Express press service
GUWAHATI: Diversity of wildlife and preparation of health records will be prerequisites for Meghalaya’s Living Root Bridges to obtain the UNESCO World Heritage Site tag.
Dr. Dhriti Banerjee, who is the director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), has emphasized both aspects to meet UNESCO criteria IX and X as the state government proposes the label of the World Heritage Site for Living Root Bridges, locally called Jingkieng Jri.
Living Root Bridges are like a suspension bridge formed with living plant roots by tree shaping. They highlight the symbiotic relationship between man and nature.
Recently, the government of Meghalaya organized a national convention and a preparatory field visit by ZSI scientists to assess community and science-based conservation, research and development of Living Root Bridges.
Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had applied for UNESCO nomination for living root bridges which support many birds, animals, lichens, fungi, flowers, trees etc. and allow humans to cross for a living .
Professor K Vijay Raghavan, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, said living bridges deserve the UNESCO label because of the rich micro and macro world associated with them.
ZSI scientists visited some of the Living Root Bridges sites in East Khasi Hills for the faunal diversity assessment. They documented 83 faunas (six mammals, five aquatic, 72 terrestrial) from the 11 Living Root Bridges. Six species of mammals were reported for the first time from two bridges.
“A fruit bat, Macroglossus sobrinus K Anderson, was found with seeds in the spit and appeared to be a potential seed disperser, requiring further investigation. The diversity of entomofauna includes eight orders (two aquatic , six land) within 200 meters of assessed live bridges,” ZSI said in a statement.
Ades albopictus, a vector of viral diseases, has been identified and stone holes in streams in Living Root Bridge have been found to contain mosquito larvae. Among the pollinators, a bumblebee, Bombus Haemorrhoidalis Smith, and five Aphis bees were observed in the vicinity of the Ficus tree. The sap-sucking insects included two Ficus feeding on Living Root Bridge tree whiteflies and a Phyrochoridae.
“One Living Root Bridge site, Nohwet, was observed with a higher diversity of butterflies, dragonflies and aquatic insects than other Living Root Bridges. No Isoptera (termite) infestation was observed in any of the root bridges. Cobwebs were visible on the tree trunks,” the ZSI statement said.
“The expedition to Living Root Bridges helped explore the diversity of fauna to provide data supporting the recognition of these bridges as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by strengthening the nomination with biodiversity inputs and ecosystem services of these biological bridges,” he added.