Scientists start work on India’s first Red List of Fungi
At a time when nature is reported to be declining globally at unprecedented rates, a Dehradun-based scientist has started work on preparing the first Red-List of Macro-Fungi (generally called mushrooms) of India. The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund has funded a project “Preparing Red-List of Macro-Fungi of India” to be undertaken by NSK Harsh, retired senior scientist of Forest Research Institute. Harsh is also a member of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission – Mushrooms, Brackets and Puffballs Species Specialist Group 2013-2016; 2017-2020. This is going to be the first Red-List of fungi from the country.
Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, meeting held recently in Paris.
India is one of the geographically and strategically important countries of Asia continent which has four biodiversity hotspots: the Himalaya – Western and Eastern Himalaya form part of global biodiversity hotspot; The Western Ghats – part of Western Ghats-Sri Lanka global biodiversity hotspot; North East India – part of Indo-Burma biodiversity global hotspot, and Nicobar Islands – part of Sundaland global biodiversity hotspot. India contributes largely to the biodiversity of the continent in animals, plants, fungi and other life forms. The IUCN has issued guidelines for preparing Red List of organisms which is an alert for the governments to value and protect taxa after knowing about their threat status. There is more talk on threats to animals and plants with importance accorded to their conservation. However, only one macrofungus and two lichenised fungi were included in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species of 17,291 animal, plant and fungal species globally red listed (IUCN 2010). Thirty three species of fungi have been included in Final Red List assessment published on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2017-2 while it listed 12,723 species of animals and 11,674 species of plants as threatened.
Though fungi constitute the second largest kingdom of life, they hardly found a mention in most conservation strategies possibly because only a few fungi are considered for Red List status. The fungi are also facing the threats to their existence due to loss of habitat and hosts, over exploitation, climate change, developmental activities, pollution and other factors. While more efforts are made for conservation of animals and plants, fungal conservation is seldom deliberated and targeted by the conservationists. The Global Fungal Red List Initiative is an effort to facilitate and coordinate concerted efforts by the global mycological community about fungal conservation needs. Some countries like Bulgaria and 36 countries of Europe (European Council of Fungal Conservation) have prepared their Red List of Fungi. It is imperative for the experts in India to develop a Red List of Fungi for the country so that the government and policy makers may become aware of their conservation needs. Knowing the RET (Rare, Endangered and Threatened) status of the fungi will help in taking up conservation measures including their habitats, said Harsh.
He adds, “Fungi also need conservation efforts by the countries as they are the important organisms in the ecosystem and play crucial role in nutrient recycling. The growth of large urban areas, construction activities such as dams, buildings and roads, encroachment on vast areas of forest lands for extension of arable expanses and mining operations are examples of direct onslaughts on nature which have steadily depleted biodiversity. Fungal diversity cannot remain unaffected due to anthropogenic activities.Human activities are undoubtedly driving some fungi into extinction. We don’t know which or how many are being lost, and it is absurd for anyone to suggest that we are losing two species each week or twenty each day. Out of about 27,500 fungal species reported from India, 25 per cent are macrofungi. However, no Red List of Fungi of India has been prepared so far. Preparing a Red List of Fungi in India using IUCN guidelines is a necessity to impress upon the policy makers and conservationists. The initiative will attract, educate, engage, and facilitate activities by both professional and amateur mycologists in fungal conservation in India. Apart from playing a vital role in ecology, some macrofungi (mushrooms) are edible while others have medicinal properties.”
Scientists in various parts of India are also involved in this project. Additionally, works of other researchers working on macrofungi of the country is also being accessed and taken into consideration.
Monday, 13 May 2019 | PNS | Dehradun
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