Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Education and Awareness Necessary to Protect Biodiversity in India

This article from Mr. Mohd. Haider, who is by education M.Sc in Biotechnology and holds a bachelor degree in education. He is interested in pursuing a career in environment, conservation and teaching. We invite similar articles from other interested readers. The article by Mr. Haider is reproduced below, along with his contact e-mail at the end:

Mohd. Haider
India is one of the very important regions in the world as for as biodiversity on planet Earth is concerned. There are 18 “biodiversity hotspots” in Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas. Forest found in these regions are highly dense and there exists incredible biodiversity. Overall, India is estimated to have over 45,000 plant species and 80,000 animal species representing 7% of world’s flora and 6.5 % of fauna.

Biodiversity refers to the variation of life forms including species diversity and species richness on the entire planet. The term biological diversity was used first by wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond F. Dasmann in the 1968. Biodiversity is not evenly distributed; rather it varies greatly across the globe as well as within regions. The diversity depends upon temperature, altitude, soil, geographical location etc., it also depends upon the ecosystem.

Biodiversity in the tropics is of special interest since the richness of species found there is so great. According to some estimates, 90 percent of all plant, animal, and insect species exist in tropical regions. At the same time, surveys of organisms in the tropics have been very limited. As an example, one study of a 108-square kilometer (42-square mile) reserve of dry forest in Costa Rica found about 700 plant species, 400 vertebrate species, and 13,000 species of insects. Included among the latter group were 3,140 species of moth and butterflies alone.

One reason for the growing interest in biodiversity is the threat that human activities may pose for plant and animal species. As humans take over more land for agriculture, cities, highways, and other uses, natural habitats are seriously disrupted. Whole populations may be destroyed, upsetting the balance of nature that exists in an area. The loss of a single plant, for example, may result in the loss of animals that depend on that plant for food. The loss of those animals may, in turn, result in the loss of predators that prey on those animals.

A recent discovered method put the total number of species on Earth at 8.7 million of which 2.1 million were estimated to live in the ocean. Brazil’s forest is considered one such hot spot, containing roughly 20,000 plant species, 1,350 vertebrates, and millions of insects, about half of which occur nowhere else. The island of Madagascar particularly the unique Madagascar dry deciduous forests and lowland rain forests, possess a high ratio of endemism. Since the island separated from mainland Africa 65 million years ago, many species and ecosystems have evolved independently. 

Indonesia's 17,000 islands cover 735,355 square miles (1,904,560 km2) contain 10% of the world's flowering plants, 12% of mammals and 17% of  reptiles, amphibians and birds—along with nearly 240 million people. Many regions of high biodiversity and/or endemism arise from specialized habitats which require unusual adaptations, for example alpine environments in high mountains.

Terrestrial biodiversity is up to 25 times greater than ocean biodiversity; biodiversity supports ecosystem services including air quality, climate, water purification, pollination and prevention of soil erosion. Biodiversity supports many ecosystem services that are often not readily visible Biodiversity enriches leisure activities such as hiking, bird watching etc. Popular activities such as gardening, fish keeping and specimen collecting strongly depend on biodiversity. 

The number of species involved in such pursuits is in the tens of thousands. During the last century, decreases in biodiversity have been increasingly observed. According to some estimates up to 30% of all species will be extinct by 2050. Of these, about one eighth of known plant species are threatened with extinction. Estimates reach as high as 140,000 species per year (based on Species-area theory). These figures are a cause of concern and indicate prevalence of unsustainable ecological practices.

In 2006 many species were formally classified as rare or endangered or threatened; moreover, scientists have estimated that millions more species are at risks which have not been formally recognized. About 40 percent of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria are now listed as threatened with extinction—a total of 16,119. As human populations grow, the threat to biodiversity will continue to grow with it. And as more people place greater stress on the natural environment, greater will be the loss of resources plant and animal communities need to survive.

Biodiversity has special importance in India because the traditional communities have been closely associated with the conservation of our fauna and flora. We need to educate and make our communities aware of the scientific importance of biodiversity and encourage communities to conserve biodiversity. It is heartening India has strong conservation laws and regulations. But their implementation is lacking. Education and awareness at every level right from the grassroots to the policy making is essential to achieve the objective of sustainable development!

 1.    Raup, D. M. (1994). "The role of extinction in evolution”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 91 (15) 6758–6763.
2.     The Cambrian Period". University of California Museum of Paleontology. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
3.     Sahney, S. and Benton, M.J. (2008). "Recovery from the most profound mass extinction of all time"

4.   Bambach, R.K.; Knoll, A.H.; Wang, S.C. (December 2004)."Origination, extinction, and mass  depletions of marine diversity".

5.      Dasmann, R. F. 1968. A Different Kind of Country. MacMillan Company, New York.

6.      "Robert E. Jenkins". 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2011-09-24.

7.     Ramanujan, Krishna (2 December 2010). "Study: Loss of species is bad for your health".

8.     Water and Development: An Evaluation of World Bank Support, 1997-2007. Vol.I., p.79.


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