WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY ?
Biodiversity is the vast array of all species of plants, animals, insects and micro-organism inhabiting the earth either in the aquatic or the terrestrial habitats.
Biodiversity includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered but also every living thing—from humans to organisms we know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertebrates.
At the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, we include humans and human cultural diversity as a part of biodiversity. We use the term “biocultural” to describe the dynamic, continually evolving and interconnected nature of people and place, and the notion that social and biological dimensions are interrelated.
This concept recognizes that human use, knowledge, and beliefs influence, and in turn are influenced, by the ecological systems of which human communities are a part. This relationship makes all of biodiversity, including the species, land and seascapes, and the cultural links to the places where we live—be right where we are or in distant lands—important to our wellbeing as they all play a role in maintaining a diverse and healthy planet.
To explain the need of the forests and wildlife for our survival these days there is much emphasis on understanding what is biodiversity ? Prof. Peter Ravan of Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis may be quoted, “Billions of dollars have been spent for the exploration of the moon. We know far more about the moon then we know about the rain forests. The moon will be there for longer than these forests and perhaps than the human race. In the forests are found most complex interacting system on earth, system which might even hold the key to our survival and about which we know practically nothing”.
Species diversity refers to the various species under the same genus and also the varieties of species within a region e.g., Tiger (Panthera tigris), lion (Panthera leo persica) and snow leopard Panthera uncia all belong to the same genus Panthera but they differ from each other at the species level.
The genetic diversity refers to the various kinds of genus, which exists in any one individual species. Diversity of genus brings about the changes in an individual species and gives rise to various varieties (in plants) and races (in animals). For example there are many varieties of mango (Mangifera indica) and there are several races of human beings.
Socioeconomic benefits of biodiversity
- A large part of our daily needs is fulfilled by the harvest of wild species.
- Wheat and rice production has increased considerably in last few years by incorporating dwarf genes from wild varieties.
- Genes from “wild varieties” may save from the epidemic to some extent disease.
- A large number of medicines are prepared from wild products.
- Some of the wild species can restore the dwindling species.
Levels of diversity
Biodiversity can be studied at four levels of biological organization :
- The ecosystem diversity.
- The generic diversity.
- The species diversity.
- The genetic diversity
Ecosystem diversity refers to the various types of habitats in various types of ecosystems namely terrestrial (e.g. forest, desert), aquatic (fresh water and marine ecosystems), wetlands (Mangroves and estuarine ecosystems etc.).
The generic diversity refers to the diverse plant groups from algae to angiosperms, the diverse animal groups from fishes to amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals of many other forms of animal life.
With the increasing depletion of forests and wildlife about 26 biologically sensitive areas have been identified in India where preservation of biodiversity is required. In the “Earth Summit” held in 1992 at Rio de Janeiro an agreement on biological diversity was developed. Several recommendations have been made for the preservation of biodiversity in the welfare of the mankind. After 10 years, in 2002 next “Earth Summit” was held at Geneva to review the progress made in this direction.