Over the past two centuries the British Isles have suffered increasing levels of industrial and atmospheric pollution. Large areas of open countryside have been lost to housing, roads and commercial development. Modern agriculture has converted much of our landscape into hectare upon hectare of silent monoculture. Many of our rivers, canals and small watercourses have been severely contaminated by nitrate fertiliser run-off from farm-land and by industrial waste products. On a worldwide scale there is concern at forecasts of global warming.
The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 focused world attention on the need for urgent action to combat threats to the environment. In the UK a series of Biodiversity Action Plans was prepared, aimed at conserving endangered species and threatened habitats, operating at both national and regional levels. Red Data Lists were produced to draw attention to species most at risk. These political efforts stimulated an unprecedented expansion of biological recording to monitor endangered populations.
More recently, the turn of the millennium offered a target date for natural history surveys, generating intensive recording activity. One of the most ambitious surveys was ‘Atlas 2000’, undertaken by the Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI). This involved five years of nation-wide recording by our most skilled botanists. Published in 2002 the report is a comprehensive assessment of the status of our vascular plants. Another recording achievement was the Millennium Atlas of Butterflies of Britain and Ireland, a survey of the status of breeding and migrant butterflies following five successive summers of recording by teams of dedicated lepidopterists.
Field mycologists have also contributed. During the millennium year a national effort was made to try to record 2000 different fungi. It achieved a total in excess of 3300 species, not including the lichenised fungi. Largely through the enthusiasm of individuals working under the auspices of the British Mycological Society there has been a much-increased public awareness of the role of fungi in the environment. There is now a better understanding of the need to conserve them and to work towards the preservation of threatened habitats. Recent work on recording waxcaps and other declining grassland fungi has resulted in the conservation listing of a number of valuable and previously unprotected sites in the British Isles.
To carry our conservation actions into the future we need data, and yet more data, on a nation-wide scale. A glance at the 950,000 or so fungus records in the BMS Fungal Records Database in January 2004 reveals that the spread of records is patchy. Many areas of the country are under-recorded or under-reported. There are Local Fungus Recording Groups distributed around the country; thirty-six at the time of writing (see Appendix 8). There are also many enthusiastic field mycologists working independently. The potential is there for a significant increase in scientific mycological recording.
This Guidance Note tries to cover briefly all the procedures involved in recording fungi, starting with the basic principles of collecting and making records, and then going on to advise on some of the problems encountered in computerised management of data. Its aims are to encourage more individuals and groups to make systematic records of their local fungi, and to submit those records to the national database.