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close this bookBiodiversity in the Western Ghats: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1994, 224 p.)
close this folder1. Front matter
View the document1.1 About this information kit
View the document1.2 Workshop participants
View the document1.3 Introduction to biodiversity
View the document1.4 User survey
View the document1.5 Biodiversity: A synthesis
close this folder2. Threats
View the document2.1 Biodiversity of the Western Ghats
View the document2.2 Threats to biodiversity
View the document2.3 Urbanization and biodiversity
View the document2.4 Population and biodiversity in the Western Ghats
View the document2.5 Pollution in Goa's rivers and estuaries
View the document2.6 Atmospheric pollution and biodiversity
View the document2.7 Managing solid waste
View the document2.8 Traffic in wildlife products
View the document2.9 Effect of tobacco growing on biodiversity
View the document2.10 For those vanishing species
close this folder3. Marine
View the document3.1 Biodiversity of the Arabian Sea
View the document3.2 Seaweeds
View the document3.3 O verexploitation of of marine living resources
View the document3.4 Small-sector coastal fisheries along the Kerala coast
View the document3.5 Coral reefs
View the document3.6 Crabs
View the document3.7 Estuarine shellfish
View the document3.8 Fish
View the document3.9 Coastal ecosystems
View the document3.10 Coastal sand dune vegetation
View the document3.11 Fish breeding and habitat
close this folder4. Fresh- and brackishwater
View the document4.1 Estuarine ecosystems
View the document4.2 Mangroves
View the document4.3 Mangrove communities
View the document4.4 Wetlands
View the document4.5 Freshwater wetlands: Carambolim Lake
View the document4.6 Freshwater algae
close this folder5. Agriculture
View the document5.1 Rice diversity and conservation in the Konkan
View the document5.2 Conservation of traditional vegetables in the backyard
View the document5.3 Genetic diversity in mango and cashew
View the document5.4 Floriculture and arboriculture
View the document5.5 Enriched biodiversity by plant introductions
View the document5.6 Impact of introduced plants
View the document5.7 Effects of pesticides on biodiversity
View the document5.8 Khazan (saline) lands
close this folder6. Plants, fungi and bacteria
View the document6.1 Plant associations of the central Western Ghats
View the document6.2 Rare and endangered flowering plants
View the document6.3 Medicinal resources from the forest and sea
View the document6.4 Poisonous plants
View the document6.5 Fungi: Biodiversity, ecology and use
View the document6.6 Conserving fungi
View the document6.7 Edible mushrooms
View the document6.8 Microbial biodiversity of salt pans
close this folder7. Invertebrates
View the document7.1 Butterflies
View the document7.2 Honeybees to conserve biodiversity
View the document7.3 Mulberry silkworms
View the document7.4 Spiders
View the document7.5 Conserving natural enemies of mosquitoes
View the document7.6 Vermicomposting
close this folder8. Reptiles, birds and mammals
View the document8.1 Snakes
View the document8.2 Crocodiles
View the document8.3 Birds
View the document8.4 Mammals
View the document8.5 Animal diversity in prehistoric rock-art
close this folder9. Appreciating and conserving biodiversity
View the document9.1 Biodiversity and the media
View the document9.2 Role of non-government organizations in conservation
View the document9.3 Watershed management
View the document9.4 Energy conservation and alternatives
View the document9.5 Nature trails
View the document9.6 Sacred groves
View the document9.7 Rehabilitation of iron ore mine wasteland in Goa
View the document9.8 Reforestation to restore mining areas
View the document9.9 Mining: Social and environmental impacts
View the document9.10 Resource utilization in Uttar Kannada district
View the document9.11 Biodiversity of Dudhsagar valley
close this folder10. Reference
View the document10.1 National parks and sanctuaries in the Western Ghats
View the document10.2 Glossary
View the document10.3 NGOs in the Western Ghats states

6.6 Conserving fungi

There is a strong bias in most people's thinking about biological. conservation. We worry about the future of giant pandas in China, orang-utans in Indonesia, tigers of India and the mountain gorillas in Africa. Humans seem to have an emotional investment in these and other large animals. We also worry about trees and flowering plants. Large sums of money are raised and spent to save such species.

