Goa State Bio-Diversity Board has appealed people to conserve and protect precious wild edible mushrooms ‘Roen Alami’.
According to a statement, from July to September Goa will witness the plunder and sale of ‘Roen Alami’, cultivated for 120 million years strictly by fungus growing and mound or ‘Roen’ building termites, the seasonal and overexploited wild edible mushrooms, which are being plucked from pristine areas and sold on the roadside and these will appear in major markets at premium price.
The wild species play a very important role as a powerful degrading fungus in forest and grassland ecosystems converting 50 per cent dead plant material on ground into rich fertile soil. Without this fungus the termite hills can’t degrade dead forest biomass which they bring inside the mounds to grow this species. Besides these mushrooms destroy virus carrying vectors hiding in dead organic matter in forest and keep away diseases affecting humans.
Like several crops and fruits that are grown, these species cannot be artificially cultivated and produced on mass scale by humans for their consumption. These species have no independent existence anywhere in the world and termites need their seeds for their own use. They grow only in association with termites. If there are no termites, no mushrooms and vice versa.
”If people keep on exploiting the RoenAlami – the food of the termites –which help in degradation of forest litter and cultivating the mushrooms in their habitat- the termite hills, we will lose out on both the mushrooms as well as the complex biodegradation based ecosystem services provided by the termites,” the statement said.
Out of the 90 species found in the World, Western Ghats has 35-40species of Termitomyces Mushrooms cultivated by termites like Macrotermes, Odontotermes, Microtermes, about 15 of which are endemic, 12 were brought earlier in market for sale. But overexploitation over the past 30 years have reduced the local species seen in the market to 5-7 only. Over 50 per cent aboveground dead plant material on forest floor and in grasslands; millions of tons per year is converted by the powerful enzymes of these species inside the fungus gardens of the termite hill. People who purchase the mushrooms need to understand that each hectare of forest in the Western Ghats has about 810 termite hills. In mixed forests, termites invade between 21 and 79 percent of trees. Termites turn over large amounts of soil by plastering on trees and the ground. The plant material taken inside the termite hill ends up in the “fungal comb”. Each comb weighs 28-31 kg. The Termitomyces fungus in each comb decomposes 167 to 341 kg of organic matter annually. Besides, the mutuality system creates quarantine by removing virus carrying vectors like ticks on the forest floor. These are brought alongwith dead litter inside the termite hill and composted.
”Members of public and local BMCs need to prevent destruction of termite mounds and plundering of these species. GSBB fears that overexploitation of these ecologically important mushrooms may also result in eruption or release of quarantined new forest diseases viz. KFDV. We are already battling with viruses, the latest being the Covid-19,” the Board said.
”Till the Government declares a total ban on the collection and consumption of these precious mushrooms from wild habitat in future, GSBB appeals to the educated consumers not to encourage exploitation of such wild mushrooms by purchasing them and instead patronize the much cheaper, more nutritious and cleaner button and oyster mushrooms available in abundance in local markets. An online workshop on cultivation of Oyster mushrooms is planned by GSBB, which can be availed by people involved in this trade to earn income through eco-friendly means,” the statement said.