarium at Kew (RBG Kew Mycology Section) and the IMI herbarium (the International Mycological Institute, now part of CABI Bioscience) were added. At the BMS Group Leaders’ Meeting held at Littledean in 1999 Jerry Cooper and Paul Kirk introduced and demonstrated a revised and more user-friendly database with much increased capacity and this was given the formal title of the British Mycological Society Fungal Records Database (BMSFRD). At the same time, MycoRec (see page 25 for more information) was demonstrated and made available for use. Many more records were added, partly as a result of the considerable increase in the number of local recording groups. The number of entries to the database at the time of writing, January 2004, is approaching 1,000,000. There are still many geographic and taxonomic ‘gaps’ but we can now look forward to a time when the database contains a nation-wide distribution of fungus records.