Conservation of Biodiversity
This page covers about conservation of biodiversity.
Conservation of biological diversity is essential for the survival of the human race.
Objectives and advantages of biodiversity conservation
- Conservation of biological diversity leads to conservation of essential ecological diversity to preserve the continuity of food chains.
- The genetic diversity of plants and animals is preserved.
- It ensures the sustainable utilisation of life support systems on earth.
- It provides a vast knowledge of potential use to the scientific community.
- A reservoir of wild animals and plants is preserved, thus enabling them to be introduced, if need be, in the surrounding areas.
- Biological diversity provides immediate benefits to the society such as recreation and tourism.
- Biodiversity conservation serves as an insurance policy for the future.
Types of conservation
Ex situ conservation
Conserving biodiversity outside the areas where they naturally occur is known as ex situ conservation. Here, animals and plants are reared or cultivated in areas like zoological or botanical parks.
Reintroduction of an animal or plant into the habitat from where it has become extinct is another form of ex situ conservation. For example, the Gangetic gharial has been reintroduced in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it had become extinct.
Seedbanks, botanical, horticultural and recreational gardens are important centres for ex situ conservation.
In situ conservation
Conserving the animals and plants in their natural habitats is known as in situ conservation. This includes the establishment of
- National parks and sanctuaries
- Biosphere reserves
- Nature reserves
- Reserved and protected forests
- Preservation plots
- Reserved forests
After the introduction of cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, sunflower, soyabean and so on, farmers became victims of monocultures in their greed for money. Therefore many of the indigenous varieties of crops were lost. Moreover, the hybrid varieties of fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes), introduced for pulp are more susceptible to disease and pests. Though hybrid varieties are preferred, traditional wild varieties of the seeds should be conserved for future use in the event of an epidemic which would completely wipe out the hybrids.
Botanical gardens, agricultural departments, seed banks etc., alone should not be given the responsibility of agrobiodiversity conservation. Every farmer, gardener an cultivator should be aware of his role in preserving and conserving agrobiodiversity.
Convention of Biological Diversity
The aim of the convention is to save species and plants from extinction and their habitats from destruction.
The developed countries are looking for a sustainable supply of biological resources from the developing countries and easy access to them as well. The developing countries lacking the technology to exploit their resources are inviting the developed countries to do so. This has resulted in the developed nations channeling out the benefits of these natural resources. The developing countries are now demanding a higher share of the accrued economic benefits. The developed nations are also concerned by the unsustainable exploitation of natural wealth, particularly rainforests.
Key points from the Convention on Biological Diversity
The aim of the Convention on Biological Diversity is 'the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The convention stipulates that Parties must :
- develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources;
- establish protected areas, restore degraded ecosystems, control alien species, and establish ex-situ conservation facilities;
- establish training and research programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and support such programmes in developing countries;
- promote public education and awareness of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
- recognize the right of governments to regulate access to their own genetic resources, and, wherever possible, grant other Parties access to genetic resources for environmentally sound uses;
- encourage technology and biotechnology transfer particularly to developing countries;
- establish an information exchange between the parties on all subjects relevant to biodiversity;
- promote technical and scientific cooperation between parties (particularly to developing countries) to enable them to implement the convention;
- ensure that countries that provide genetic resources have access to the benefits arising from them; and
- provide financial resources to developing countries/parties to enable them to carry out the requirements of the convention.
The major causes for biodiversity loss
Loss of biodiversity occurs when either the habitat essential for the survival of a species is destroyed, or particular species are destroyed. The former is more common as habitat destruction is a fallout of development. The latter reason is encountered when particular species are exploited for economical gain or hunted for sport or food.
Extinction of species may also be due to environmental factors like ecological substitutions, biological factors and pathological causes which can be caused by nature or man.
Natural causes for the loss of biodiversity
Natural causes include floods, earthquakes, landslides, natural competition between species, lack of pollination and diseases.
Man-made causes for the loss of biodiversity
- Destruction of habitat in the wake of developmental activities like housing, agriculture, construction of dams, reservoirs, roads, railway tracks, etc.
- Pollution, a gift of the industrial revolution can be given the pride of place for driving a variety of species in air, water and land towards extinction.
- Motorcars, air-conditioners and refrigerators, the three symbols of a modern, affluent society, have been instrumental in global warming and ozone depletion. They have drastically altered the climate with disastrous effects on the various species. Factories and power stations spewing out poisonous gases and effluents have fouled up the environment bringing death and disease to many species. Oil spills and discharge of sewage have ravaged the oceans and coastal habitats.
- A large number of species are threatened by overhunting, poaching and illegal trade.
- Indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals and pesticides and overexploitation of wildlife resources for commercial purposes are responsible for the rapid decline in the number of some species. The tiger for instance is hunted for its claws and other parts believed to be effective cures for various ailments of man. Snakes and crocodiles are killed in large numbers for their skin and minks, sable, ermine, etc., are in demand for the luxury and warmth of their fur.
- Genetic erosion arises from the loss (due to commercial and anthropogenic pressures) of habitats rich in biodiversity and from the disappearance of the traditional conservation practices of wild species in their habitats by rural and tribal people.
Projects to save threatended species
Project Tiger was initiated as a Central Sector Scheme in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves located in different habitat types in 9 different states. There are totally 18 Reserves in 13 states. At present tiger Conservation has been viewed in India not only as an effort to save an endangered species but, with equal importance, also as a means of preserving biotypes of sizeable magnitude.
Crocodile Breeding Project
The project was started in Orissa and then extended to several other states in April 1975 with UNDP assistance. The main objective was to protect the three endangered species of crocodiles namely - Gavialis gangeticus, Crocodylus palustris and the salt water crocodile, Crocodylus porosus.
Lesser Cats Project
The project was launched in 1976 with the assistance of WWF in India for conservation of four species of lesser cats e.g. Felis bengalensis Kerr, Felis marmorta Martin, Felis lemruinki Vigors Horsfield and Felis viverrina Bennet, found in Sikkim and Northern part of West Bengal.
The Manipur Brow-antlered Deer Project
This was launched in 1981 in Manipur to save the brow-antlered deer (Cerevus eldi eldi) which is on the verge of extinction. The habitat includes 35 sq.km. of park and sanctuary. The population of the deer has increased from 18 to 27.
It was launched in 1991 to protect the Asiatic elephant which is also a highly endangered species because of large scale poaching.
It was launched in 1987 in Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam to save the lesser one horned rhinoceros from extinction. It covers an area of 430 sq.km. and is the natural of the dwindling rhino.
Himalayan musk deer project
This was launched in 1981 to save the endangered musk deer which is facing extinction. Captive breeding has yielded good results.
This project was launched in 1970 in Kashmir valley to save the highly endangered Kashmir stag (Cerevus elaphus hanglu) which is facing extinction. As a result their population has increased