Monitoring fungi is important, these surveys can reveal much about the state of the local environment and the health of other wildlife populations. This is especially true for agricultural land, where the impact of herbicides and chemical fertilizers is often revealed by monitoring the flora and fauna of grasslands.

In the Autumn, Wildlife Monitor Ruth Moss and Zoology Student Katie Morgans undertook a fungi survey in one of the six meadows containing anthills of Yellow-meadow ants (Lasius flavus) at Turnastone Court Farm. This involved a walk-over survey of the whole field and any fungi fruit bodies seen were identified and recorded. The field was divided into two sections based on the presence or absence of anthills. Data collected where anthills were present formed group A, and Group B included data from the section of field devoid of anthills. A comparison in fungal abundance and species diversity was thus made between the two groups.

CHEGD fungi are a collective of different fungal groups used as indicators of ecologically valuable areas of grassland. The anagram includes Clavaroids (Clubs and Corals), Hygrocybe (Waxcaps), Entoloma (Pinkgills), Geoglossum (Earth tongues), and Dermoloma (Crazed Caps). By measuring the presence of these specific groups, we can infer the condition of the land.

In group A (anthills present), 168 individuals from 33 species of fungi were recorded compared to only 32 individuals from 11 species of fungi found in group B (anthills absent). There were significantly more fungi where anthills were present compared to where they were absent. In total, 200 individual fruit bodies were recorded from 37 different species. Some of the most common species found include the Yellow Fieldcap (Bolbitius titubans), and the Glutinous Waxcap (Hygrocybe glutinipes).

In terms of CHEGD fungi, where anthills were present, 66 individuals from 11 CHEGD species were recorded, however only one individual CHEGD fungus was recorded where anthills were absent. Moreover, in the sections where anthills were present, the mycological diversity was three times greater than where anthills were absent.

Waxcaps (Hygrocybe) were one of the groups most recorded during this survey, with 49 individuals of six species present in the anthill abundant area, including the Snowy Waxcap (Cuphophyllus virgineus), and the Parrot Waxcap (Hygrocybe psittacinus).

This suggests that the presence of anthills has directly influenced fungal populations at this site.Anthill structures have many properties which promote fungal growth and diversity. In brief, these include heat insulation, soil aeration, humidity retention, and a dome-shape creating different conditions throughout the day as the aspect to the sun shifts.

Anthills are characteristic of grazed grassland; short vegetation is preferable for better access to the sun’s energy. The farming practises at Turnastone Court Farm therefore help to provide an ideal environment for yellow-meadow ants, with regular sheep grazing in the anthill-abundant pastures and no insecticide usage. As made apparent in this study, the presence of anthills help to ensure a wide range, and greater quantity of fungi which similarly benefit from shorter, more diverse swards.