Table of Contents
Journal of Mycology
Volume 2017, Article ID 2809239, 9 pages
https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/2809239
Research Article

Species Richness and Traditional Knowledge of Macrofungi (Mushrooms) in the Awing Forest Reserve and Communities, Northwest Region, Cameroon

1Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Bamenda, P.O. Box 39, Bambili, Northwest Region, Cameroon
2Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social and Management Sciences, University of Buea, P.O. Box 63, Southwest Region, Cameroon
3Department of Botany and Plant Physiology, Faculty of Science, University of Buea, P.O. Box 63, Southwest Region, Cameroon

Correspondence should be addressed to Tonjock Rosemary Kinge; moc.oohay@su23yramesor

Received 11 January 2017; Revised 26 April 2017; Accepted 15 May 2017; Published 6 June 2017

Academic Editor: Leo Van Griensven

Copyright © 2017 Tonjock Rosemary Kinge et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Macrofungi are diverse in their uses as food and medicine and several species serve as decomposers and also form mycorrhizal associations. Awing forest reserve is diverse in plants and fungi species. However, no work has been carried out to assess the diversity and traditional knowledge of macrofungi in the area. Diversity surveys were carried out in three altitudes using transects of  m for six months in 2015. Ethnomycology studies were carried out in fifteen communities using focus group discussion, pictorial presentation, and questionnaires. The data was analyzed using descriptive statistics in Microsoft Excel 2010. Seventy-five species belonging to thirty families were identified by morphology. Thirty-six species were found only in the low altitude, 16 in the mid altitude, and 16 species in high altitude. One species was common to low and mid altitude and also low and high altitude; five species were common to mid and high altitude while there was no species common to all three altitudes. The indigenes of the Awing communities commonly called mushroom “Poh” and use it mainly as food and medicine and in mythological beliefs. The most utilized species as food and medicine included Termitomyces titanicus, Laetiporus sulphureus, and Ganoderma sp.

1. Introduction

Fungi are the most diverse organisms on earth and are defined as a eukaryotic, heterotrophic which is devoid of chlorophyll and obtains its nutrients by absorption and reproduces by means of spores [1]. Large fungi are those that form large fructifications visible without the aid of the microscope and include Basidiomycota and Ascomycota with large observable spore bearing structures [2, 3]. Ecologically, macrofungi can be classified into three groups: the saprophytes, the parasites, and the symbiotic (mycorrhizal) species. Most terrestrial fungi are saprobes or mycorrhizal symbionts, but some are pathogens of plants or fungi. Macrofungi fruiting on woody substrate are usually either saprobes or plant pathogens [4, 5]. Fungi of various taxonomic groups producing conspicuous sporocarps are collectively known as macrofungi which include “gilled fungi,” “jelly fungi,” “coral fungi,” “stink fungi,” “bracket fungi,” “puffballs,” “truffles,” and “birds nest” [6]. Macrofungal diversity is an important component of the global diversity, particularly community diversity, which is an essential part of fungal diversity [7]. Mushrooms are widespread in nature and they still remain the earliest form of fungi known to mankind [8].

Only about 6.7% of the 1.5 million species of fungi estimated in the world have been described and these are mostly in temperate regions. The tropical region which has the highest fungal diversity has not been fully exploited [9]. Cameroon has a rich biodiversity but it remains poorly unexplored. Termitomyces spp. are widely distributed across the country and form an important source of income for the rural people of Baligham and Ndop plains of the Northwest Region of Cameroon as well as Mbouda in the Western part of the country [10]. Checklist of macrofungi of Mount Cameroon consisted of 177 species as reported by [11].

Wild edible mushrooms are one of the most important natural resources on which the people of many nationalities rely and play a key role in nutrition [12]. Ethnomycology investigates the indigenous knowledge of mushroom utilization and consumption patterns such as in nutrition, medicine, and other uses [13]. It also investigates the ectomycorrhizal association and ecological benefits of macrofungi (mushrooms) to the forest. In Cameroon, mushrooms are known and consumed in many households, in the country sides and in forest areas [13]. During the onset of the rainy season when mushrooms are abundant most people in the rural areas collect them from the forest for consumption and sale [10]. The current rate of bush burning, deforestation, and overexploitation of both timber and nontimber products are threatening mushroom diversity in Cameroon. The use of fungi for food and medicine goes back a long way in human history, but research and documentation of such knowledge are relatively new in Cameroon even though one hundred and seventy-seven species of mushroom were identified in the Mount Cameroon Region [11]. Based on literature available to us macrofungi diversity in the Awing forest reserve has not been studied and there is no documentation on their ethnomycological knowledge. It is therefore crucial to document the diversity and ethnomycology of macrofungi in the Awing forest reserve and communities. Hence the objective of this study was to investigate the mushroom species richness in the Awing forest reserve with the aim of producing a checklist of macrofungi for the area and also to document the traditional knowledge of mushrooms in the communities surrounding the Awing forest reserve.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Area

