Study on faunal communities to boost ecosystem' s health
Kolkata: A team of researchers from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), for the first time ever, has come up with a manual of the faunal diversity under the soil classifying each and every group of the species' diversity.
About 21,869 species of soil fauna belonging to 30 major groups have been found, which is more than 20 percent of the 1 lakh animal fauna in India.
"Previously, there was no authentic information on soil fauna in the country. The manual that Zoological Survey of India has brought out deals with collection, preservation and identification of the soil fauna. The faunal communities of the soil are the essential part of entire ecosystems for the maintenance and management of entire baseline ecosystems of the world," said ZSI director Kailash Chandra.
Elaborating on the importance of the study, Chandra said soil biodiversity is considered as the root of sustainable agriculture and if soil health deteriorates and the animals living under the soil do not provide nutrient then fertility of the soil is hampered.
Among the 30 faunal groups in 10 bio-geographical zones in the country , six groups belong to microfauna, seven groups to mesofauna, 15 groups of macrofauna and one group of megafuna.
The soil fauna includes cilate, nematoda, tardigrada, protura, acari, gastropoda, coleopteran, hymenoptera, araneae, burrowing mammals to name a few. Animals such as beetle larvae, flies and butterflies use the soil as temporary habitat to reproduce or to spend their early life stages feeding on different live and dead materials until they reach their maturity.
A senior Zoological Survey of India scientist involved in the study said that the wide variety of faunal communities has specific roles for the management of the entire ecosystem.
"Presence of fungi faunal groups is essential for the ecosystem functions like decomposition, nutrient organisation and recycling, soil mixing as well as aggregate formation, while the presence of soil fauna of predatory nature controls the faunal dynamics of the other faunal groups and regulate the ecosystem chain for the successful completion of ecological processes," he added. Apart from Chandra, Anjum N. Rizvi, Shelley Acharya and C. Raghunathan are involved in the study.
Most of the soil fauna are soft bodied animals that are vulnerable to dehydration. Moreover presence of an excessive amount of moisture due to heavy rainfall create devastating impact on the on several faunal groups.
Development, growth, fecundity and sex ratio of the several species of fauna are temperature dependent and any significant temperature deviation leads to abrupt changes in community structures of the species. So ZSI researchers feel that the time is ripe to document these ecologically important faunal communities with greater involvement.
The manual aims to disseminate knowledge on soil fauna for benefit of researchers, students, academicians, soil biologists and taxonomists who are pursuing studies on the fauna thriving beneath the soil.