Conservation of Biodiversity

Conservation of Biodiversity

Biodiversity plays an important role in maintaining balance in ecosystems. With increase in population, the threat to the biological resources has...

Biodiversity plays an important role in maintaining balance in ecosystems. With increase in population, the threat to the biological resources has also increased. Hence the conservation of biodiversity has become vital. Conservation does not only include retaining biodiversity but also includes judicious use of natural resources so as to preserve enough for the future. Conservation of biodiversity is important to:-

  • prevent the loss of genetic diversity of a species,
  • save species from becoming extinct, and
  • protect ecosystems damage and degradation.

Conservation of biodiversity can be done by two methods:

If the conservation of plants and animals is done within their natural habitats or in protected areas it is called in-situ conservation. If the conservation of plants and animals are protected outside their natural habitats, it is called ex-situ conservation. Conservation sites include botanical gardens, zoo, and gene banks; seek bank, tissue culture and cryopreservation.

1.) In-situ Methods:

Protection of habitat: The main approach of conservation of species is for the protection of the habitats in a particular ecosystem. Currently, India has ninety six National Parks, five hundred Wildlife Sanctuaries, thirteen Biosphere Reserves, twenty seven Tiger Reserves and eleven Elephant Reserves covering an area of 15.67 million hectares or 4.7 per cent of the geographical area of the country. Twenty one wetlands, thirty mangrove areas and four coral reef areas have been identified for intensive conservation and management purposes by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India.

National parks and sanctuaries

India being the host for rich vegetation and wildlife has national parks and wildlife sanctuaries spread across the country. India’s wildlife heritage is unique. Well known sanctuaries include:

The Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve- Uttaranchal, National Park-Sawai

Madhopur, Gir National Park-Sasangir (Gujarat), Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park- Madhya Pradesh, Ranthambhor National Park-Sawai Madhopur, bird sanctuary at Bharatpur. Rajasthan is home for Siberian Cranes in winter and is the best breeding ground for native water birds. The Great Indian Bustard is found in the Indian deserts. Western Himalayas witness birds like Himalayan monal pheasant, Western tragopanm koklass, white crested khalij pheasant, griffon vultures, lammergiers, choughs, ravens.

Coming to the Southern part of the country. Andaman and Nicobar region has about 250 species and subspecies of birds such as the rare Narcondum horn bill, Nicobar pigeon and Megapode. Most of the national parks established in India are to preserve wildlife in their natural environment. Few of them are:

Kaziranga Sanctuary (Assam) – One-horned rhinoceros

Manas Sanctuary (Assam) – Wild buffaloes

Gir Forest (Gujarat) – Lions, Chital, Sambar, wild bears

Kelameru Bird Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh) – Pelicans and Marine Birds

Dachigam Sanctuary (Jammu and Kashmir) – Kashmir stags, Himalayan tahr, wild goats, sheep, antelopes.

Bandipur Sanctuary (Karnataka) – Indian Bison, Elephants, Langurs

Periyar Sanctuary (Kerala) – Elephants, Barking Deer, Sambhar

Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh) – Tiger, Leopards, Wild Dogs.

Biosphere Reserves

Biosphere reserves are terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems internationally recognized within UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. Currently, there are 553 biosphere reserves located in 107 countries. There are thirteen biodiversity rich representative ecosystems, with a total area of 53,000 UNESCO started a Biosphere reservation programme in the year 1975 under Man and Biosphere Programme, dealing with the conservation of ecosystems.

A biosphere reserve contains core, buffer and transition zones.

A fully protected area without any human interference is called core zone whereas buffer zone has limited human access for scientific and research purposes. Transition zones are the outermost part of the biosphere reserve and are accessible and maintained by the locals and officials alike. Individual species of animals decreasing considerably from past decades has made the government start specalised projects to save the species.

Project Tiger:

It was started in 1973 to conserve and rescue the species from extinction. In 2007, there were more than 40 project tiger wildlife reserves covering an area of 37,761 km. It helped in increasing the population of these tigers from 1,200 in the 1970s to 3,500 in 1990s. However, a 2008 census held by the Government of India revealed that the tiger population dropped to 1,411. A total ban has been imposed on hunting of tigers and trading in tiger products at the national and international level. Elaborate management plans are made for tiger habitat improvement and anti -poaching measures.

Project Elephant

Project Elephant was launched in February 1992 to assist states with free ranging population of wild elephants to ensure long-term survival of identified viable population of elephants in their natural habitats. The project is being implemented in twelve states viz. Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal and West Bengal.

Crocodile breeding and management project

The project began in 1976 with FAO - UNDP assistance to save three endangered crocodilian species, namely, the fresh water crocodile, salt water crocodile and the rare Gharial. The project surveyed the crocodile habitats and facilitated their protection through declaration of sanctuaries and national parks. Captive breeding and reintroduction or restocking programmes involved careful collection of eggs from the wild. Thousands of crocodiles of three species have been reared at sixteen centres and several of these have been released in the wild. Eleven sanctuaries have been declared specially for crocodile protection including the National Chambal Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

Sacred forests and sacred lakes: It is a traditional strategy followed in India and Asian countries by tribal communities to respect religious sanctity. These places are free from all disturbances. Sacred forests are located in several parts of India i.e. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Meghalaya. Similarly, several water bodies like the Khecheopalri lake in Sikkim have been declared sacred by the people leading to the protection of aquatic flora and fauna.

2.) Ex-situ Conservation

As most of the species cannot be preserved in their natural habitat, ex-situ conservation was taken up where various agencies established botanical gardens, zoos, medicinal plant parks, etc by various agencies. The Indian Botanical Garden in Howrah (West Bengal) is over 200 years old. The Ooty botanical garden, the Bangalore botanical garden and the Lucknow botanical are also equally famous. The main reasons for ex-situ conservation include:

  • Ex-situ conservation and propagation of threatened plant species,
  • Conservation research and training,
  • Public awareness through education on plant diversity and need for conservation.

Gene Banks: Conservation of genetic material of species is done through gene banks and seed banks. NBPGR, New Delhi, preserves seeds of wild relatives of crop plants as well as cultivated varieties. The National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources at Karnal, Haryana maintains the genetic material for domesticated animals, and the National Bureau of Fish Genetic Resources, Lucknow, for fishes.

Cryopreservation is the preservation of genetic material, especially plants, through the process of freezing. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the plant material. It has been successfully applied to meristems, zygotic and somatic embryos, pollen, protoplasts cells and suspension cultures of a number of plant species.

Conservation at molecular level (DNA level): Germplasm conservation is another important way to conserve the genetic material of organisms. DNA in its native state and cloned DNA are preserved using this method.

Legal measures:

UNESCO established different acts to conserve animal life which include- The Wildlife Protection Act (1972), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1975. Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

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