Land snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda) suffer from the largest number of documented extinctions by respect with taxa. Little information is available on these threatened invertebrates inhibiting the molluscan conservation and ecology. A recent study from researchers Sandeep Sen , Dr. Ravikanth, and Dr. Aravind at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) delves into this current problem and reviews the status, ecology and conservation strategies of land snails with particular interest to the hotspot Western Ghats of India (Sen et al. 2012).
Mollusca provide an important component in ecosystems. These include a nutrient recycling system in forests, a source of calcium in deficient habitats, and a prey source for other invertebrates, small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Land snails are also very sensitive to climate change making them indicators of certain ecological conditions. The hotspot Western Ghats of India harbors a dense population of 270 species of land snails. India seems absent in the world wide renewed interest in land snail research. Land snails have very limited range distributions with some endangered species’ ranges less than 5km2 and over half of terrestrial molluscs’ ranges less than 100km2. Sen and colleagues at ATREE reported that around 75% of land snails of the Western Ghats are limited to less than three concentrated locations within the geographic region. These restricted ranges and poor dispersal abilities reveal the vulnerability of these species. With little to no studies on the ecology and population status of the Indian land snails these ATREE researchers take on the appropriate study measures on land snail systematics in order to implement informed conservation measures.
The ATREE researchers compiled a list of threats to native snail fauna. This included habitat loss and fragmentation through anthropogenic endeavors as well as climate change. Construction, pollution, pesticide and herbicide use all contribute to the threatening factors. With these species at risk due to human activities, it is in our duty to pursue the correct conservation efforts protecting them. An extreme limited amount of conservation status assessment on mollusk species has been performed. As a particularly non-charismatic species, land snails garner little public support. Endeavors most overcome this poor image obstacle and identify land snails as an important venue of biological conservation. Species specific conservation plans have been executed by many organizations through out the world. India’s lack of information base has stalled their development of an effective conservation strategy. Sen and colleagues suggest a captive breeding program, “snailariums” as an instrument of conservation and public awareness if adopted by zoos or parks. They provide a strategy of research and note the lack of funding focusing on areas of ecology (taxonomy), and biology. In order for India to protect these threatened species their status must be assessed.
Public awareness and attention must be attained in India and directed towards an initiative to save these important species. Hopefully continued efforts like that of ATREE will help identify the situation and facilitate the appropriate measures need to be taken such snail species concentrated areas. India must follow the global trend towards mollusc conservation before its too late.
Sen, Sandeep, G. Ravikanth, and N. A. Aravind. “Land Snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda) of India: Status, Threats and Conservation Strategies.” Journal of Threatened Taxa 4.11 (2012): 3029-037