Conserving biodiversity

Introduction to Biodiversity

Have you ever wondered while observing the decline of many species in and around you? This means that diversity of species  are at the brim of extinction and is a sign of concern. Biodiversity adds a lot of weightage to the process of evolution. Diversity refers to the inhabitation of a wide variety of organisms in a specified geographic location. Accumulation of thousands of plants and animal species within a limited space is generally a  sign of conservation  of diversity. If there is no biodiversity, evolution might have been at its promordial phase, as a result, earth could hardly house a few species.  A systematic biodiversity assures growth, survival, and development of all life forms. "Biodiversity is the assimilation of a total number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms in a given specific geographic location". Biodiversity plays a significant role in nurturing human populations by fulfilling our needs as we depend on other organisms for sustained growth, food,   medicines, shelter, and entertainment. It is no surprise that degradation and exploitation of the ecosystem can seriously impact our lives, therefore it is important to protect the diversity of species.

 

Measuring Biodiversity

Biodiversity can be measured at three levels, species level, ecosystem-level, and genetic levels. Species-level measures the percentage of different living organisms present in a specified habitat. Species includes all the living species including plants and animals.  In other words, it is the accumulation of different animal, plant and microbial species in a specified geographic area. For instance, if a forest has 10,000 species in total, 5000 might be plants, 3000 might be carnivores, 1000 could be insects and the rest of them might belong to unknown species. At the  Ecosystem -level, we take into account the variety of different types of habitats/ecosystems. For instance, if we seriously examine 200 square kilometres, we might find a number of small, medium and large ecosystems. Some of them could be the tropical rainforests, rain forests, deserts, and others could include hilly terrains, swamps, tundra, etc. Genetic diversity is the accumulation of a bvariety  of genetic characteristics in the given set of species.  Genetic variations could be varity of traits such as tall, short, stout, dark, active, and many more. Such variation could enable the populations to adapt to changing climates because it is a common rule that greater the variation, better is the survival rate of species under dynamic environmental conditions.  The table below shows an example of the degree of diversity of species. 

 

The number of described species on Earth(Source: UNEP/Global Environment Outlook.)

Species

Number 

Bacteria

4,000

Protoctists (algae, protozoa)

80,000

Animals – vertebrates

52,000

Animals – invertebrates

1,272,000

Fungi

72,000

Plants

270,000

Total described species

1,750,000

Possible total of all species (including unknown species)

14,000,000

 

Reasons for conserving  biodiversity

Diversity is a phenomenon requiring a  long-term effort by all the species living in an area. It is the aggregate of factors that influenced a system over a period of time, as a result, a healthy evolution and growth is attained. The factors affecting the diversity include the degree of mutation, variety of genes in a species, types of ecosystems in which organisms live( such as different deserts, rainforests, different geographic locations) etc. Biodiversity boosts the ecosystem`s productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play.it is a significant phenomenon as it offers us a variety of things to live. It can establish a balance in our lives through achieving healthy environment, innovative products, and services. It is one of the factors that lead us  the rich heritage and prosperity in various perspectives of life. Some of the reasons why we need to conserve the biodiversity are as follows;

 

1. Biological reasons

The products that we use in our daily life such as food, drugs, vaccines, snacks and a variety of consumer goods are produced by the diversity of plants, animals and some microbes. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that every individual is important whether they are beneficial to us directly or not. More than 25 % of the drugs are manufactured from medicinal plants, for instance, aspirin is derived from willows, and opiate is obtained from poppies . If these plants are over-exploited, there is no way that we can survive.

2. Economic reasons

World`s economy is intimately bound with the diversity of ecosystem services. However, damage to diversity in any form is nothing but our economy is at stake. For instance, insect pollinators help to boost the economy by producing many commercially important products like almonds, honey,  melons, and blueberries. The habitat damage caused by human beings could endanger these species resulting in complete extinction. 

3. Social and Spiritual reasons

Biodiversity influences our cultural and social development in many ways. The ancient antiques, sculpture, carvings, folk instruments, musical instruments, and folk art thay we see in our museums is the gift of biodiversity . However, in many ways, human exploitation is the reason behind the loss of these.

