Post Fire Fungi

As a result of fire, soils become more alkaline and the heat of the fire sterilises the soil, allowing a suite of fungi to emerge. These fungi have important roles in the landscape, including erosion prevention, forming mycorrhizal relationships with plants, food for animals and invertebrates and the breakdown and recycling of nutrients from wood and other dead plant material. Below are a few of the fire-loving fungi that were found recently at Blackheath.

Pyronema omphalodes: Pyronema is one of the first genera of fungi to colonise soil after bushfires and tends to be found in areas where the fires burned hottest. Large mats of this fungus with visible mycelium form on burnt soil (and other sterilised sites such as burnt bark) and help prevent erosion. Top photo, Blackheath, Feb 2020. Bottom photo, Fairy Dell Springwood, post-2018 hazard reduction burn, showing a network of mycelium over the soil.

Nothocastoreum cretaceum is a truffle-like fungus that is found partially buried in soil and resembles small stones. When mature the fruitbodies spilt open to release their spores. Mature fungi are approximately 25mm diameter. Blackheath, Feb 2020.

Anthracobia muelleri is a tiny disc fungus. Each disc is only a few mm in diameter. The edges are adorned with small hairs. Colonies of Anthracobia appear on burnt ground after bushfires and can also be found on the site of old campfires. Blackheath, Feb 2020.

Cortinarius sublargus can grow to around 20cm in diameter across the cap. The stipe (stem) is mostly buried in the soil, sometimes to a depth of 20cm. Cortinarius is one of the largest genera of fungi worldwide. Species in this genus form mycorrhizal relationships with trees. Large clumps of this species were found at Blackheath in Feb 2020, a few weeks after the bushfire.

The Hidden World

This camera shows the tiny life underneath a fungi cap. CameraFi is a USB microscope magnifying camera that attaches to your phone then there is an app that you can view from your phone. The camera found these Hexapoda were found under the fungi that was the same size as a 10 cent piece.

 iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe.

Fungi-in- the-Blue Mountains project aims to document the biodiversity of fungi found in the Blue Mountains NSW, and focuses primarily on bushcare sites. It is an umbrella project for a number of other project (Fungi in Fairy Dell, Fungi in Birdwood Gully, Fungi in Else Mitchell Park, Fungi in the Deanei reserve and Fungi in Coachwood Glen) I would also encourage other bushcare groups to start their own inaturalist group which could become part of the larger Fungi in the Blue Mountains project.

Fungi are often overlooked in biodiversity surveys though they play an important role in recycling nutrients, as food sources for invertebrates and mammals, in mycorrhizal partnerships, and as aids to germination (in the case of native orchids). As an example, one project aims to document the fungi observed in the Else Mitchell Park Bushcare site in Springwood NSW. Coupled with already existing data on plant diversity in the park, and observations of bird, mammal and insect species it will broaden our knowledge of the overall biodiversity and interactions between taxa.