Biodiversity is a short form of biological diversity. It is the total number of genes, species and ecosystems of a region. It includes

  1. Genetic diversity
  2. Species diversity
  3. Ecosystem diversity

Plants and animals constitute only a small component of biodiversity. The invisible micro-organisms constitute a large component of bio-diversity.

Genes: The basic biological unit of heredity. Genes of an individual belonging to the same species are similar and genes control the characteristics of particular species.

Species: A group of very similar having some common characteristics or qualities and capable of interbreeding.

Ecosystem: Any segment of the landscape that includes biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components is known as ecosystem.

Status of Biodiversity in India

Biodiversity increases as we move from the poles towards the equator. India is located between 8°4′ North and 37°6′ North latitudes and 68°7′ East and 97°25′ East longitude. Due to this position, India has rich biodiversity. Although India has only 2.42% of the world’s land area but its contribution to the world’s biodiversity is approximately 8% of the total number of species which is estimated to be 1.75 million.

6% of the world species are found in India. 45000 plants species comprising about 12% of world’s flora are found in Indian forests. Two of the twelve biodiversity hotspots in the world are in India. They are the North-Eastern region and the Western Ghats.

A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a high level of endemic species. Endemic species are those species that are found in a certain limited area.

Mega biodiversity: A unique combinations of different plants and animal species which is not available anywhere else.

Significance of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is fundamental to the existence of life on the earth. There are varieties of living things that exist in a given physical environment. These are interdependent and interrelated in the form of an ecosystem.

Plants occur in distinct groups of communities in areas having similar climatic conditions. The nature of vegetation in any area determines the animal life. When the vegetation of a place is altered, animal life also changes and simultaneously it affects mankind.

Loss of any component in the system adversely affects other components of the system. We are an integral part of the ecosystem. By cutting trees and killing animals, human beings lead to ecological imbalance. Ecosystem is extremely valuable in different facets of human life which includes the following:

  • Providing food, water, fiber, fuel, etc.
  • Regulating of climate and disease. For example: people are suffering from cold and cough in winters and stomach infections in monsoon

Causes of Loss of Biodiversity

Increasing population and changing lifestyle leads to extensive commercial exploitation of the natural resources. This results in loss of biodiversity. Consequently it is adversely affecting the ability of the nature to continue delivering the goods and services for human existence. The loss of biodiversity affects not only the physical environment but also the social, cultural, religious and spiritual well being of human life.

Natural Vegetation and Wildlife

In our ecosystem, vegetation and wildlife are valuable resources. Plants provide us with timber, give shelter to man and animals, produce the oxygen we breathe, prevent soil erosion and natural calamities such as floods, high speed winds and help in storage of underground water, give us fruits, nuts, latex, turpentine oil, gum, medicinal plants and also the paper. These are some of the innumerable uses of plants.

Wildlife includes animals, birds, insects, reptiles as well as the aquatic life forms. They provide us milk, meat, hides and wool. Insects like bees provide us honey, help in pollination of flowers and have an important role to play as decomposers in the ecosystem. The birds feed on insects and act as a decomposers as well. Vulture due to its ability to feed on dead livestock is a scavenger and considered a vital cleanser of the environment.

So life forms, big or small, all are integral in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem.