Oh, the beauty of a forest! The pleasure of walking through it, enjoying the smells of the flowers and the wild; watching the insects flitting about and listening to the birds chirp - how we all love it and wish to return to it again and again. It is this biodiversity that we have to protect and take care of in order to enjoy the joy of it all.
But what is biodiversity? The variety of life on Earth, Its biological diversity is commonly referred to as biodiversity. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth. Appropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this as being integral to any approach. Almost all cultures have in some way or form recognized the importance that nature, and its biological diversity has had upon them and the need to maintain it. Yet, power, greed and politics have affected the precarious balance.
A. IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY: • A-1] Ecological importance: • trees provide habitat and food for birds, insects, other plants and animals, fungi, and micro-organisms; • insects, bats, birds, and other animals • serve as pollinators; • parasites and predators act as natural • population controls; • various organisms, such as earthworms • and bacteria, are responsible for recycling • organic materials and maintaining the • productivity of soils; • green plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replenish it with oxygen. Forests, for example, are particularly important "sinks" for the absorption of carbon dioxide and thus are key factors in reducing global climate change;………….
wetlands serve as sponges to reduce the impacts of floods and to cleanse streams by filtering sediments, nutrients, and contaminants from inflowing waters. • The interaction of all these natural processes forms a complex web of life. If any part of this web suffers or breaks downs, the future of the other parts is threatened. Humans are in many cases degrading and destroying the ability of biological diversity to perform the services mentioned above.
A-2] Economical importance: • food: species are hunted (e.g. antelopes, birds), • fished (e.g. cod, tuna fish), and gathered (e.g. fruits, • berries, mushrooms), as well as cultivated for • agriculture (e.g. wheat, corn, rice, vegetables) • and aquaculture (e.g. salmons, mussels). It is • interesting to know that, of the about 80,000 • available comestible plants, humans use less than • 30 to satisfy 90% of our planet's alimentary needs; • fuel: timber and coal are only two examples of • natural resources used to produce energy; • shelter and warmth: timber and other forest products • (e.g. oak, beech, pine) are used as building materials and for shelter. Fibers such as wool and cotton are used to make clothes; • medicines: both traditional medicines and processed drugs are obtained from biodiversity: penicillin is produced by a mould, codeine is obtained from poppies, digitalis from foxglove and quinine from the bark of cinchona trees; • other goods such as paper and pencils come from raw materials provided by the Earth's diversity.
A-3] Indirect services: • clean and drinkable water: only a small amount - about 1% - of the water on our planet is usable directly. The rest is either salty (97%) or frozen (2%). Forests around the world filter our usable water again and again, constantly replenishing the • water we use for drinking, bathing, and • growing crops; • air to breathe: plants around the world • take carbon dioxide out of the air and • put oxygen into it - oxygen that almost • all creatures need to breathe; • fertile soils: micro-organisms recycle the • soil's organic matter and maintain its • fertility; • pollination: insect, bird and bat species carry pollen from one plant to another (or from one part of a plant to another), thus fertilising fruit crops and flowers.
A-4] Cultural importance: Plants and animals are often used as symbols, for example in flags, paintings, sculptures, photographs, stamps, songs and legends. Finally, biodiversity is also beautiful: it is a pleasure to see and smell flowers in a field, To listen to birds singing, etc.
B. CAUSES OF BIODIVERSITY LOSS The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world’s ecosystem, In fact human beings have deeply altered the environment, and have modified the territory, exploiting the species directly, for example by fishing and hunting, changing the biogeochemical cycles and transferring species from one area to another of the Planet. The threats to biodiversity can be summarized in the following main points:
B-1] Alteration and loss of the habitats The transformation of the natural areas determines not only the loss of the vegetable species, but also a decrease in the animal species associated to them.
B-2] Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms; Species originating from a particular area, introduced into new natural environments can lead to different forms of imbalance in the ecological equilibrium.
B-3] Pollution: human activity influences the natural environment producing negative, direct or indirect, effects that alter the flow of energy, the chemical and physical constitution of the environment and abundance of the species.
