Letters (on fungi) from small islands – comparisons from around the world.

Howard F. FOX, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, D09 VY63, Dublin, Ireland.
Maria L. CULLEN, Barrow Herbarium, Ballyanne, New Ross, County Wexford

BIODIVERSITY INVENTORY
Inventorying the botany of small islands is a satisfying objective of field studies in nature.
In addition to the need for the botanical synopsis of an island to be visually tractable, all the major habitat types, that walking can determine are present on a small island, need to be screened for component species. Voucher specimens preserved in herbaria provide the basis for the scientific decision making of identification of species.
Since HF and MC began our lifelong botanical quests in 1987 and 1995 respectively, we have endeavoured to incorporate our scientific observations in their appropriate botanical context. Identification is time consuming work from first principles of consulting type specimens in herbaria, but is more rapid in taxonomically well documented biomes, where original acts of scholarship are documented and copied from book to book.

IRELAND AND HER OFFSHORE ISLANDS
We began this quest in Ireland, focussing on offshore islands (Lambay, Clare Island, Inishbofin, Inishturk, Foynes Island, Tory Island, Bere Island, Cape Clear Island, Inishtrahull, Sherkin Island, Great Saltee, Achill Beg, Skellig Michael) accessible by boat and by ferry. Kayakers have landed on many more smaller offshore islands, and in some places, botanical exploration on some Irish offshore islands is still scant.

SAINT LUCIA & JAMAICA
In our experience, the mycology of Saint Lucia and Jamaica will require several more rounds of revision, prior to satisfactory knowledge is assembled. There is potential for species new to science to be found here, as well as many species already described with a wider that hitherto known distributional range. We are building on the science of the late Edward Vainio, the late Henry Imshaug, Harrie Sipman, Andre Aptroot, Marcela Cacares and other taxonomists what have collected and considered botanical specimens from Saint Lucia, Jamaica, and similar iso-climatic habitats in sub-tropical and tropical zones of the Caribbean and Central American neotropics, as well as all around the world.

NEW CALEDONIA, TAHITI, MOOREA AND NIUE ISLAND
The mycology of Nouvelle Caledonie is at a relatively advanced stage. Numerous taxa are understood from voucher specimens preserved in PC in the metropole and NOU locally. Jean Mouchacca, John Elix, Patrick McCarthy, Robert Lucking and others have built upon the scientific infrastructure of William Nylander, various French 19th century mycologists and the late Rolf Santesson. The exploration of French Polynesia is uneven, and while Tahiti has a long list, information from Moorea is modest. An overview by John Elix and Patrick McCarthy shows a wide tropical diversity in the central Pacific. Niue Island has been explored mycologically in our studies of voucher materials kept in Ireland.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITIES
The festival for the Transit of Venus at Pointe Venus in Tahiti in June 2012 demonstrated the lack of scientific instruments in daily use by natives of the Pacific Islands. Most optical instruments and telescopes were operated by native French scientists. Such can be said for the Atlantic Ocean and the offshore islands of Ireland and in the Eastern and central Caribbean. A botanical herbarium is kept in Saint Lucia by the Forestry Department in Union, south of Castries. A website for plant species identification by Roger Graveson is instrumental in promoting Saint Lucian botany. Similar resources are not obvious in Jamaica. In Ireland, since 2000 there has been a renaissance in taxonomic resources online, starting with Stuart Dunlop’s 2003 to 2007 Donegal Hedgerow. Many other sites have grown up alongside the NBDC at Carriganure, Waterford and the GBIF mined resources that computerised Ireland’s biodiversity information. The development of third level colleges and universities in Noumea, Alofi, Papete, Suva, Morne Fortune, Mona, and so on, provide the potential for botanical research on fungi to grow, and the virtual herbarionauts of Paris will help accelerate this aspect of mycology.

THE LAUDATO SI OF POPE FRANCIS AND CONSERVATION
We are still left with the primacy of nature as a creator of species of interest to the scientific enlightenment, the need for conservation of nature first, and the availability of specimens in the museum and private sector for study, to enable all this scientific infrastructure to be generated. In addition to google, we still need the minds of people, who express the wit and the curiosity and willingness to curate knowledge as an altruistic act for society. The burning of the Amazon, with fires set on 10th August 2019, show the resistance to the wise use of forest resources. This is an example from in the Lusophone tropics, primary forest burning and ancient forest clearance is something that occurs in every townland, even in 2019 as close to home as in Corracloona, in County Leitrim in Ireland, an ethic which needs to be challenged effectively by all humanity.

Republished by lichenfoxie. Text for a poster at the European Mycological Congress, Warsawa, Poland, September 2019.

Howard Fox on Dante’s endgame in the Amazon

In reading The Dipper’s Acclaim and other essays again in the last fortnight, I am making distillate of a vision of John Feehan’s inspirational text and how it moderates mine. John has of course four major books Slieve Bloom, Laois, Bogs of Ireland and Farming in Ireland, in addition to his spiritual reflections on Laudato Si. This last book has been our recommended reading at the Corracloona Old School, Kiltyclougher, in County Leitrim, this week.

This latter book concern is the ecological conversion from the Augustinian to the Franciscan view of nature. The land use conflict and extinction turmoil that this change in philosophical guidance is attempting to moderate is devastating, as seen by soy and beef farming and the fires set in the Amazon on 10th August 2019, Dante’s endgame. The destruction of nature is the financial crime of the millennium.

The taxonomic tools we have for understanding the organization of nature is won by studying the morphology of species alive in the Amazon and nature everywhere in the global forest. We have had scholars of Brazil like Vainio in 1890 and Cacares 2011. Now she is organizing a lichen congress in Brazil in 2020 with the blessing of the International Association of Lichenologists’. These scholars have set a framework for the comprehension of the Amazon from the perspective of the genera and species of lichens on tree bark, intellectual insight showing that the Amazon is tractable and not to be feared. Lusophone literature on the Amazon shows the cultural abuses against nature have at least half a millenium’s lead in.

Taking the townland of Corracloona on the lakeshore of Upper Lough Mac Nean in North Letirim on the shore road between Glenfarne and Kiltyclougher where I am currently installed as a lichen studying hermit, I want to explore some insights on these topical concerns in my usual way.

Consider the lilies

It is not complexity rather the elegance

of plant parts, their veining and their form

That provides us with a congruence of consanguinity

Units of composition, order and harmony

That reveals our wonder in

The taxonomic aspiration for species

Consider the lilies

A bog myrtle and a sedge

Myrica gale and Carex panicea

The utricles in September

Transcending inference and analogy

A hopeful contemplation for the future

New to science once, but from nature first,

Predicted in another place

Open to another mind

Genetic readings of a plant part

A synapomorphic insight

in our vigil on life.

Ask not what you can do

The leap of recognition

A signal of joy

Of an encounter

With a specimen

Of a species

Known from literature before

New to us, admitted to our skeptical reality.

The extinction of micro-habitats of species

In the Amazon inferno

and across the masai warrior

plains of the pale of Ireland

Is the crisis and war of our time

Cast this injunction

In the extinction rebellion

To temper the flames

We apprehend you

Slow you with a sample

Of nature herself

The latin binomial

Of a novelty

only encountered in nature

Fathomable facets

Of a townland

A hopeful contemplation

for the future

Beyond the inferno

Forest bureaucratically dismissed

as farmland

the financial crime

of the millennium.

Howard Fox

5 September 2019