Awing is found in the Northwest Region of Cameroon in West-Central Africa. It is located between latitude 05°51.527′N and longitude 010°12.122′E, with an altitude of 2126 m. Awing has a surface area of about 100 km2. The climate is tropical with dry and rainy seasons. It has a humidity of 98% and it is a grass-field area with fertile volcanic soils. The map of the sampled area in the Awing forest reserves for diversity studies is found in Figure 1 while the map of the sampled area in the Awing communities used for ethnomycological studies is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Awing forest reserves showing the area for diversity studies.
Figure 2: Map of Awing showing communities used for ethnomycological studies.

The latitude, longitude, and elevation for the three plots used for diversity studies are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Location of sample sites used for diversity studies of macrofungi in the Awing forest reserve.
2.2. Collection and Identification of Macrofungi

The sampling sites were chosen based on the accessibility of the area and presence of macrofungi [6]. The field protocol was according to [14], in which repeated sampling of all macrofungi species present in the sites was done for six months from February to July 2015. Sampling of the macrofungi was carried out using transects of 50 × 20 m in three different plots consisting of high altitude, mid altitude, and low altitude. Photographs of the macrofungi species were taken in situ and macromorphological characters recorded [6, 14]. The collection of all macrofungi species was done with care to avoid damage of the sporocarp and they were wrapped in tissue and placed in separate collection bags to avoid spore contamination among the different species of macrofungi. The drying of the macrofungi samples was done using a portable plant drier at 25–45°C for 2-3 days depending on the texture of the fruiting body. Identification, taxonomic keys, and descriptions were consulted according to [15]. The samples representing TK1-TK75 have been stored in the Department of Biological Sciences Laboratory, Faculty of Science, The University of Bamenda, Cameroon.

2.3. Ethnomycology Documentation

Those involved in the ethnomycology studies included the aged males and females, traditional practitioners (alternative medicine), and elites of the community. Their consent was gotten before the initiation of discussion and administering of questionnaires. A focus group discussion was carried out and interviews were made accompanied by great participation of the indigenes of the communities. One hundred questionnaires were administered in each of the fifteen villages, followed by a question and answer session where both the informant and researcher asked and answered questions. The questions included informant’s data (which included the name, occupation, migratory history, land tenure, and family size), list of all mushrooms the informant knew, for example, the traditional name, description, time of occurrence, habitat, and its relationship with plants and animals. Informants gave their knowledge of macrofungi and their uses. It was also asked whether the inhabitants attached myths to mushrooms and the informant’s relationship with the forest. A pictorial presentation was also done where the communities identified the mushroom giving their vernacular names and uses. About 250 mushroom pictures obtained from a biodiversity survey from the Awing forest reserve area were presented to the communities members.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Species Richness

A total of 75 species of mushrooms in 30 families belonging to 7 Ascomycota and 68 Basidiomycota were identified during the entire period as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Checklist of macrofungi in the Awing forest reserve.

The species richness tends to decrease with increase of altitude with the highest one at the lowermost altitude and the lowest one at the highest altitude. Thirty-six species were collected only from the low altitude, 16 species from the mid altitude, and 16 species from the high altitude. No species was common to all the three altitudes, 1 species was common to both high and low altitudes, and 5 species were common to both the high and mid altitudes, while 1 species was common to both the mid and low altitudes (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Species richness across altitude in the Awing forest reserve.
3.2. Ethnomycology

