Conserving biodiversity

Introduction to Biodiversity

Planet earth is a place for a great variety of organisms as a result of species variation. One of the astonishing aspects from which we all have evolved is the diversity. Without biodiversity, organisms would have been in their pre-evolutionary state. The absence of biodiversity could result in a narrow range of species on the earth. As a result, many creatures might have died with hunger. The diversity adds a lot of weightage on the part of evolution. A systematic biodiversity ensures growth, survival, and development of all life forms including human beings. "Biodiversity is the collection/variation of different life forms across habitats, say it on earth, ocean, deserts, forests, etc. In other words, it is the assimilation of a total number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms".

 

Table of Content

1. Introduction to Biodiversity

2. Measuring Biodiversity

3. Need for  biodiversity

4. Causes biodiversity loss

5. Relationship between biodiversity and species

6. Conservation of  biodiversity

 

    6.1 In-situ biodiversity conservation 

    6.2 Ex-Situ conservation

 

Measuring Biodiversity

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

1. Species diversity is the diversity in terms of the percentage of different living organisms present in a specified habitat. In other words, it is the abundance of different animal, plant and microbial species in a specified geographic area. For instance, if a forest has 10,000 species in total, 500 might be plants, 300 might be carnivores, 100 might be insects and the rest might be unknown species.

2. Ecosystem diversity is the diversity or variety of different types of habitats/ecosystems. For instance, if you take an area of 200 square kilometers, then that area might have tropical rainforests, rain forests, deserts, hilly terrains, swamps, tundra, etc. India is the most diverse in terms of the ecosystem from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

3. Genetic diversity is the total number of genetic variations in a given individual species. For example,  if we take rice in India, there are about 50,000 genetically different strains.

 

Need for  biodiversity

Diversity is neither a simple process nor the quicker. It is the combination of factors that influenced a system over a period of time to result in a substantial evolution and growth. The factors of diversity include the degree of mutation, variety of genes in a species, the widely variable ecosystems in which organisms live( such as different deserts, rainforests, different geographic locations, etc. One of the end results of a systematic mutation is the variation of genetics, species, and ecosystem levels that is closely linked with diversification across various terrestrial and aquatic habitats. As a consequence of these processes, today we are witnessing a variety of lives with varied races, species, genus, and classes of individuals. The table below shows the example of the number of important species on the earth. Biodiversity is a significant phenomenon because it provides a road to a healthy life, balance, healthy environment, innovative goods, and services. It is one of the factors that bring in heritage and prosperity in various perspectives of life-like cultural, health, social, recreational, and spiritual. 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

 

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 instead of only safeguarding the most beneficial breeds. For example, though snakes are venomous and they do not benefit human beings directly, they control the rat population, thereby helping to save the damage caused by rodents. However, a more rigorous implementation of saving the endangered species is essential.

 

Causes biodiversity loss and it`s significant effects on the ecosystem

Drastic decline in biodiversity is a great cause of concern for many reasons. We already know that the ecosystem is a web of relationships interconnected between species. Diversity creates a healthy and balanced life. Healthier the plants- healthier the animals, greater the number of plants- greater the primary consumers and so on. Some of the ways how diversity is being suppressed are;

1. A sudden climate change, pollution and invasive species that destroy the habitats in an uncontrolled fashion. This could lead to a complete extinction of well-known species.

2. People indulge in excess destruction of forest for agriculture, rapid urbanization with a commercial intent which ultimately leads to a disaster on the percentage distribution of forest across the country.

3. Diversity is enabled through species richness in terms of variety, and species evenness, as they both constitute a balanced and conducive condition for all the inhabitants of a given ecosystem. If you imagine that all the deer population is completely extinct within a span of 3 months, the result is a decline in the population of lions and tigers. But, if the deer have been replaced by other herbivores then the tigers and lions can  survive because such a replacement is possible only when there is a diversity of animals that would replace deer population

4. In order to ensure our environmental system properly functions, there must be a balance between birth rates and death rates of species. The death rate in this context refers to the permanent extinction which will bring in a huge imbalance in the currently existing living species. Biodiversity loss refers to the complete extinction of a specific plant or animal species. It can happen in a particular geography which is known as local extinction or it can be worldwide which we call global extinction.  Reduced biodiversity in a particular habitat means reduced ecosystem services that consequently pose a substantial threat to mankind and earth.

