Conserving biodiversity

Some species decline gradually due to various reasons. It is the nature`s law to lose some species while new ones being introduced. The process of exchange of new species from the old ones lead to a phenomenon called biodiversity. Diversity refers to the inhabitation of a wide variety of organisms in a specified geographic location. Accumulation of thousands of plants and animal species in a limited space is a  sign of conservation of diversity. Our earth could have been in a primordial phase in the absence of biodiversity because a systematic way of biodiversity assures growth, survival, and development of all life forms. Biodiversity adds a lot of weightage to the process of evolution.

What is biodiversity

"Biodiversity is a broad term indicating the assimilation of  all life forms on the earth. Biodiversity includes not just one species or genus or class but it includes all classes, levels, and species including humans. It plays a significant role in nurturing mankind by fulfilling various human needs including food, medicines, shelter, and entertainment. Thus, it is no surprise that the degeneration and over-exploitation of the ecosystem can seriously impact our lives.

Measurement of biodiversity

Biodiversity can be measured at three levels, species level, ecosystem-level, and genetic levels.

1. Species-level Diversity

Species-level measures the percentage of different living organisms present in a specified habitat. Species includes all the living organisms mainly including plants and animals.  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 of the species might be plants, 3000 species may be formed by carnivores, 1000 could be insects and the rest of them might be from unknown species. 

2. Ecosystem-levle diversity

At the  Ecosystem -level, we take into account the variety of different types of habitats/ecosystems. If we seriously examine 200 square kilometres of land area, we might find a mix of habitats that contain small, medium and large ecosystems. Of these, some of them could be the tropical rainforests, rain forests, deserts, and others could include hilly terrains, swamps, tundra, etc.

3. Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity is the accumulation of a variety of genetic characteristics accumulated in a  set of species. The mix of genetic characteristics could be mix of traits such as tall, short, stout, dark, active, etc,. Variation adds capacity and skills necessary for the pulations to adapt to changing climates. The table below shows an example of the degree of diversity of global species. 

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

Causes of biodiversity loss 

Drastic decline in the biodiversity is a cause of concern for many reasons. As our ecosystem is a web of systematic relationships between species, the destruction of even a few important species can mount immense pressure on our lives. The greedy human actions and unnatural way of his interaction with his surroundings must be constantly kept on check. Some of the ways our diversity is being suppressed by the abnormal human activitie are :

1. The human activities that lead to a drastic change in the climate, and pollution destroys the habitats of many valuable species.  In addition, the entry of many invasive species can cause extinction of many human-friendly species.

2. Deforestation, mass industrialization, and rapid urbanization can result in either relocation of irreversibl damage of many species which is a clear reason for poor diversity.

3. The sudden and unexpected death of inferior species due to over-exploitation by other species can substantially disturb the balance of ecosystem. Suppose, if we imagine some herbivores and other less strong species in a habitat become extinct due to over-exploitation by the tigers, the consequence is very serious. Because, tigers and other carnivores might also extinct due to hunger as there are no more herbivores to eat. 

4. Another reason for poor biodiversity is the imbalance between the death rates and the birth rates of species. Loss of species is a clearly evident if the death rate of a population surpasses the birth rate . 

5. Over-exploitation of the environment by humans causes imbalance in an ecosystem. A survey 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. Adding to this, about 12 % of all the bird species, 23% of all mammallian 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 destruction 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. 

Reasons for conservation of biodiversity

All measures that operate on the conservation of natural resources makes up the fundamental principles involved in the enhancement of diversity of species. Conservation of biodiversity is a phenomenon requiring long-term efforts by different agencies. Moreover, individual awareness, sense of responsibility and being sensitive to the natural resources are vital. To promote the diversity, we need to understand the factors that affect biodiversity. Some of them 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 because it offers us a variety of resources to live. It can establish a balance in our lives by giving us a way to achieve a healthy environment, innovation in the products, and the quality in the services we receive. It is one of the factors that lead us to a rich heritage and prosperity in various perspectives of life. Some of the reasons to conserve the biodiversity are as follows:

1. Biological reasons

The products that we use in our daily life including foods, drugs, vaccines, snacks and a variety of consumer goods are produced by the diversity of plants, animals and some microbial species. More than 25 % of the drugs are manufactured from medicinal plants alone. Some examples: aspirin is derived from willows, and opiate is obtained from poppies. Over-exploitation might completely abolish these type of plants. Diversity increases the biomass and the overall number of varieties of species. 

2. Economic reasons

It is very well known that the world`s economy is closely bound with the diversity of ecosystem services. To prove this fact, it is more evident to see a number of industries in those areas that have access to natural resources. Many naturally grown poducts boost our economy. For instance, insect pollinators help to increase the productivity of many commercially important products like almonds, honey,  melons, and blueberries. But , the habitat damage caused by human beings could endanger the pollinators that can cause loss to those farmers growing commercial products species.

3. Social and Spiritual reasons

Biodiversity influences our cultural and social development progress in many ways. The ancient antiques, valuable artforms, carvings, folk instruments, and many musical instruments that we see in our museums wouldn`t hev been existed unless our diversity is preserved. 

4. Environmental reasons

Pollution is a burning issue. The diversity of species  helps to manage pollution in many ways. Many fungal and parasitic organisms eats off the waste generated by industrial and commercial activities. 

Methods of conservation of biodiversity

The  evolution and diversity of species are impossible unless there are appropriate strategies in place. Measures that help in the conservation of resources should boost the sustainable development of every species. Therefore, conservation of species refers to the safeguarding of all organism instead of being selective. Even the most venomous species help to balance our ecosystem. This is evidenced by the observation that killing poisonous snakes can seriously increase the population of many rodents which can harm many agricultural produce. Our overnment is actively funding many projects to preserve diversity. Some of them are:

In-situ biodiversity conservation

In situ conservation is the on-site conservation of genetic resources in natural populations of plants or animal species such as forest genetic resources. It is the process of conserving all the living species, particularly the wild and endangered varieties in their natural habitats. 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 some interventions for their survival and growth.

 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.

 



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