What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity means the “diversity of biological organisms in a particular habitat”. In simple words, it refers to a particular area or habitat where a variety of living organisms (or different species of plants and animals) lives.
The UN Earth Summit has defined biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources, of ecosystems like terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.
What is Biodiversity Hotspot?
Mr. Norman Myers coined the term “biodiversity hotspot” in 1988.
Biodiversity hotspots can be understood as a place where various types of species live together in a limited area. The variation can be among the species as well as genetic and they may or may not compete with each other for their survival and evolution.
The biodiversity hotspots are the earth’s biologically richest area and it is threatened by human habitation.
A region or area can be called as a biodiversity hotspot only if it meets the following two criteria;
1. It must contain at least 1,500 or 0.5% or species of vascular plants as endemics. Endemism refers to those types of species which are native to a single defined geographic location.
2. If it has lost at least 75% of its primary vegetation.
As of now, 36 areas have been identified as biodiversity hotspots in the world. India has four biodiversity hotspots out of those 36 hotspots.
Biodiversity hotspots in India:
The four (04) regions which have been identified as the Biodiversity hotspots in India are;
1. The Himalayas
2. Western Ghat
3. The Indo Burma region
4. The Sundaland
(Note: The last two are overlapping with some other region of the continent)
1. The Himalayas:
It is one of the best diversity hotspots in the world. It spreads in the entire Himalayas, which is situated in India, Pakistan, China, Myanmar, Nepal & Bhutan
The total area under this biodiversity hotspot is 7.4 lakh square kilometers.
The Himalayas biodiversity hotspot is a home for 3 thousand endemic plants and 163 endangered and some other species like elephant, hog, deer, panther, black bear, sloth bear, red panda and Himalayas Musk deer, etc.
However, some problems are being faced by Himalaya, that’s the exploration of the medicinal plants as well as unsustainable Tourism, expansion of human settlement and creating infrastructure like tunnels mining and dams as well as the global warming in this region lead to the extinction of species.
2. Western Ghat:
The western ghat spreads from Gujarat to Kerala and has great diversity between species as well as genetics diversities.
It covers an area of 1.8 lakh square kilometers.
The western ghat forests are also very diverse as it contains from evergreen forests to dry deciduous and moist deciduous forests.
Some of the flora are sal and teak and fauna are like wild boar, barasingha blackbuck, leopard, cheetah, Malabar civet and Lion-tailed macaque.
3. The Indo Burma region:
It is in the north-eastern part of India and it’s area is spread in 2300000 square kilometers (approx.). Some of the endemic species which live in this region are saltwater turtles, brown antlered deer and capped langur, etc.
Some other animals like tigers, rhinos, elephants, clouded leopards, dolphins and golden cats also live here.
Approximately 1300 plant species are found in this biodiversity hotspot.
4. The Sundaland:
This hotspot lies in the Nicobar Islands (in India) and other countries of Southeast Asia. The Sundaland biodiversity hotspot is also part of the world biosphere reserve designated by the UN. It is the land of rich species.
South-East Asia, where the Sundaland extends includes Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia.
The Nicobar islands have a rich terrestrial as well as marine ecosystem including mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs.
Species such as dolphins, whales, turtles, crocodiles, fishes, prawns, lobsters, and seashells comprise marine biodiversity.
Some important facts and concepts from UPSC and other competitive exams point of view
- India has 2.4% land of the world
- 7.5 % of world plant and animal species
- 11% of world flora
- seventh in the world in numbers of mammals
- Ninth in the numbers of bird
- Fifth in the numbers of reptiles
Reasons for the rich Biodiversity present in India are:
- Availability of suitable climate and it’s regional variations
- Soil quality and its various types
- Present of rivers, lakes and huge coastal areas
- Location of the country in between tropical zone
- Abundant temperature and sun light’s
- Various types of forests
The threats to our biodiversity are:
1. Habitat destruction due to construction and linear projects
2. Unsustainable exploitation of natural resources
3. The hunting and poaching for smuggling
4. Agriculture extension through deforestation
5. Increasing pollution
6. Forest fire
7. Introduction of invasive species
8. Increasing man-animal conflict
9. Technology intervention like genetic engineering and e-waste
10. Use for ancient medicine
Threats due to natural causes
4. Species rivalry
7. Climate change lead to migration
Conservation methods to save Biodiversity:
1. Ex-situ method: The species are conserved outside of their natural habitat. For this purpose, an artificial ecosystem such as a zoological park or botanical garden is created for the breeding and maintenance of endangered species.
2. In-situ method: In this type of conservation system, the species are conserved in their natural habitat itself. For this purpose, a certain area is declared a protected place for those species such as National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Biosphere reserves.
Importance of biodiversity:
1. It provides important ecosystem services like
- soil formation
- Toxic recycling
- Maintenance of ecosystem
- Protection of water resource
2. It provides biological services like
- Providing foods
3. It provides Social services like
- Cultural conservation
Some of the steps taken to save the biodiversity are:
Steps taken at the national level:
1. Wildlife Protection Act 1972: for the purpose of protection and conservation of the environment and its constitution.
2. Environmental Protection Act 1986: focus on prevention control and abatement of environmental pollution.
3. National Forest Policy: It aims to increase the forest area and tree cover through the involvement of the local community. It also focuses on the conservation of biological diversity and genetic resources.
4. Biological diversity Act 2002: which focuses on the principle of UN convention on biological diversity 1992 which provide a right to state to use their resources in a sustainable manner.
5. Coastal regulation zone: In such zone construction is not allowed in the 500m from the high tide line and low tide line
6. Wetland conservation and management rule 2010: focus that the harmful action of Industrial construction and waste dumping is prohibited in the region.
7. National green tribunal (NGT) provides natural justice and provides speed effective disposal of cases related to environmental protection.
8. Wildlife Crime Control Board, which focuses to prevent hunting and poaching of the animals also advises Govt on issues relevant to wildlife crime.
9. Animal Welfare Board: It is a statutory body which provide for the welfare of animals, Shrimati Rukmani Devi is the founder. It focuses on the prevention of cruelty on animals.
Major steps taken at the International level:
1. Convention on biological diversity which is a legally binding convention and covers all ecosystem species and genetic resources.
2. Aichi target: It focuses on conservation, sustainable use, and sharing of the benefits in a fair and equitable manner.
It has set 20 target focus to reduce biodiversity losses, improve the status of biodiversity, and safeguarding through participatory planning and capacity building.
3. Ramsar convention on wetlands, which is an intergovernmental treaty that focuses on national action and international cooperation to conserve wetland. It is the Only global environment Treaty that deals with the wetland and not affiliated with the United Nations system. World wetlands day is celebrated on 2 February.
5. Convention on international trade in endangered species (cites) of wild fauna and flora is an international agreement which ensures that international trade of plant and animal does not put any threats on the survival of that plant and species. It is administered through the United Nations environment program.
6. Convention on the conservation of migratory species also known as bonn convention to conserve Terrestrial aquatic and Avian migratory species throughout their range.
7. IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature which encourages and assists the world to conserve the diversity of nature focus on scientific research and Management. It prepares a book known as the red book which provided an extensive range of details of species and their status.
8. Stockholm Convention focus to control persistent organic pollutants which is an organic chemical substance.
9. Basel convention focus on controlling the transport boundary movement of hazardous waste and their disposal. It’s objective is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse impact of hazardous waste.
This article is written by;
Mr. Pankaj Kumar Gupta
(Email ID: [email protected])