Chapter 16. Biodiversity and Conservation

• Biodiversity is made up of two words, bio & diversity. Bio means life and diversity means variety. Thus, biodiversity can be defined as different varieties of species and organisms found in a particular region. There are different levels of biodiversity.
• India is characterised as a megadiverse country that accounts for 2.4% of total world’s land area, harbouring a rich diversity of geographical flora and fauna.
• country’s diverse physical features and climatic conditions have resulted in a variety of ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, grasslands, deserts . that harbour and sustain a high level of biodiversity. Important ones are Genetic Diversity, Species Diversity, and Ecosystem Diversity.

Level of Biodiversity
• Biodiversity is usually understood at three levels.

Species Diversity
• It refers to variety of different species [plants, animals, fungi & micro-organisms] example-palm trees, tigers & bacteria.

Genetic Diversity
• It refers to variation of genes within species. It occurs within species and between species.

Ecosystem/community Diversity
• It refers to all different habitats or places that exists, like tropical or temperate forests, hot & cold deserts, wetlands, rivers, mountains, coral reefs . It shows interaction between biotic components such as plants and animals and abiotic components which include air, water, minerals & nutrients.

Loss of Biodiversity
• increase in population of human beings in recent years has increased overall consumption of natural resources. Deforestation and overexploitation are increased to meet demands of growing population.
• About 50% of species in world resides only in tropical forests. Destruction of these can cause huge disasters. Species get disturbed by natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, drought. Flora and fauna get affected due to these calamities.
• Extensive use of chemical pesticides in farms and residues thrown away by industries into rivers harm different species found in that particular region. Pollutants like hydrocarbons and toxic chemicals destroy weak and sensitive species.
• introduction of exotic species, which are species that don’t live naturally in a place but are brought there to live, can sometimes hurt ecosystem. There are times when a species can’t live in a different place. Poachers kill animals like elephants, tigers, crocodiles, minks, and birds without mercy for their tusks, horns, and other parts. Many species are now in danger because of this.

Classification of Species
• There are three categories classified by IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources] regarding critical levels of species safety for their conservation.

Endangered Species
• Those species are included in this category which are in danger of extinction. IUCN publishes a list of endangered species which goes by name of Red List of threatened species.

Vulnerable Species
• Species that can be extinct soon if measures are not taken to stop their extinction comes under this category. But these species can become extinct because their survival rate is not satisfactory.

Rare Species
• These species are found in very small numbers on planet. They are found in small areas and are very rare. Such an example of this type of species is a highly rare endemic tree named, Humboldtian Decurrens Bedd found in Southern Western Ghats of India.

Biodiversity and Conservation
• Biodiversity conservation is nothing but saving diversity of various species and organisms which are important for nature.
• Institutions should be developed to educate people about biodiversity and its importance. There is a need to educate people about their environment and diversity in them. They have to adopt environmentfriendly practices for sustainable development. They should not harm flora and fauna around them by overexploiting them.
• Endangered species should be protected by taking necessary measures by proper planning and management. Different species of livestock, animals, food crops, plants, timber trees, forage plants, and their wild relatives should be preserved before they go extinct. Plants are considered producers in nature and play an important role in ecosystem. It’s basic element of ecosystem.
• Most of hotspots depend on their diversity of ecosystems. Habitats of species where they live, rest, feed, breed, lay eggs, & nurse their young ones should be protected. Illegal hunting and exploitation of plants and animals by humans for own benefit should be stopped. More Sanctuaries and Biospheres Reserves should be introduced in different places to safeguard species.

Two Types of Biodiversity Conservation
• Loss of Biodiversity can be prevented by two methods:

In-Situ Conservation
• In-Situ conservation is on-site conservation of plants and animals within their natural habitats or in protected areas.
• In this process, natural surrounding or ecosystem is protected and maintained so all constituent species are conserved and benefit. This is a cheap and convenient way of conserving biological diversity.

Ex-Situ Conservation
• This is technique of biodiversity conservation in which an endangered species, breed variety, plant or animal are conserved outside their natural habitats. These include botanical gardens, zoos, gene banks, and tissue cultures. Ex-Situ conservation provides excellent research opportunities on components of biological diversity.
• stress on living organisms due to competition for food, water, space . can be mitigated by ex-situ conservation, providing necessary conditions for breeding and secure life.

Importance of Biodiversity and its Conservation
• Biological diversity plays an important role in our environment. It promotes development of human culture. It balances nature at species, ecological and genetic levels.
Ecological Role: Every organism is related to other organisms somehow. They are interconnected to each other and help themselves for better sustainable development. Some species use sunlight and make food for others; some of them depend on other organisms for food.
• Species help in maintaining balance of nature’s cycles like circulating water and nutrients in ecosystem. more diverse ecosystem better is opportunity for their survival.
Economic Role of Biodiversity: Biodiversity is important in human life. It provides resources for them. Crop diversity is important for survival of human beings. Biodiversity provides a reservoir of resources by which humans get their food, pharmaceutical, and other products. This results in deterioration of biodiversity because of its extensive use. Humans exploit biodiversity resources for our benefit.
Scientific Role of Biodiversity: Biodiversity is important as it provides us with information about evolution of various things in nature, how it is produced, and their origin. It helps in analysing way a species functions. This is not right to play part in extinction of other species. They have as much right as humans to live on planet.

• International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is an international organization working for conservation of nature and sustainable use of natural resources. It was created in 1948 and it has evolved into world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. This is involved in data gathering, analysis, research, field projects, advocacy & education. It provides knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to develop together.
• organization provides and maintains Red List of Threatened Species, which assesses conservation status of various species worldwide Red Data Book of IUCN was first issued in 1966.

Steps Taken Towards Biodiversity Conservation
• In 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an earth summit was held to sign Convention of Biodiversity in which Government of India, with others, participated.
• World conservation strategy has suggested many steps for conservation of biodiversity.
• Regarding conservation of forests, plants, & animals, Government of India passed Wild Life Protection Act, 1972. Under this act, various sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, and national parks have been made.
• Biodiversity is rich in certain areas like tropical regions. They are called Mega Diversity Centres. In these vulnerable areas, hotspots are identified by IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources] to conserve them.

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