Everything comes from biodiversity-from the food we eat to the air we breathe. But issues arise threatening this vital part of nature. Threats on endangered species, depleted watersheds, denuded forests, receding wetlands and other harmful effects of human activities are just some of these many issues. To keep these risks at bay, we are celebrating World Biodiversity Day today. Biodiversity means the variety among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of the ecosystems.
Biodiversity supplies us in basic human needs such as food and water, but also helps us, for example, dealing with our organic waste. These are just some examples of the ecosystem functions that we can get for free from our natural environment. If we want to preserve these free services, we must protect the biodiversity we have still got left, foster it and give it the space it needs to endure climate change and related environmental threats.
CBD Graphic Timeline
The Earth's biological resources are vital to humanity's economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been as great as it is today. Despite the attempts that have been made to undermine progress made in solving environmental problems, major progress has been made. Scientists and, increasingly, the public are realizing that we are in an environmental crisis of global-ecological proportions.
Human populations are still ascending at an exponential net rate of 3 persons per second, the atmosphere is warming up at the rate of 0.76ºC per decade, both tropical and temperate rainforests are being cut at alarming rates of a Football ground per minute, and serious pollution is also much more prevalent than admitted previously. From the perspective of biodiversity this means, species are being lost almost not on a daily basis but on seconds, at the rate of one species per 20 minutes. Acknowledgement of these problems, however, means that we can find solutions for them, although most solutions require enormous economic aids which may anchor these coherent problems.
Biodiversity of India
The natural wealth of the Indian subcontinent has remained unique, mysterious and fascinating for nature lovers for ages. In Indian philosophy, life in any form is deemed sacred and it is advocated that compassion for all living creatures is essential. The worship of nature in all its different forms is an essential part of our cultural legacy.
India owns 7.8% of the recorded species of biodiversity reserved in the planet, though we share only 2.4% of the world's geographical area; over and above harboring 18.6% of world population and 20% of world cattle population. The country is in the 5 hot spots of the world. The rich and fascinating variety of India's biodiversity populates more than 500 species of mammals, 1,220 species of birds, 1,600 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 57,000 species of insects. India harbours 60% of the world's wild tiger population, 50% of Asian elephants, 80% of the one-horned rhinoceros and the entire remaining population of the Asiatic lion.
Yet the biodiversity found within our country is in jeopardy. From pollution to poaching, invasive species to habitat loss and fragmentation, these life forms that we call biodiversity are not enough to ensure for the future survival. The challenges of our Keibul Lamjao National Park, the only floating N.P. in the world, the home of our lovely Sangai is also not an isolated one from such agony.
Island Biodiversity is the theme for this year's International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB). Designation of IDB 2014 on the theme of island ecosystems provides Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and everyone interested in island life, the opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and increase practical action. In Manipur, we also have small islands of Thanga and Karang in the Loktal Lake. Therefore this year's theme also endowed us to relates to the Loktak where the Manipur's Ningthem shrine amidst endangers.
What is Island Biodiversity?
In terms of biodiversity, the issue is clearer: islands boast a truly unique assemblage of life. Species become island dwellers either by drifting on islands, like castaways, as they break off from larger landmasses in the case of continental islands or by dispersing across the ocean to islands newly emerged from the ocean floor for oceanic islands.
Henceforth they are confined to small, isolated areas located some distance from other large landmasses. Over time, this isolation exerts unique evolutionary forces that result in the development of a distinct genetic reservoir and the emergence of highly specialized species with entirely new characteristics and the occurrence of unusual adaptations, such as gigantism, dwarfism, flightlessness, and loss of dispersability and defence mechanisms. Genetic diversity and population sizes tend to be limited, and species often become concentrated in small confined areas.
The legacy of a unique evolutionary history, many island species are endemic—found nowhere else on Earth. Islands harbour higher concentrations of endemic species than do continents, and the number and proportion of endemics rises with increasing isolation, island size and topographic variety. It has often been remarked that islands make a contribution to global biodiversity that is out of proportion to their land area. In this sense, they can be thought of collectively as biodiversity "hot spots", containing some of the richest reservoirs of plants and animals on Earth.
Island Biodiversity - Why is it Important?
Islands are home to some 600 million people—one-tenth of the world's population. Many islanders are endowed with unique cultures and derive much of their economic, environmental and cultural well-being directly or indirectly from the rich natural resources in their immediate environment. Islands harbour numerous discrete ecosystems, from mountain forests to wetlands and beyond, that provide food, fresh water, wood, fibre, medicines, fuel, tools and other important raw materials, in addition to aesthetic, spiritual, educational and recreational values, that support island livelihoods, economies and cultures. Island ecosystems also contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem functions: they provide defence against natural disasters, support nutrient cycling, and soil and sand formation; and they contribute to the regulation of climate and diseases.
Yet island biodiversity is not only of vital importance to island dwellers. Islands are repositories of genetic information whose present-day biodiversity stands as a record of millions of years of evolution. This biodiversity has an inherent value to humankind the world over.
Island Biodiversity - What's the Problem?
The unique characteristics that make island biodiversity so special also leave it particularly fragile and vulnerable. Despite the high levels of biodiversity and the prevalence of endemism, island species are present in relatively small numbers, making them very vulnerable to extinction. Furthermore, because island species have diminished dispersal capability and evolve in competition with relatively few other species, they develop survival strategies based on interdependency, co-evolution, and mutualism rather than defence mechanisms against a broad range of predators and competitors.
As a result, many island species have become rare or threatened, and islands have a disproportionate number of recorded species extinctions when compared to continental systems. Of the 724 recorded animal extinctions in the last 400 years, about half were of island species. At least 90% of the bird species that have become extinct in that period were island-dwellers. Therefore the biodiversity loss is a particular concern on islands.
The global celebrations which takes place in the fourth year of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, will contribute to the ten-year project to raise awareness about the role of biodiversity for human well-being and the actions that can be taken to protect it. Future of our valued biodiversity depends on the action and values of people. Local authorities and governments are in the best position to reach out to citizens and involve, enable and inspire local stakeholders.
Cultural diversity and biodiversity (Wild Life) exist hand in hand. By facilitating a deeper relationship with the environment and the mankind, the world's Biodiversity can be conserved for the future. Let us not harm our environment today and only that will make a bright and rich-full biodiversity.