But when it comes to fungi, what do we find? Here is a whole kingdom made up of hundreds and thousands of species!


· Carry out most global recycling.
· Are vital to crop production through mycorrhizal relationships with plant roots.
· Give us penicillin, griseofulvin, cyclosporine, anticancer taxol and other medicines.
· Enrich our diet with their tasty fruit bodies.
· Enable us to make bread, wine and some of the best cheeses.

In situ conservation

Like other organisms, fun&i can be conserved both in situ (in their natural environment) and ex situ (outside this environment). Ex situ conservation of fungi normally means in test tubes in the laboratory.

Nowhere in the world is there a single plot of ground dedicated solely to the preservation of fungal biodiversity. A suitable site for such a reserve could be in the moist forests of the Western Ghats in southern India, where the fungi enjoy a long fruiting season, display exuberant biodiversity, and play a vital role in the dynamics of the ecosystem. The decomposers on fallen trees and on all kinds of plant litter; their penetrative and digestive talents; the mutualistic abilities of symbionts (e.g., the mycorrhizae and lichens); the tree-killers; parasites; leaf-spots and the cannibals! Many more hitherto unknown fungi await recognition from the Western Ghat "hotspots". Preservation of these forests should be our priority task.

Fungal hotspots

"Hotspots" of fungal diversity along the Western
Ghats include the following forests:


· Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Molem
· Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao


· Kaiga forests, North Kanara
· Sharvati river valley, Genusoppa
· Kodachadri hills, Shimoga
· Bababudangiri, Chikmagalur


· Nilgiri hills range
· Mundandurai Wildlife Sanctuary, Kalakadu

Fungal hotspots

Culture collections

Fungi are small, simple organisms, so they can be conserved in the laboratory relatively easily. They must be kept in a nutrient medium of agar (a jelly-like substance made from seaweed) and other ingredients. The best combination of ingredients for the medium depends on the type of fungi to be maintained.

The fungi are first grown in glass petri dishes containing nutrients. They are then transferred to test tubes containing nutrients and are stored at low temperature. The cultures can be maintained for hundreds of years.

International organizations help conserve fungal cultures. Most of the cultures isolated from Western Ghats fungi have been deposited at the International Mycological Institute in the United Kingdom. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, maintains the national culture collection.

The world's chief collections of fungal cultures are in Washington, D.C. (United States of America), Baam (the Netherlands) and Kew (United Kingdom).

Fungi in biotechnology

Fungi are used extensively in biotechnological processes. For example, breweries all over the world use yeasts with biotechnoloigcally engineered genes. The flavour of the beer has a lot to do with the strain of yeast.

Fungal culture collections contain many novel genomes, so will have much use in biotechnology for' medicine, food, -agriculture and industry.


To grow yeast, you will need

· 1 packet starter yeast
· 1 tablespoon sugar
· 200 ml warm water

Dissolve the sugar in water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave the jar in a warm room. As the yeast begins to use the sugar, the jar will fill with foam. Foam is formed as the yeast changes the sugar into CO2. Baker's yeast is the earliest known biotechnological use of fungi.

What is bread?

Bread dough is mixed with a little sugar and yeast. Each yeast cell feeds on the sugar, swells up and splits into two new cells. Each new cell in turn feeds, swells and splits, forming millions of new yeast cells. These cells form and form carbon dioxide bubbles inside the dough, making the dough rise. When the bread is baked, the bubbles are filled with air. Without yeast to change the sugar into CO2, the dough won't rise. Yeast adds flavour, too.

Fungi in biotechnology

Prepared by Dr. D. J. Bhat