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 of. This includes genetic diversity within .Thus, in essence, biodiversity represents all life. The rich biodiversity has been instrumental in providing humanity with food security, health care and industrial goods that has led to high standard of living in the modern world. This diversity of living creatures forms a support system which has been used by each civilization for its growth and development.

Why is Biodiversity Important ?

Human beings are part a of a complicated web  ecosystem and are entirely dependent on clean air, fresh water and healthy food for our survival. Human beings stand at the top of the food chain and thereby are capable enough of acting on the planet's ecosystems to create profound change for a better today and a brighter future. Hence, it is our responsibility to act as stewards of the planet, protecting nature for the sake of our future generations.

The indifferences to the environment, in favor of materialistic gains is at it’s worst at present. In order to change this, scientists have been working on the development of clear and transparent ways of assigning a monetary value to some of the ecosystem functions on which we depend, such as the activity of bees and other pollinators, the treatment of water and purification of waste, or the carbon sequestration and climate regulation role of plants, in particular tropical rainforests. These are known as 'ecosystem services'. The methodology for measuring their value was set out in the United Nations 2004 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), and they are the basis of much of the work of the TEEB project  - The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity - which has the following goals: To draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

Biodiversity Hotspots

Biodiversity hotspots are areas that support natural ecosystems that are largely intact and where native species and communities associated with these ecosystems are well represented.  They are also areas with a high diversity of locally endemic species, which are species that are not found or are rarely found outside the hotspot.

A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is threatened with destruction.  An area is designated as a hot spot when it contains at least 0.5% of plant species as endemic.

Biodiversity Hotspots in India

There are 25 such hotspots of biodiversity on a global level, out of which two are present in India.

These are:

  • Indo- Burma (earlier The Eastern Himalayas) and

  • The western Ghats

These hot spots covering less than 2% of the world’s land area are found to have about 50% of the terrestrial biodiversity.

Criteria for determining hot-spots:

  • No. of Endemic Species i.e. the species which are found no where else.

  • Degree of threat, which is measured in terms of Habitat loss.

Indo- Burma (Eastern Himalayas) Hotspot

  • The hotspot includes all of Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos, and nearly the entire areas of Thailand, Myanmar & Bhutan as well as part of Nepal, far eastern India and extreme southern China.

  • In addition, it covers several offshore Islands including Mainan Islands in the South China Sea and Andaman & Nicobar Islands in Indian Ocean.

  • Indo-Burma is one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots, due to the rate of resource exploitation and habitat loss.

Western Ghats :

  • Western Ghats and Sri Lanka together, also known as the “Sahyadri Hills” encompasses the mountain forests in the southwestern parts of India and on the neighboring Islands of Sri Lanka.

  • The entire extent of hotspot was originally about 1,82,500 square kms, but due to tremendous population pressure, now only 12,445 square Km or 6.8% is in pristine condition.

  • The important populations include Asian elephant, Indian tigers and the endangered lion tailed macaque.

This biodiversity has arisen over the last 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history and its sustainable use has always been a part of the Indian culture. India home to nearly one-fifth of the world’s human population and is rapidly seeing a change in its economy from a predominantly agrarian society into a diversified one resulting in mounting pressures on land use. A consequence of this has been the loss and fragmentation of  natural habitats, which has been identified as the primary threat to biodiversity.

The rapid rate of hotspot degradation makes it imperative that conservation science be pursued immediately and vigorously in these habitats, to devise effective measures which curtail the rapidly diminishing biodiversity, and to protect its unique biota.

The value of this biodiversity for sustaining and nourishing human communities is immense. To take an example, the ecosystem services from the forested watersheds of two great mountain chains, the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, indirectly support several million people in India.

Conservation of Biodiversity

The real problem at this time ,is the conservation of biodiversity. While everyone agrees that conserving natural resources is a good idea, there is no consensus on how to go about it. Every group, from governmental agencies to  agro businesses to concerned individuals has their own idea of what conservation of biodiversity means, and what measures should be taken to achieve it. Further, each group has its own agenda to pursue, and may regard some factors of conservation of biodiversity as threats to those agendas.

Conservation of biodiversity since it is a relatively new concept, is quite costly. Technologies are only beginning to develop that can be used to preserve biodiversity hotspots. And one solution does not fit all hotspots. What is needed in, for example, the Aral Sea region is not necessarily what will work in the Everglades.

With so many groups and interests, and the high costs, it is clear that the conservation of biodiversity is a complicated matter. Yet, if it is not resolved during our lifetimes, the problems we leave our descendants will be even more complicated and harder to resolve.

Biodiversity as genetic species and as intact ecosystems can be best preserved in-situ by setting aside an adequate representation of wilderness as Protected Areas. These include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries which receive protection from governmental and international agencies. However, there are situations in which an endangered species is so close to extinction that unless alternate methods are instituted, the species may be rapidly driven to extinction. This strategy is known as ex-situ conservation. Botanical gardens and zoological parks are set up for multiplying species of plants and animals in artificially – managed conditions.

Most of the world’s bio-rich nations are developing countries and the countries capable of exploiting biodiversity are the developed nations. In order to have access to these resources the developed countries have vested interest in making biodiversity a “common property resource”  to be shared by all nations. Fortunately, India which is rich in biodiversity is also capable of making good use of it in biotechnology and genetic engineering. International agreements such as World Heritage Convention attempts to protect and support many hotspots of biodiversity in different parts of the world. Another treaty known as the Convention in the Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) intends to reduce the utilization of endangered plants and animals by controlling trade in their products. India is a signatory to both these agreements.

We wish the Candidates All the Best.



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