'We’ll see a reduction:’

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — The future of mushrooms seems hopeful on P.E.I., but if climate conditions continue to get worse, the future of some species could be uncertain.

Rosemary Curley, president of Nature P.E.I., was the speaker at a public seminar Oct. 27 at the Charlottetown Library Learning Centre that focused on mushrooms and the work her group has been doing to identify different species of fungi over the past year.

“We have a lot of citizen scientists now and we’re really getting a lot of results."

Over the last several months, the group has identified dozens of new species of fungi across the province.

P.E.I. had about 75 known-species of mushrooms until Nature P.E.I.’s studies began, according to a research study from 2010. In Nova Scotia, over 1,200 different species of fungi have been identified as native to the province.

During the seminar, Curley gave useful tips on how to identify different species which are poisonous, as well as information on how some species are at risk due to climate change.

Although it’s early to tell how climate change will truly affect the mushrooms, warming temperatures is bad for fungus growth native to this climate. That said, it could bring new species to this Island through transportation of goods, said Curley.

“We may get spores from further south that arrived here, and mushrooms will grow that we haven’t seen before,” she said.

Ken Sanderson, who was responsible for the project with Nature P.E.I., has been studying mushrooms most of his life. He told SaltWire Network if weather trends continue to go in the way they are going, many of the mushroom species could be at risk.

“Warming temperatures will definitely mean greater threat,” Sanderson said during an interview on Oct. 28. “We’ll see reduction in available habitat, which is always a negative.”

Mushrooms are important for ecosystems as they absorb carbon and provide nutrients to surrounding plant life.

Fungi species native to P.E.I.’s sand dunes have roots that play an important role in the growth of the marram grass.

Many of these mushrooms along the north shore were washed away due to the storm surge, but it appears most of the roots further inland survived.

“I haven’t found one fruiting yet and I’ve been out looking, but we’ve got another month of growing left for the dune fungi,” he said.

Over time, sand will build up, reforming the dunes. The mushrooms will likely come back with it, but for this to happen, the dunes need to be left alone to rejuvenate, said Sanderson.

“They’ll come back. Whether all of the species will come back is hard to say, but definitely some of the more common robust ones will be back,” he said.

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian