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United States Department of Agriculture  Forest Service   Pacific Northwest Research Station  Forestry Sciences Laboratory 3200 S.W. Jefferson Way Corvallis, Oregon 97331

File Code: 4000
Date: November 14, 2000


Dr. Susan Lieberman
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Chief, Division of Scientific Authority
4401 N. Fairfax Dr. Rm. 750
Arlington, VA. 22203

Dear Dr. Lieberman,

This letter is my contribution for your review process concerning potential listing of matsutake mushrooms under CITES.

The several species of Tricholoma harvested around the Northern Hemisphere as "matsutake" are, (with a few exceptions) common, widespread and locally abundant. Harvesting the mushrooms, per se, is unlikely to diminish subsequent fruiting because the fungus itself is a long-lived colony in the soil that obtains its carbohydrate nutrition through a symbiotic association with the roots of certain species of trees. Harvesting matsutake is like harvesting apples, the organism itself remains largely unaffected.

No evidence yet exists that harvesting matsutake significantly reduces spore dispersal or impairs long-term reproduction, although no firm evidence exists to the contrary either. Molecular tools of genetic analysis are just beginning to be applied to the population dynamics of forest fungi. A great deal more will be known about their reproduction and population structures within a decade. It appears unlikely, meanwhile, that matsutake populations will significantly decline during this time frame.

The most important factor influencing matsutake abundance and distribution is forest habitat. Deforestation or reforestation with trees that do not form symbiotic associations with matsutake will preclude the reproduction and persistence of matsutake colonies in the soil. For instance, matsutake have declined dramatically in Japan because their host pine trees were decimated with an exotic insect infestation, not because the mushrooms were over-harvested. Indeed, prior to the loss of Japanís pine forests, matsutake had been harvested there for centuries, possibly millennia.

Threats to forest health such as climate change, thinning ozone, introduced pathogens, and air pollution all indirectly pose potential long-term threats to matsutake abundance and reproduction. None of these factors, however, directly relate to the influence of international mushroom commerce on the species viability of matsutake.

I have suggested in the literature that long-term, albeit low intensity, monitoring projects should be started for matsutake and other edible forest mushrooms. Without such monitoring activity, potential declines in mushroom productivity might not be verified until changes are unmistakably large. This advice does not reflect immediate perceived threats, but rather long-term prudence in the face of scientific uncertainty.

I hope that this letter will usefully compliment the literature that I have already sent your committee and if I can be of further assistance in you deliberations, please let me know.


/s/ David Pilz

David Pilz

Botanist (Productivity and Sustainable Harvest of Edible Forest Fungi)

Mycology Team

31686 Federal Register

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