#biodiversity, #environment, #ecosystem, #deforestation

While asked to an environmentalist about the most challenging fact of the day, the answer may be the degradation of forests and another may answer the loss of biodiversity. For me, both are equally important, whereas we can create forest but no biodiversity. We can increase a good quality forests for a healthy environment, but biodiversity once extinct is gone forever.

The richer an area’s biodiversity, the tougher its immune system, since biodiversity includes not only the number of species but also the number of individuals within that species, and all the inherent genetic variations life’s only army against the diseases of oblivion. Biodiversity is the measure of the health of an ecosystem of an area. Everything comes from biodiversity-from the food we eat to the air we breathe.

But issues arise threatening this very vital part of nature. Threats on extreme temperature, precedential rainfall, hash cyclones, endangered species, depleted watersheds, denuded forests, receding wetlands and other harmful effects of human activities are just some of these many issues. To fight with these risks, we are celebrating the International day of Biodiversity today. Biodiversity supplies us all the basic needs that ecosystem serves in the natural environment. Being a free service, we do not care of such a valued biodiversity which has got left, foster it and gives a space for all environmental threats.

The Earth’s biological resources are vital to humanity’s economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to the present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been as great as it is of today.

Despite the attempts that have been made to underpin the progress made in solving environmental problems, the public are realizing the environmental crisis as global-ecological proportions. Appropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this as being integral to any approach to preserve biodiversity. Almost all cultures have their roots in our biological diversity in some way or other. Declining biodiversity is therefore a concern for all human societal issues.

The biodiversity found within our country is in jeopardy. From pollution to poaching, invasive species to habitat loss and fragmentation, these life forms that we call our biodiversity are not enough to ensure for the future survival. Such a global celebration which takes place on the sixth year of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, will at least imprints much awareness on the present day issue of biodiversity loss to the future generations. For that local authorities and governments are in the best position to reach out to the real stakeholders.

Mainstreaming Biodiversity;Sustaining People and their livelihood is the theme for International day of Biodiversity this year. Sustaining livelihood and biodiversity exist hand in hand. Only when we keep a deeper relationship between the environment and the mankind, the world’s biodiversity can be conserved. At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources.

In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater is the opportunity for every human development. Environmental disasters such as temperature, rainfall, floods, forest fires and hurricanes indirectly or directly caused by human activities, all have dire economic consequences for the regions afflicted. Susceptible regions are often also in the less-developed and poorer nations to begin with.

Erosion and desertification, often as a result of deforestation, reduce the ability of people to grow crops and to feed themselves. This leads to economic dependence on other nations. Non-sustainable extraction of resources will eventually lead to the collapse of the industry involved, with all the attendant economic losses. It should be noted that even if ‘sustainable’ methods are used, for example when harvested forest areas are replanted, these areas are in no way an equal ecological substitute for the habitats which had earlier.

Extinction is a fact of life. Species have been evolving and dying out ever since the origin of life. Rain forest areas which have been sampled have shown such an amazing biodiversity. Nineteen trees sampled in Panama were found to contain 1,200 different beetle species alone. That is the mind boggles over how many species there might be remain undiscovered. Biodiversity while quantified the number of species which fall between 5 million and 30 million species. (To be contd)

Roughly 1.75 million species have been formally described and given official names. Insects comprise over half of the described species, and three fourths of known faunal species. The number of species in a region is set by a balance between origin through speciation, loss through extinction, and migration of species among regions, all of which operate over long geologic time scales.

Large-scale habitat and biodiversity losses mean that species with potentially great economic importance may become extinct before they are even discovered. The vast, largely untapped resource of medicines and useful chemicals contained in wild species may disappear forever. Additionally, the wild relatives of our cultivated crop plants provide an invaluable reservoir of genetic material to aid in the production of new varieties of crops. If all these are lost, then our crop plants also become more vulnerable to extinction.

There is an ecological caveat here of course. Whenever a wild species is proved to be economically or socially useful, this automatically translates into further loss of natural habitat. This arises either through large-scale cultivation of the species concerned or its industrial production/ harvesting. Both require space, inevitably provided at the expense of natural habitats. However, we have to realize that most biodiversity losses are now arising as a result of natural competition between humans and all other species for limited space and resources.

Now the human populations are still ascending at an exponential net rate of 4.5 persons per second, the atmosphere is warming up at the rate of 0.76C per decade, the sea level is rising 3.2 mm per year, both tropical and temperate rainforests are being cut at alarming rates of a football ground per minute, and serious pollution is also much more prevalent than admitted previously.

From the perspective of biodiversity this means, species are being lost almost not on a daily basis but on minutes, at the rate of one species per 20 minutes. Acknowledgement of these problems, however, means that we can find solutions for them, although most solutions require enormous economic aids which may anchor these coherent problems.

Most people would agree that areas with luxuriant vegetation, with full of life forms, are inherently more attractive than burnt, scarred landscapes, or acres of land with buildings. Human well-being is inextricably linked to the natural world. New findings have proved that the loss of biodiversity affects ecosystems as much as climate change, pollution and other major forms of environmental challenges.

The study is one of the latest comprehensive efforts to directly compare the effects of biological diversity loss to the anticipated effects of the major human-caused environmental challenges such as global warming and air pollution. Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors, but a deep study shows that future loss of species has the maximum potential effect to the overall environment just as much as global warming and pollution.

For India, the question arises is, will we succeed in biodiversity conservation by just creating 96 National Parks, 510 wildlife Sanctuaries, 28 Tiger Reserves and 25 Elephant Reserves. The area covered under protected area network accounts for around only 5% of the geographical area. To support with a population of 1.26 billion in a very haphazard climate is a really big challenge for the country.

But the rich biodiversity of the country has given shape to variety of cultural and ethnic diversity which includes over 550 tribal communities of 227 ethnic groups spread over 5,000 forest villages. The country have 19 Wet lands of important, the Ramsar sites, including the Loktak lake though it is included under Montreux record since 1993.

We also have 19 Biosphere Reserves under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) covering an area of 65,000 sq. km. India owns 7.8% of the recorded species of biodiversity reserved in the planet, though we share only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area.

More than 500 species of mammals, 1,220 species of birds, 1,600 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 57,000 species of insects populate this subcontinent. India harbors 60% of the world’s wild tiger population, 50% of Asian elephants, 80% of the one-horned rhinoceros and the entire remaining population of the Asiatic lion.

Now for conservation of biodiversity, India has the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 ( No. 18 of 2002) providing all dos and don’ts for every citizens to safeguard the precious but challenging biodiversity of the country. Being in the five hot spots of the world, Manipur has also constituted the Manipur Biodiversity Rules, 2008.

We have one National Park, the Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating National Park in the world with the critically endangered Sangai, the Brow Antlered Deer having the latest population of 260. We also have one wild life Sanctuary, the Yangoupokpi Lokchao W.S. with four other proposals. We have the endemic Siroy in the proposed Siroy National Park.

We also two ex-situ conservation centers, the Manipur Zoological Garden, Iroisemba and the orchid preservation centre at Khongampat. Our state has 34 ethnic tribes with different race and culture along with the various flora and fauna in all its biogeographic forms. Therefore the peoples of Manipur, mainly the youths, should call upon our government, private sector, and civil societies to assist to conserve the rich but threatened biodiversity of state.