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What is biodiversity?

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?

Biodiversity is the variety and differences among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part. This includes genetic diversity within and between species and of ecosystems. Thus, in essence, biodiversity represents all life. India is one of the mega biodiversity centres in the world and has two of the world's 18 ‘biodiversity hotspots’ located in the Western Ghats and in the Eastern Himalayas (Myers 1999). The forest cover in these areas is very dense and diverse and of pristine beauty, and incredible biodiversity.

According to an MoEF Report (1996), the country is estimated to have over 45,000 plant species and 81,000 animal species representing 7% of the world’s flora and 6.5% of its fauna. The 1999 figures are 49,219 plant species representing 12.5% and 81,251 animal species representing 6.6%.

The sacred groves of India are some of the areas in the country where the richness of biodiversity has been well preserved. The Thar desert and the Himalayas are two regions rich in biodiversity in India. There are 89 national parks and 504 wildlife sanctuaries in the country, the Chilika Lake being one of them. This lake is also an important wetland area. Learn more through map on biodiversity in India.

Over the last century, a great deal of damage has been done to the biodiversity existing on the earth. Increasing human population, increasing consumption levels, and decreasing efficiency of use of our resources are some of the causes that have led to overexploitation and manipulation of ecosystems. Trade in wildlife, such as rhino horn, has led to the extinction of species. Consequences of biodiversity loss can be great as any disturbance to one species gives rise to imbalance in others. In this the exotic species have a role to play.

To prevent such 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 Dibru Saikhowa. 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.


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