Conservation of Biodiversity
Conservation of biodiversity is protection and management of biodiversity so as to maintain it at its optimum level and derive sustainable benefits for the present as well as future strategies.
The best way to preserve biodiversity is by protecting the habitats of as many species as possible. There are two basic strategies of biodiversity conservation ( i.e., insitu conservation and exsitu conservation).
Insitu conservation of biodiversity
In situ conservation means ‘onsite conservation’. Insitu conservation of biodiversity is the process of protecting endangered plant or animal species in its natural habitat either by protecting or cleaning of the habitat itself or by defending the species from predators. In in situ conservation species maintain their natural characteristics.
Protected areas for in situ conservation include biosphere reserves, National Parks, sanctuaries, sacred forests and natural reserves. A protected area network of 80 National Parks and 448 wildlife sanctuaries have been created under the provisions of wildlife Protection Act 1972.
Biosphere Reserves are a special category of protected areas of land wherein people are integral component of the system. The program of Biosphere Reserves was initiated under the ‘Man and Biosphere Programme’ by UNESCO. The purpose of the formation of the reserves is to conserve insitu all forms of life, along with its support system in totality, so that it could serve as a referral system for monitoring changes in natural ecosystems. At present there are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India.
Each biosphere consists of the following zones :
Core zone: Here no human activity is permitted. The area is undisturbed and legally protected ecosystem.
Buffer zone: It surrounds the core area. It allows human activities such as resource use strategies, research and education.
Transition zone (i.e., manipulation zone): It is the outermost or peripheral part of biosphere reserve where an active cooperation is present between reserve management and local people for activities such as settlements, cropping, recreation, forestry and other economic uses without disturbing ecology. Transition zone has different parts such as forestry, agriculture, tourism and restoration regions. Restoration zone includes degraded areas which is selected for restoration to natural or near natural forms.
Significance of Biosphere Reserves
Biosphere reserves help in restoration of degraded ecosystems and habitats. They are a means of conserving genetic resources, species, ecosystems and landscapes without disturbing the local people. They ensure culturally, socially and ecologically sustainable economic development.
There is a regular monitoring of development and conservation progress. Each biosphere reserve supports education and research in various ecological aspects of the ecosystem. There is also exchange of information about research, restoration, conservation and development aspects at the national and global level.
National Parks and Sanctuaries
The National parks of India are IUCN category II protected areas. India’s first national is Jim Corbett National Park. By 1970, India only had five national parks. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard the habitats of conservation reliant species.
All national parks cover total 39,919 kilometre square area, comprising 1.21 % of India’s total surface area. It prohibits human intrusion, commercial forestry and cattle grazing . The world heritage convention declares 6 natural sites in India as world heritage sites; Kaziranga National Park in Assam, keoladeo Ghana National Park in Rajasthan, Manas wildlife sanctuary in Assam, Nanda Devi National Park in Uttar Pradesh, Sunderban National Park in West Bengal and the Western Ghats in Maharashtra.
Sanctuaries are the areas for conservation of wild animals. They are tracts of land with or without lakes where wild animals take refuge without being hunted. The sanctuaries prohibit hunting or poaching. However, they allow grazing and collection of minor forest products so long as these activities do not affect the animal life adversely. India has 500 sanctuaries. Of these 28 are tiger reserve governed by The Project Tiger.
The tribal communities protect patches of forests as a part of their traditional strategy to conserve biodiversity. These are termed as sacred forests. Such forests are common in India and some other Asian countries. In India sacred forests occur from Meghalaya in the Northeast to Rajasthan in the West and also in the states along the Western Ghats. The community designates forest area as protected and to enforce the protection declares it sacred, usually by dedicating it to a diety. In such groves all the vegetation, including shrubs and climbers belong to the diety.
Sacred forests range in size from a few trees to dense forests. For example, forest patches in Yalong and Raliang sacred groves in Jainitia Hills, Meghalaya contain 123 woody species. Sacred groves in Kerala are similarly rich, they contain more than 800 species of angiosperms that is 20% of the flowering plants occur in the state. Among these, 150 plants have medicinal value and 40% are rare and endangered.
Sacred forests are important in many aspects. For example sacred forests are laboratory for botanists, a bank of plant diversity and germplasm for plant breeders and also are community’s medicine chest.
Sacred water bodies
Like sacred forests, there are several water bodies which have been declared sacred by the people (e.g., Khecheoplari lake in Sikkim). It also helps in the protection of aquatic flora and fauna.
Government of India has launched programmes for scientific management and wise use of fragile ecosystems. Government of India has also launched specific programs for management and conservation of wetlands, mangroves and coral reef system. These include ecosystems such as Chilika (Odisha), Kanjli, Harike (Punjab), Sambhar, Pichola (Rajasthan), Renuka (Himachal Pradesh), Sasthamkotta (Kerela), Sukhana (Chandigarh), Ujni (Maharashtra).
Indian government has launched special projects to protect and preserve endangered species of animals and birds such as Project tiger to save Royal Bengal Tigers, Gir lion Sanctuary project to protect the Asiatic lion Babbar Sher, the project hangul to save Kashmir deer, hangul, project musk deer to save Himalayan musk deer, project elephant to ensure long-term survival of viable elephant population etc.
Benefits of in situ conservation of biodiversity
Following are the benefits of in situ conservation:
- The in situ conservation of biodiversity helps in maintaining genetic diversity of all the present species and varieties.
- Maintains viable populations of native species, sub species and varieties.
- It also helps in maintaining resilience in species/ habitat /ecosystems to adapt to environmental changes.
- The in situ conservation of biodiversity helps in maintaining the various types of communities/ ecosystem/ habitats both in number and distribution.
- It also checks human added introduction of alien exotic species