Preliminary global and European Red List assessment;
VU (A2c+3c+4c), with an estimated decline of >30% during evaluation period of 50 years.
>30% decline in habitat quality and quantity (pine forest area) due to pine forest diseases, altered land-use/deforestation and intensive forestry, and eutrophication by heavy N-depositions. Furthermore, the T. matsutake populations of Japan and other heavy sampling areas may also have declined due to sampling techniques, by removing litter and soil to collect young specimens/ buttons. Evaluation period 50 years (= 3 generations according to the recommendation of Dahlberg & Mueller, 2011). In Fennoscandia, an ongoing population decline inferred from habitat change (forest statistics) is estimated to be approx 30%. In Japan, Korea and China, where the species is much harvested for marked sale, the population decline seems to be more severe, especially due to the pine wilt nematode desease.
The phylogeny of the Tricholoma matsutake group has been extensively studied. The pine forests populations of Europe and Asia apparently belong to one uniform taxon, T. matsutake (=T. nauseosum) (except some European populations in strictly calcareous forests which should be named T. ilkkai (ined.)). In North America two clearly distinct taxa occur; the american matsutake/white matsutake T. magnivelare in western regions, and “the eastern T. magnivelare” (mainly under Pinus ponderosa) which phylogenetically appears to be close or conspecific with the Eurasian T. matsutake. However, this is morphologically deviating (paler basidiocarps), and its genetic affinity to Eurasian matsutakes should be further studied.
Tricholoma matsutake is belonging to the Tricholoma caligatum complex, with at least 9-10 species wordwide. Tricholoma matsutake is one of the worlds most famous and expensive edible mushrooms, and is especially appreciated in Japan. The species forms mycorrhiza mainly with Pinus spp. In Europe, the species is associated with dry, often lichen-dominated sandy (or shallow-soil) Pinus sylvestris forests, and in east Asia with related types of dry Pinus forests. The pine forests that houses T. matsutake, have had a considerable decline during the last decades, due to (i) pine forests diseases in east Asia, (ii) deforestation e.g. In SW China, (iii) eutrophication/heavy N-deposition and loss of areas in large parts of Europe, and (iii) reduced habitat qualities of remaining forests due to intensive forestry with clear-cuts (e.g. N Europe).
Tricholoma matsutake is redlisted in most countries where it occurs in Europe.
The species has a wide distribution in N/C Europa and Asia. Formerly, it seems that Japan, Korea and China housed the major populations, but due to severe decline in suitable habitats in these regions, the populations in the northern boreal zone of Northern Fennoscandia and Russia might at present be of the same magnitude. A paler variant of the species occurs in E North America. This is genetically very close or conspecific with the Eurasian taxon (whereas the western North American populations of the american matsutake/white matsutake clearly belongs to another species, Tricholoma magnivelaris). Canada and USA are with some doubt included in the country list (the taxononomic position of the “pale matsutake” from E North America should be further clarified.)
The species is currently known from ca. 350-400 localities in Fennoscandia (73 loc. in Norway, approx. 150 in Sweden; probably about the same also in Finland. The real number may be 10x higher and are estimated to approx.. 3500-4000 localities/sites in Fennoscandia, possibly approx. 5000 if Russia is included. The species is apparently rare but widespread in different parts of Russia, known at present from approx. 20 localities. Tricholoma matsutake also occurs, but are very rare in C Europe (in Bavaria, e.g. the species is regarded as threatened, and not found after 1990; no certain finds from Switzerland, one locality from Austria, some more from the Czech Republic, but exact status is uncertain due to misidentifications with related taxa such as spruce associate T. dulciolens and the southern T. caligatum. If the populations of E Asia is regarded as of the same magnitude as the European, one can estimate the total Eurasian populations to be approx. 10.000 localities (approx. 200.000 individuals). The somewhat deviating E North American populations probably represent a 10-20% addition to these numbers.
The pine forests that houses T. matsutake, has had a considerable decline during the last decades, due to (i) pine forest diseases in east Asia, (ii) deforestation e.g. in SW China, (iii) eutrophication/heavy N-deposition and loss of areas in large parts of Europe, and (iii) reduced habitat qualities of remaining forests due to intensive forestry with clear-cuts (e.g. N Europe). The pine forest habitats of the pale variant of T. matsutake in E North America seems more stable (non-declining), due to the often remote location and low timber-value of the jack pine forests.