5. Exploitation by human beings is the greatest factor for animal and plant extinction. A survey has found that there since the last 5 centuries, there was a complete loss or extinction of 784 species, among which 338 species are vertebrates and 359 are invertebrates as well as  87 plant species in the last 500 years. 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. Unlike animals, plants cannot escape the threat by running away so they are more vulnerable to any disasters. Animals can take a migratory cycle if they could sense the natural threats in advance. As per the current statistics across the world, 15,500 species are under threat of extinction. Among these, 12 % of all the bird species, 23% of all mammal species, 32 % of amphibians and 31% of all gymnosperm species are under high risk for extinction.

6. Uncontrolled loss of biodiversity can lead to drastic changes in the global environment like 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 and beautiful species especially birds.  Some of the major factors associated with the causation of biodiversity loss are intentional destruction of habitat, excessive hunting, exploitation of most rich and selected species, habitat fragmentation, experimenting animals, birds and plants for medicinal and research purpose, the introduction of exotic or alien species, pollution, natural calamities, etc.

 

Relationship between biodiversity and species

The number of species and its rate of reduction is closely linked with a change in biodiversity hence, it is important to maintain 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, industrialization and other greedy actions. Unfortunately, species diversity is being exploited due to factors like intentional habitat damage, killing animals and birds, etc which has a profound influence on the balance of the ecosystem.

 

Conservation of  biodiversity

Despite the great destruction of natural resources, countries are becoming increasingly aware of the future threat of biodiversity loss. To conserve diversity, governments are actively funding many projects and bringing out awareness programs among common men. Why we need to conserve biodiversity has different views and opinions on moral, commercial, environmental, ethical grounds. Some of the reasons why we need to conserve our ecosystem and diversity are as follows.

Biological reasons

  As we all know that foods, drugs, snacks, consumer goods, body products, etc are produced by plants and animals as well as microbes, if the threat of extinction continues there will be no more production of these products. More than 25 % of the drugs are manufactured from medicinal plants, for instance, pain killers like aspirin is derived from willows, and opiate is another drug obtained from poppies. As a part of food production alone, roughly 7,000 species of plants are involved across the world. So to ensure we all are safe, biodiversity is important.

Ecosystem Services and their disruption

  Some of the natural phenomena; Pollination, decomposition of waste, gobar gas formation, water purification, and moderation of floods are possible if there is only diversity. Another important point to note is that the economy is closely linked with the diversity of these services, and the destruction of diversity in any form will put the country`s economy at stake. For instance, insect pollinators will boost the economy by producing many commercially important products like almonds, honey,  melons, and blueberries, if we kill these pollinators it`s a big blow on the food industry. On the other hand, excessive destruction of forests will directly result in soil erosion and fertility loss which eventually leads to poor economy. Human exploitation through construction and development will disrupt natural environments

Social and Spiritual reasons

 Biodiversity and cultural heritage are closely linked, most valuable carvings, antiques, manmade equipment are a result of a great variety of plants and animals. Protecting these will enhance spiritual gifts and memories that are inherited from an ancient culture. The biodiversity influences on our cultural development can be evident through  heterogeneity of the world’s mythology, folk instruments, musical instruments, folk art, etc that have enriched the richness of literature and global arts.

 

Methods of conservation of biodiversity

1. In-situ biodiversity conservation is a method in which the conservation of species will be within their natural habitats It is called endemism where we need to find out the area that has high biodiversity and safeguard them by various techniques like building a national park conservation plant, botanical garden sanctuary for birds, biosphere reserve, etc. This will ensure that human activities can be kept at bay from affecting the wildlife. In India, there are 14 biosphere reserves, 90 national parks, and 448 wildlife sanctuaries.

2. Ex-Situ conservation is the conservation of biological diversity away from the natural habitat of species where the species are placed in a scientifically designed settings and grow them in a controlled manner. This involves conservation of genetic resources through gene banks, forming Zoo and botanical gardens, collecting of In vitro plant tissue and culturing them, captive breeding of animals, artificial propagation of plants and animals introducing them to the wild.

 



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