From the focus group discussion and information obtained from the questionnaire and pictorial presentation, it was realized that many people in the Awing communities were familiar with mushroom and its uses as food and medicine and for mythological purposes. The local population commonly calls mushroom “Poh” but specifically “Pohnu” for edible mushroom and “Pohperseh” for poisonous mushrooms. The edible mushroom is usually substituted for animal protein and it is called meat for the poor. No cases of mushroom poisoning were recorded among the people. Some people in the Lake Awing Area did not consume mushroom (mycophobic) but those actively involved in consumption and utilization claimed that it was inherited from their forefathers. The aspect of inheritance is in line with the findings of [16] that studied the sociocultural and ethnomythological uses of edible and medicinal mushrooms found in the Igala land in Nigeria and [13] that studied the ethnomycology of edible and medicinal mushroom in the Mount Cameroon Region. Some informants from the communities said that they also consume mushroom because of its nutritive value, as a protein source because they regard it as substitute for meat, some consume mushroom because it is tasteful and for its medicinal value. The communities could distinguish between edible and poisonous mushrooms. The people of the Awing communities claimed that when insects or animals (rabbit, grass cutters, and tortoise) feed on mushrooms they know that they are edible. The people also said that if the mushroom is rubbed on sensitive parts of the body such as the inner part of the elbow and the navel and it itches, then it is poisonous. Moreover, they said brightly coloured mushrooms are mostly poisonous while dull coloured mushrooms are edible. Species commonly used as food and medicine in the Awing communities included Termitomyces titanicus, Laetiporus sulphureus, and Auricularia auricula. This is contrary to the findings of [17] that noted the consumption of mostly Termitomyces sp., Cantharellus sp., Volvariella sp., Lentinus squarrosulus, and Lactarius spp. in the South of Cameroon. Reference [13] recorded that species used for ethnomedicine among the Bakweris communities in Mount Cameroon Region belonged to several genera, including Termitomyces, Auricularia, Agaricus, Daldinia, Dictyophora, Pleurotus, Russula, Trametes, Chlorophyllum, and Ganoderma. Species used for ethnomycology among the Awing people belong to several genera including Termitomyces, Laetiporus, and Agaricus while species such as Termitomyces titanicus and Termitomyces microcarpus were found to possess mythological uses (Table 3).

Table 3: Ethnomycological uses of mushrooms in the Awing communities.

This study revealed that mushroom gathering is an important economic activity whose sustenance was threatened by the erosion of the biodiversity. It was found that mushroom harvesting is gender related, being generally regarded as work for women and children; this corroborates the findings of [18] among the Igbo people of Nigeria and [13] in the Mount Cameroon Region. Pictures of some mushrooms identified by the communities of Awing are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Some mushrooms in the Awing forest reserve: (a) Auricularia auricular, (b) Laetiporus sulphureus, (c) Ganoderma sp., (d) Auricularia delicata, (e) Cordyceps robertsii, (f) Oudemansiella canarii, (g) Gyrodon merulioides, (h) Ramaria sp., (i) Xylaria ianthinovelutina, (j) Pleurotus ostreatus, (k) Stereum ostrea, (l) Trametes sp., and (m) Geastrum triplex.

4. Conclusion

The list of macrofungi in this study provides the baseline information needed for the assessment of changes in mushroom biological diversity in the Lake Awing Area. It is an important first step towards producing a checklist of macrofungi in the Lake Awing Area. For the first time in the records of Cameroon, Cordyceps robertsii, the medicinal caterpillar fungus, was identified as a new record for Cameroon. The indigenes of the Awing communities lack ethnomycology knowledge compared to other communities studied in Cameroon. There is increasing interest in the mapping of macrofungi in many areas to obtain the distribution records similar to those already existing for flowering plants. However, unlike plants the identification of macrofungi relies on the collection of fruiting bodies, which in turn is largely dependent on the availability of moisture in most cases. The importance of mushrooms is not only in the ecosystem dynamics but also in human nutrition and health and hence increases the need for the conservation of this nontimber forest product resource. Conservation can be achieved through cultivation, creation, and protection of forest reserve areas and preservation of mushroom habitat. It is therefore necessary to include macrofungi biodiversity conservation in forest management policies in Cameroon.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.

Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science of the University of Bamenda, for providing laboratory space and microscopes and the local communities for active participation in the ethnomycological investigation. The management of the Awing forest reserve is appreciated for allowing the authors to use the reserve for the diversity surveys. Dr. Njouonkou Andre Ledoux is appreciated for aiding in identification of some species.

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