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Promoting Fungi Awareness: “Funga” for “Flora and Fauna

Context:

Recently, United Nations Biodiversity advocates the use of the term “funga” instead of “flora and fauna” to emphasize the significance of fungi in ecosystems.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Recognizing Fungi: UN Biodiversity’s Call for “Funga”
  2. Fungi: Nature’s Decomposers and More

Recognizing Fungi: UN Biodiversity’s Call for “Funga”

UN Biodiversity advocates for the inclusion of fungi in conservation frameworks, placing them on par with animals and plants.

Prior Efforts
  • This isn’t the first time such a request has been made; earlier, the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) committed to using “mycologically inclusive” language in both internal and public communications.
  • The SSC also integrated fungi into conservation strategies involving rare and endangered flora and fauna.
  • Crucial Ecological Role
  • Fungi, including yeasts, molds, and mushrooms, are essential for various ecological processes:
    • Decomposition and forest regeneration.
    • Mammalian digestion.
    • Carbon sequestration.
    • Global nutrient cycling.
    • Antibiotic medications.
  • These contributions underscore the vital role fungi play in maintaining life on Earth.

Fungi: Nature’s Decomposers and More

  • Eukaryotic Nature: Fungi possess complex, membrane-bound cell organelles and a true nucleus, similar to plants, animals, and protists.
  • Heterotrophic Lifestyle: Primarily functioning as decomposers or saprophytes, fungi acquire nutrients by absorbing organic matter from their surroundings.
  • Enzyme Secretion: Fungi release enzymes to break down complex organic compounds into simpler substances, facilitating absorption.
Benefits of Fungi
  • Nutrient Cycling: Fungi aid in nutrient cycling by converting nutrients into forms accessible to plants. They break down organic matter, enriching soil fertility.
  • Carbon Cycling and Climate Regulation: Fungi participate in soil carbon storage, decomposing organic matter and forming symbiotic relationships with plant roots. This aids in nutrient uptake.
  • Fungi as Food: Fungi have numerous culinary and industrial uses. Yeasts are crucial in baking and brewing, and they produce antibiotics like penicillin. Edible fungi like mushrooms and truffles are prized in cuisine, while molds are used in cheese production.
  • Environmental Protection: Fungi help degrade various pollutants, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, and oil-based products. They contribute to environmental cleanup.
Harmful Effects of Fungi
  • Human and Animal Diseases: Fungi can cause diseases in humans and animals, including athlete’s foot, ringworm, histoplasmosis, and aspergillosis. Some fungi produce harmful mycotoxins that contaminate food.
  • Crop and Plant Diseases: Fungal pathogens can infect and harm crops and plants, leading to significant agricultural losses. Examples include rusts, powdery mildews, and various fungal blights.
  • Allergic Reactions: Fungal spores, especially in humid indoor environments, can trigger allergies and respiratory issues, leading to conditions like allergic rhinitis and bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
  • Biodegradation of Materials: Fungi have the capacity to break down materials such as textiles, leather, and paper, which can be problematic if these materials are not properly preserved or stored.

April 2024
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