Internationally recognized mushroom researcher Bart Buyck recently visited the East Texas woods to contribute to inventory work conducted through the Thicket of Diversity All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. Working with Bart is Valerie Hofstetter of the Department of Plant Protection at Agroscope in Nyon, Switzerland. Valerie analyzes the fungi collected for their DNA sequences, which ties in to their classification.
Buyck obtained his Ph.D in 1989 at the University of Gent, Belgium. He received the Augustin Pyramus de Candolle prize of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Geneva, Switzerland. He continued his research in Belgium and Central Africa and since 1996 joined the Laboratoire de Cryptogamie of the National Natural History Museum in Paris, France. There he serves as Associate Professor in the Department of Systematics and Evolution where he is also curator of the Mycology Herbarium.
Buyck has collected edible and ectomycorrhizal mushrooms on several continents for more than 30 years and is especially interested in one particular group of mushrooms, Russula. With distinctive umbrella shaped caps on stems, these fungi are commonly found in the major types of forests on earth. This mushroom genus was first described in 1796, and over 750 species have been identified to date, yet most Russulas still remain undescribed and Buyck estimates the number of different Russula species in the United States alone to be likely as much as 1,500. Russula mushrooms are not easy to identify and distinguishing individual species usually involves observation of its microscopic characteristics or a taste test. Bart’s work includes the development of a software program, ALLRUS, to assist in the identification and classification of Russula. Most members of this fleshy fungi group are edible, but some can cause gastrointestinal symptoms when eaten raw or undercooked.
Buyck is also a world authority on the genus Cantharellus and described 5 new species of chanterelles from East Texas, including Cantharellus texensis, a species that was originally described from the Lance Rosier Unit of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Cantharellus is a worldwide genus of mushrooms known for their edibility.
Ectomycorrhizal macro-fungi such as Russula and Cantharellus form a symbiotic relationship with roots of various woody plant species. This means that spore producing fungi, like mushrooms, live compatibly with unlike organisms such as pines, oaks or beech. This is of great ecological importance for the survival and maintenance of our forests as these fungi provide the trees with nutrients and water through these root connections. Research is of benefit as monitoring of changes in fungal communities, especially of ectomycorrhizas, could serve as an early warning indicator of environmental change.
According to the Big Thicket Association (BTA) website, Bart Buyck is one of 3 scientists who described a rare, new species to science in 2008 for the Big Thicket, Russula texensis. The BTA is very supportive of macrofungi research. On June 14, 2014 a mushroom foray was conducted at the Preserve’s Field Research Station with David Lewis, President of the Gulf States Mycological Society. Approximately 27 volunteers, equipped with a Park Service permit, trowels and collecting baskets, traipsed the woods near Saratoga in search of macro-fungi. The event was quite successful as the group acquired over 200 specimens which are currently being identified. This information along with Buyck’s data will be entered into a national database housed by Big Thicket National Preserve.
Buyck’s inventory work entitled, “Root-symbiotic fungi: key players in the forest ecosystems of the Big Thicket,” was made possible through a Park Partnership matching fund grant between the Big Thicket Association and the National Park Service. To view the most recent inventory data go to www.thicketofdiversity.org., click on Science and then Taxa Tally.
Bart Buyck & Valerie Hofstetter at Jack Gore Baygall Unit, Big Thicket National Preserve 6/27/2014Share on Twitter Share on Facebook