 

Causes biodiversity loss 

Drastic decline in the biodiversity is a great cause of concern for many reasons. As our ecosystem is a web of systematic relationships interconnected between species, if the biodiversity is destroyed , it can mount immense pressure on our lives . Healthier the plants- healthier the animals, greater the number of plants- greater the primary consumers and so on. But the greedy human interaction with his surroundings is hardly benefiting th eorgnanisms , therfore, it is important to keep a check on the way we interact with the system. Some of the ways in which our diversity is being repressed are:

1. A drastic change in the climate, pollution and the entry of invasive species that destroy the habitats of other species can result in a complete extinction of many species.

2. People indulging in the destruction of forest for agriculture, industrialization, and  rapid urbanization can irreversibly damage the biodiversity across the world. 

3. Sudden and unexpected death of inferior species due to over-exploitation by other species can substantially disturb the system  by shaking the balance of an ecosystem. Imagine that herbivores like deer and its related population in a habitat went into a complete extinction in a span of 3 months because of the over-exploitation by the tigers, what happens to the balance of the ecosystem? Obviously, tigers and other carnivores prey on the deer suffers from hunger. If this phenomenon continues for a period of time, tiger population might die.

4. There should always be a balance between the rate of birth and deaths of different species. If the death rate surpasses the birth rate, the ultimate effect is the extinction of species. Therefore, the imbalance between the birth and deaths of different population can interfere with the health of the ecosystem. 

5. Exploitation of the environment by human beings is the greatest factor that influence on the balance of an ecosystem. A survey has found that about 784 species have completely gone into extinction in the past 5 decades. Some of the examples of extinct species are dinosaurs, Abingdon Island Tortoise, Red-tailed Black Shark, Thylacine (Australia), Steller’s Sea Cow of Russia and Hawaiian Crow. It is also estimated that about 12 % of all the bird species, 23% of all mammal species, 32 % of amphibians and 31% of all gymnosperm species are under high risk of extinction in the world.

 

Effects of loss of biodiversity

Uncontrolled loss of biodiversity can lead to drastic changes in the global environment. Some of the ways in which the world is facing the threat are global warming, declined food production, exhaustive chemical usage to raise the production from crops, pollution, pressure on the existing species, unhealthy surroundings, loss of most valuable animals, plants and birds. The number of species and its rate of reduction is closely linked with a change in biodiversity hence, it is important to maintain the diversity of ecosystems against every odd. Greater the diversity healthier the climate and stronger is the generation and so on. Diversity helps to sustain the loss and damage caused by human acts such as pollution, and industrialization. Some of the ways in which the loss of biodiversity can affect us are;

  1. Serious downfall of world`s economy is impacted by the mass extinction of commercial species.

  2. World can suffer from reduced Food Security

  3.  Biodiversity and health are intricately bound factors, threat on the diversity increases contact with many diseases.

  4.  More Unpredictable Weather as a result of global warming 

  5. Loss of the most valuable natural assets such as forests is irreversible. 

 

Conservation of  biodiversity

We are aware of the fact that evolution and diversity of species is possible only if there are appropriate strategies for conservation of resources coupled with sustainable development measures. Conservation of species refers to safeguarding every individual organism but not just the most useful ones. For example, killing snakes becasue they are poisonous can seriously increase the rat population which can destroy our health, therefore, more rigorous implementation of saving the endangered species is essential. To conserve the heritage of the earth`s species, governments are actively funding many projects but in practice, we are failing. 

 

Methods of conservation of biodiversity

1. In-situ biodiversity conservation

It is the process of conserving all the living species, especially the wild and endangered species in their natural habitats and environment. In-situ conservation of Biodiversity includes biosphere reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries. In India, there are 14 biosphere reserves, 90 national parks, and 448 wildlife sanctuaries which needs attention to retain them.

2. Ex-Situ conservation 

It is the conservation of biological diversity situated away from the natural habitats.  Ex-Situ conservation involves conservation of genetic resources through gene banks, forming Zoo and botanical gardens, collecting of Invitro plant tissues and culturing them, captive breeding of animals, artificial propagation of plants and animals introducing them to the wild.

 

Further reading

1.      

 Species on the earth and their diversity

2.

Forests and wildlife                                              

3.

Introduction to ecosystem

4.

Succession in ecosystem

5.

Animal Kingdom

 

 

Check your understanding

  1. Define biodiversity.

  2. What is the difference between In-situ and Ex-situ conservation?

  3. Enlist the fundamental casue sof loss of biodiversity.

  4. What is the need for biodiversity?

  5. Mention the most abundant species on the earth.

 



img-1


img-1


img-1

Course List