Hunting for Indicator Mushrooms in Suriname’s Rainforest

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In Suriname’s rainforest interior, ACT’s joint project with the University of Utrecht encompasses inventories of a wide variety of species, including mushrooms—or “koropi” as they are known in the local Tareno language.

Pamela Felter collecting mushrooms in the field. Click to enlarge

By studying the types and abundance of mushrooms in a given area, we can better understand forest health. Mushrooms continually break down dead wood and other matter on the forest floor, allowing the nutrients contained therein to become available to trees and other living organisms. A high diversity of mushrooms is associated with high biodiversity—including plants, insects, bird and mammals that can benefit from high nutrient turnover.

Click to enlarge

Pamela Felter, a student at the University’s Institute for Natural Resources and Engineering, works with members of the Indigenous Park Guard (IPG) program, shamans Wuta Wajimnu and Kurotai Puumona from ACT’s Shamans and Apprentices Program, and Guno Marjanom of the National Herbarium of Suriname (BBS) to collect and identify species. Wuta and Kurotai help with the Trio names of the mushrooms and share information about their uses, while Gunovaino helps with the collection and the scientific identification of the specimens.

It’s a long trek from their camp in the village of Kwamalasamutu to the collection site. The team must travel 30 minutes by boat and an hour by foot to reach the survey location. For several hours, they search the rainforest for different specimens that they put into Pamela’s collection basket. The mushrooms have many different shapes, sizes and colors. Many are named after local animals—including the bat ear mushroom, tapir ear mushroom, and opossum ear mushroom.

The processes and protocols introduced through this partnership will be used in these forests long after the university students and outside experts depart, according to ACT Suriname Director Minu Parahoe.

Presentation of macrofungi research in the village. Click to enlarge

“This collaboration allows ACT’s IPGs to learn scientific collection methods so they can contribute in a better way in interdisciplinary teams,” she said. It also allows the IPGs to apply international standards to their research. In this way, the numbers they collect about biodiversity can become baseline data for a variety of different studies.

The inventory applies the prescribed procedure of Suriname’s national forest management agency (SBB). The project team also includes students of Suriname’s Natuurtechnisch Instituut (NATIN), as well as experts from the Centre for Agriculture Research in Suriname (CELOS) and the National Herbarium Suriname (BBS).

Dutch version can be read on the ACT-Suriname website.

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