This summer’s dry season for mushrooms linked to climate change

Mushroom-picking is one of the Czech people’s most-beloved pastimes. But mushrooms are disappearing from Czechia – due to climate change-induced drought and deforestation.

Photo: Martin Němec

It can’t have escaped anyone who has ventured into the forests recently to gather mushrooms that this year’s season is off to a slow start. In many parts of the country, Czechs are still waiting for their mushrooms to appear.

Speaking to Czech Radio in a recent interview, mycologist Tereza Tejklová said that the recent hot weather and lack of rain is to blame.

“If we look out the window, we can see for ourselves how the sun is beating down. We have yet another day where it’s meant to be 36 or 37 degrees, and no rain forecast. So I’m not surprised the mushrooms aren’t growing.”

The Czech Republic has been suffering from drought for years, with extreme drought befalling 20 percent of the country, according to the Intersucho drought mapping project. Scientists have observed significantly below average levels of soil moisture, river flow, and groundwater supply.

Tereza Tejklová | Photo: Honza Ptáček,  Czech Radio

“There is a lack of precipitation – at the moment, currently, we are really lacking precipitation,”

says Ms Tejklová.

According to data from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, it rained only half of the normal amount in the third week of June. The hot and dry weather leads to the heat not being able to dissipate into the upper atmosphere, and a lack of clouds means there is nothing to block the sunshine and prevent further moisture loss.

Photo: Barbora Kvapilová,  Czech Radio

Tereza Tejklová says that not only the heat and lack of precipitation, but also disappearing forests are a factor.

“Certainly deforestation has a part to play, especially the loss of plants and trees that form symbiotic relationships with fungi.”

These symbiotic relationships are incredibly important both for mushrooms and for the health of forests themselves.

However, the news is not all doom and gloom. Heat and lack of rain may be bad for certain species of mushrooms, but not all of them, says Ms Tejklová.

"Mushrooms grow even in southern Europe – they might be different species, ones that are rare here are much more abundant there. And the reverse is also true, mushrooms that grow here and prefer the cold do not grow much there. But that mushrooms would disappear across the board? That will definitely not happen."

Photo: Georg_Wietschorke,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

And since the main mushroom season in autumn is still to come, there is still hope even for this year, assures Ms Tejklová.

“I would still wait – some rain is meant to come. People mostly go mushroom-picking in September or October anyway and we have at least a month until then. So let’s hope that it will get better.”

News of the poor mushroom season comes amid firefighters efforts’ to put out a large-scale forest fire in Czechia’s famous Bohemian Switzerland national park, with experts having warned for months that the country's drought problems could lead to such events.