The species is is estimated to decrease with more than 30% in 3 generations (50y) word-wide, irrespectible of the inclusion of the North American populations or not.
This is the only species with market distribution statistics in Japan, indicating a >95% decline in fruitbody-production and probably also in the entire populations since 1940: 6000-12,000 t/yr during 1910-1940s, reduced to 51 t in 2007, 71 t in 2008, 24 t in 2009, 140 t/yr in 2010 and 37 t/yr in 2011. This decline is mainly due to the introduced pathogen, pine wilt nematodes, and change of management practises, which formerly kept the pine forest stands more open and with a thin litter layer. Reduction is most serious in western areas of Japan, where once were famous product centers for this fungus.
Population Trend: Deteriorating
Tricholoma matsutake forms mycorrhiza with Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Europe, and with other Pinus species in E Asia, such as Japanese red pine Pinus densifolia (which are now strongly suffering from the pine wilt nematode disease), in E Asia the species has a wider host range; also ocurring with with Tsuga in Japan and with Maries fir in Sakhalin.
In the core areas of N Europe, the species is mainly associated with dry, often lichen-dominated sandy pine forests on glacifluvial deposits, often along the larger rivers, including esker-ridges (deposits made by subglacial rivers). In southern Fennoscandia, however, the species also occur in rocky, shallow soil, oligotrophic pine forests. The species seems to be favoured by some disturbance, such as reindeer grazing or forest fires, and the highest fruitbody production is found where there is little ground vegetation and only a thin litter-layer. The pine root/matsutake mycorrhizae develope dense mycelium aggregations called shiros deep into the sandy soils, and these very probably survives forest fires of “normal” intensity. The species preferentially occur in old-growth forests, especially in northern Fennoscandia, and when it occurs in younger, more forestry influenced forest stands, these are normally stands where single seed-producing/retention trees have been left after cutting. So the species probably here has survived on the roots of old, single trees, just as in the case of forest fire successions. This apparent dependence on forest/tree/root continuity, makes the species vulnerable for modern forestry with clear-cuts. In East Asia, it is not an old growth forest specialist, and optimal fruiting is found in approx. 50 years old, fairly open and often SW-faced pine forest stands. It usually found in nutrient poor forests with little litter accumulation and litle understory vegetation.
The pale matsutakes found in E North America grow preferentially in dry, litter/lichen dominated jack pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests on sandy-gravelly gracial soils (including esker-ridges), a habitat very similar to that of T. matsutake in Europe.
Tricholoma matsutake is threatened by clearcutting of old-growth pine forests, nitrogen fertilization of forests, and measures to prevent forest fires. Threats in Japan is an introduced pathogen for Pinus spp. (pine wilt nematode), and altered forest management practices. The pine wilt nematode also affects the species habitats in other regions of E Asia.
Furthermore, the T. matsutake populations of Japan and other intensively harvested areas may also have declided due to sampling techniques, by removing litter and mineralic soil by raking, for the collecting of perfect young specimens/buttons. A study on the american matsutake (T. magnivelaris) has shown that this kind of raking had a long-term negative effect on the fungus populations. It should be noted, however, that careful sampling of fruitbodies without disturbing the soil/litter surface, does not affect the productivity and population vitality, according to this study on american matsutake as well as on other kind of edible mushrooms.
To prevent decline and fragmentation of the sandy pine forests with natural dynamics it is important to set aside (Scots) pine forest reserves, preferentially larger, continuous areas, in regions where the species have good populations. In these forests, at least the larger ones of N Europe, natural or prescribed burning should be considered to maintain desired forest dynamics. It is furthermore important to maintain other kinds of disturbance factors, such as (moderate) reindeer grazing. Fertilization of the forests should be avoided. In Japan, control of Pine wilt disease, and site control with e.g. thinning and removal of excess litter on the forest floor may be conservation actions for this fungus.
Especially due to confusion with other, closely related species, more mapping/surveying is needed, especially in new potential areas such as northern boreal sandy pine forests in Russia. Its supposed slow population dynamics, with probably very old genets, and its apparent re-vitalization by forests fires (and grazing) should also be studied/documented further.
A more detailed phylogeographic-taxonomic study of the E North American populations versus the Eurasian populations of T. matsutake is needed.
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