Book Review

Handbook to Strategy 1 Fungal Species in the Northwest Forest Plan

By Michael A. Castellano, Jane E. Smith, Thom O’Dell, Efrén Cázares, and Susan Nugent
USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station
General Technical Report PNW-GTR-476
Available free as a PDF from PNWRS

In 1990, the US Fish and Wildlife Service added the northern spotted owl to the agency’s list of species considered “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. This listing, along with a large number of public challenges of US Forest Service timber sales and a variety of other factors led to a federal court finding that the Forest Service had not done an adequate job of planning for “retention of viable populations of vertebrate species well distributed across national forests” as it was required to do under the National Forest Management Act of 1976. As a result, the sale of timber on federal lands designated as critical habitat for the spotted owl (mostly within mature to old, or late-successional, forests) was halted. In the Pacific Northwest, this action brought to a head a long-running public controversy over the harvest of old-growth timber and, most importantly, focused national attention on the issue during the 1992 presidential campaign.

Following up on a campaign promise, newly inaugurated President Clinton convened a forest conference in April 1993 and, when it had concluded, promised a solution to the controversy within 60 days. Approximately 90 days later, the Clinton Forest Plan, also called the Northwest Forest Plan, had come into being. As set forth in the Record of Decision (ROD) on the Plan, 234 species of fungi, along with many other organisms, were listed as being particularly associated with the mostly old-growth forests that constitute the critical habitat for the spotted owl. Federal forest land managers must provide for the continued viability of these species on the lands under their stewardship. The ROD outlines four strategies for doing this and indicates which strategy, or strategies, will apply to which species. Strategy 1, which applies to more than half the species, includes compiling information on their distribution and ecology and then developing specific management recommendations for the sites where these fungi are known to occur.

Because few Forest Service personnel are familiar with fungi, the Forest Mycology Team in Corvallis, Oregon has produced this comb-bound, large-format handbook as an aid for identifying 141 Strategy 1 fungi. The book consists of four main sections—Introduction, Methodology, Keys to Taxa, and Species Information—plus two appendixes, Acknowledgments, Literature Cited, and Glossary. The introduction provides both historical background and a primer on fungi for the non-mycologically inclined. Methodology provides guidelines for collecting, observing, preserving, and identifying macromycetes. The keys, dichotomous except for a synoptic key to the ramarias, include only the taxa in the book and their use requires familiarity with technical jargon and examination of chemical and microscopic features. The appendixes include hints for using the synoptic key, detailed guidelines for collecting and preserving specimens, and data forms and instructions for recording observations.

The main part of the book is the species descriptions. Each consists of a cross-reference to the appropriate name in the ROD list (some of the taxa had not been described when the ROD was prepared), indication of fungal family and general morphologic structure (mushroom, sequestrate, bolete, coral, etc.), listing of macro- and micromorphologic features, short indication of key identifying features, list of recorded collection sites with a map showing their locations, indication of fruiting season, and a literature reference. One-hundred eighteen of the taxa are illustrated with fairly small, but clear, photographs, mostly in color. Unfortunately, no photos could be found for 23 taxa despite an extensive search through the archives of a large number of mycological photographers. There are no drawings of micro-features.

Overall, this is a well produced collection of illustrations and descriptions of rarely collected Pacific Northwest fungi and, as such, is a useful addition to the mycological literature. It should serve its intended purpose as a resource for Forest Service personnel, although the organization of the species descriptions alphabetically and the use of technical jargon will make it more difficult for non-mycologists to use than it could have been. For instance, arranging the taxa by general morphologic appearance (shape, color), as is done in The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (Lincoff 1981) would have been a big help those using the handbook in picture-matching mode. The use of microscopic and chemical features in the keys will deter users who are not experienced mycologists from using them. Further, the keys cover only the taxa included in the book. This, coupled with the paucity of comparative comments about possible look-alikes, makes it likely that users will identify many fungi as being those in the book when, in fact, they are not. Of course, this might increase the likelihood of the target species being brought to the attention of the Forest Mycology Team, albeit at the cost of false alarms.

For mycologists interested in this book as a general reference, a word of caution is in order. Don’t view it as a comprehensive list of endangered or old-growth forest fungi. It is highly biased by the amount and quality of information that the original list-making mycologists had available to them. For instance, among the 141 taxa in the book are 57 sequestrate fungi, 24 ramarias, and 8 phaeocollybias, but only 8 corts, and no suilluses, inocybes, russulas, or amanitas. There may be valid ecological reasons for this, but I suspect it also reflects uneven collecting, varied taxonomic expertise across different groups of fungi, and our general lack of knowledge about the distribution and ecological requirements of most fleshy fungi in this large complex region. However, as long as the limitations of the list are recognized, the book will serve as a valuable reference beyond its primary audience. In fact, it has already allowed me to identify two collections of Pseudaleuria quinaultiana over which I had been puzzling. And one last thing—the price is right!

— Review by Steve Trudell, Seattle, WA
— Originally published in Mycophile