B-4] Climate change: for example, heating of the earth’s surface affects biodiversity because it endangers all the species that adapted to the cold due to the latitude (the Polar species) or the altitude (mountain species)
B-5] Overexploitation of resources: When the activities connected with capturing and harvesting (hunting, fishing, farming) a Renewable natural resource in a particular area is excessively intense, the resource itself may become exhausted, as for example, is the case of sardines, herrings, cod, tuna and many other species that man captures without leaving enough time for the organisms to reproduce.
B-6] Agriculture: The dramatic increase in the number of humans during the twentieth century has instigated a concomitant growth in agriculture, and has led to conversion of wild lands to croplands, massive diversions of water from lakes, rivers and underground aquifers, and, at the same time, has polluted water and land resources with pesticides, fertilizers, and animal wastes. The result has been the destruction, disturbance or disabling of terrestrial ecosystems, and polluted, oxygen-depleted and atrophied water resources.
To prevent biodiversity loss, the Government of India is setting up biosphere reserves in different parts of the country. These are multipurpose protected areas to preserve the genetic diversity in different ecosystems. Till 1999, ten biosphere reserves had been set up, namely Nilgiri, Nandadevi, Nakrek, Great Nicobar, Gulf of Mannar, Manas, Sunderbans, Similipal, and DibruSaikhowa. A number of NGOs are being involved in the programme to create awareness. But legal protection is provided only to national parks and sanctuaries, which cover about 4.5% of India’s land area.
C. HOW CAN YOU HELP TO SAVE BIODIVERSITY C-1] Purchase goods and services from companies that are environmentally responsible. Although you can't always believe marketing claims for "green" goods, a little internet research can often shed some light on the ethics of particular companies. Where possible, look for third-party certifications and labels. Organic, shade-grown (coffee) and fair-trade are some practices that are more likely to preserve biodiversity. When possible, purchase goods from responsible companies in your local area; this cuts down on the pollution generated in long-distance transportation.
C-2] Plant a garden of native plants around your home or at your school. In this way you can help to preserve plant species as well as create habitat for wildlife.
C-3] Maintain valuable wildlife habitat on your property, such as large trees, wetlands and natural shoreline.
C-4] Consider donating part of your land to a preservation agency, or placing a conservation covenant on your land to protect valuable natural areas from future development.
Reduce automobile pollution (one of the largest sources of pollution and damage to species and ecosystems) by driving less, carpooling, cycling, keeping your car properly tuned and maintained and switching to a more efficient vehicle and so on.. Next…
INDIAN LAWS ON BIODIVERSITY BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY ACT A] What is covered by the Biological Diversity Act? The Act covers conservation, use of Biological resources and associated knowledge occurring in India for commercial or research purposes or for the purposes of bio-survey and bio-utilisation. It provides a framework for access to biological resources and sharing the benefits arising out of such access and use. The Act also includes in its ambit the transfer of research results and application for intellectual property rights (IPRs) relating to Indian biological resources.
State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) are to be established under Section 22(2) of the Act, So far 25 States have established the SBBs. • The Functions of State Biodiversity Boards are as under: • Advise the State Governments, subject • to guidelines issued by the Central • Government, on matters relating • to conservation of biodiversity, • Sustainable use of its components and • equitable sharing of benefits arising • out of utilization of biological resources. • Regulate by granting approvals or otherwise request for commercial utilization or bio-survey and bio utilization of any biological resource by Indians; • Perform such other functions as necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act or as prescribed by the State Governments.
LET’S CONCLUDE AND REFLECT ON A QUOTE FROM Robert Bateman, a Canadian artist, environmentalist, and naturalist “I am a possibilist. I believe that humanity is master of its own fate... Before we can change direction, we have to question many of the assumptions underlying our current philosophy. Assumptions like bigger is better; you can't stop progress; no speed is too fast; globalization is good. Then we have to replace them with some different assumptions: small is beautiful; roots and traditions are worth preserving; variety is the spice of life; the only work worth doing is meaningful work; biodiversity is the necessary pre-condition for human survival”.
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