According to world biogeographic classification, India represents two of the major realms, the Palearctic and Indo-Malayan, and three biomes viz. Tropical Humid Forest, Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests, and Warm Deserts/Semi-Deserts. And, the Indian landmass has been classified into 10 Biogeographic Zones.
In order to protect biodiversity, 990 Protected Areas sprawling over 5.27% of the country’s geographical area have been designated, of which faunal communities have been thoroughly listed among 120 Protected Areas by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI).
Altogether, 1,03,258 species have been documented in India. Among the animals reported from the country 2,841 species are protected under different schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for better conservation.
In 2021, ZSI discovered one new genus and 131 species and recorded 102 species.
Coastal and Marine Biodiversity:
India has a long coastline of 7516.6 km on the mainland, Lakshadweep, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
The coast is diversified into the categories of bay, cover, gulf, estuaries, and peninsula.
Indian coasts are endowed with different ecosystems such as mangrove swamps, coral reefs, seagrass beds, beaches, dunes, salt marshes, and mud flats.
It has the 18th largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with a total area of 2.37 million square kilometres.
In the Indian Ocean region, India is one of the highest marine biodiverse countries with 20,444 species.
Besides, 9,457 species from freshwater, 3,939 species from estuarine, and 5,747 species from mangrove ecosystems have been recorded in the country.
Among the Indian fauna, 5,632 species have been included in various categories on the ‘IUCN Red List’ which requires much attention for conservation.
Status Survey by ZSI:
Significant progress has been made in the monitoring of the status of the endangered/rare species of animals by ZSI.
Recently, ZSI has taken the initiatives of a massive tagging programme of Olive ridley turtles along the Odisha coast and Leatherback turtles in the Great Nicobar Island for tracking their migration in the Indian Ocean.
ZSI also initiated several innovative programmes from the molecular level to the monitoring of fauna.
There are at least 37 species of mammals genetically identified from Himalayan regions through non-invasive genetic study techniques.
Similarly, the population genetics of the Arunachal Macaque (Macaca munzala) and population genetics of Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), as well as Chinese Pangolin, have been carried out by scientists of ZSI.
Adding to this, advanced research on soundscape (acoustics) through spectrogram of vocalisation of animals, and the impact of forest fire on faunal diversity in the Northeastern Region of India are vital contributions by ZSI.
India – Long-Term Monitoring of Fauna:
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched the Long-Term Ecological Observatories (LTEO) programme as a constituent activity of the Climate Change Action Programme of the country.
The India – Long Term Ecological Observatories (India – LTEO) programme is a multi-institutional programme that aims to set up long-term ecological monitoring for different taxa in six landscapes across India.
India LTEO includes nine themes including forests, grasslands, soil, herpetofauna, marine ecosystems, arthropods, freshwater fish birds and movement ecology.
The LTEO landscapes include the Western Ghats, Western Himalayas, Eastern Himalayas, Central India, North West Arid Zone and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
ZSI is designated as a Forensic Laboratory by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, for solving wildlife case materials and supporting the MoEF&CC.
Studies dealing with chromosomal mapping, PCR, and DNA Barcoding of animals including threatened species have been taken up by ZSI and more than 8,000 DNA sequences have been barcoded and registered in the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database.
Mapping of Fauna:
ZSI has implemented a number of geospatial modelling studies including the mapping of biological corridors, landscape change analysis, and climate change risk modelling for several studies of Himalayan as well as other areas in collaboration with the State Forest Department.
Out of 5.7 million specimens, 3.8 million specimens are identified and geo-tagged to 4.2 unique localities, pertaining to about 40,000 animal species.
Mobile Applications and Web GIS have been developed in collaboration with National Remote Sensing Centre, ISRO, to provide specific information on different animals in Protected Areas of India.
A geospatial database has been created for the threatened vertebrates of the Indian Himalayan Region which will be useful in understanding the diversity and richness of wildlife species in the Himalayan region.
Studies on pollinators, invasive and alien species, and climate change with reference to faunal diversity and conservation have been envisaged.
Studies have also been made to understand the impact of forest fires in Northeast India and also to predict the fire-prone area.
Approximately, 1050 square metre area of degraded coral reefs has been restored with branching coral species belonging to the family Acroporidae, which are the dominant reef contributors in all world reefs, in collaboration with the Government of Gujarat through World Bank-Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).
Presently, the translocation of corals in the Gulf of Kutch is being carried out for Indian Oil Corporation.