Half a million fungi records and counting –  By Tom May

Sometime around the middle of the day on Saturday 18 May 2024, the number of fungi observations for Australia on iNaturalist ticked over 500,000. I was hoping to see the half millionth record as it came in, but just on this one day, more than 900 observations were posted, one every one to two minutes, covering more than 200 species.

Among the records submitted today were species from the first set of 100 Fungimap targets such as Cortinarius archeri, Cookeina tricholoma and Cruentomycena viscidocruenta, along with other distinctive fungi such as Mycena kurramulla and Phaeolus schweinitzii.

I remember from the early days of Fungimap that it took more than two years to reach 1,000 observations! It is a thrill to see the current rate of observing on iNaturalist, with Australian fungi observations contributed by more than 12,500 observers.

More than 3,000 species are represented among these Australian fungi observations, but the observations to Research Grade (see below) cover around 1500 species, for which there are a little over 140,000 observations. In other words, only around a quarter of all observations have been confidently identified to species.

Many of the observations not identified to species are because necessary features are not shown (there are many top-only views of mushrooms!). However, among unidentified images there are still gems awaiting identification or confirmation of the original identification.

Last week I came across Pseudoinonotus chondromyelus for the first time and when submitting my observation I found that there was just one previous observation on iNaturalist that I could then confirm as Research Grade.

Among the species with observations not yet to Research Grade there are quite a few that are reports of Northern Hemisphere species, not otherwise confirmed from Australia, such as Cortinarius croceus or Macrolepiota procera. From time to time, I check and re-identify these erroneous records.

It is heartening to see that for the fungi records from Australia, there are now more than 3600 identifiers, including some very active identifiers. This means that records suitable for Research Grade tend to be identified quite rapidly.

Almost 100,000 iNaturalist fungi observations are tagged as belonging to the Fungimap Australia project – which has the advantage that host and habitat are recorded for all these observations.

iNaturalist observations continue to extend the range of known species and add images of species rarely reported. I expect that it will not take too many years now to reach 1 million observations.

The numbers above were tallied for observations eligible for Research Grade. Research Grade observations are where more than 2/3 of the identifications agree, and there are two or more identifications. Data was extracted using the filter facility of iNaturalist, including the date, rank (for species and below) and project filters.

 Pseudoinonotus chondromyelus in cross section, showing the characteristic granular core, Image credit: Tom May