Biodiversity: Why should we care?
Many have questioned me: if the evolution is the fundamental characteristic of the nature-where weak species vanish and strong survive, where stronger feeds on weaker, where faster grabs and nourishes over the slower, where one with sturdy muscles and sharper teeth feasts on softer muscles-why at all we care for conservation of biodiversity?It is for the reason that human beings are intervening in this very process of interdependent ‘natural evolution’ in the ecosystems-called as ‘background rate of extinction’ of species. The life thrives on the natural evolution of the biodiversity, which links with each other and forms the sustainable life-chain. When the rate of extinction of the species of flora and fauna is greater than the natural process, the life on the earth gates threatened. Such imbalance in natural process is taking place due to human influence and it is in our hands to prevent it.
In the history of the Earth, five known mega-extinctions have taken place when the majority of the species vanished. All the five extinctions were due to natural calamities like eruption of volcanoes or large asteroids hitting the earth. It is said that now sixth extinction is on the way, this time due to massive human intervention that is causing degradation of the ecosystems.
Biodiversity has been defined as the variation and variety of life at a given site or ecosystem. The link of the species with diverse characters and their ability to adapt to the natural changes is so strong that the term biodiversity is regarded as synonymous with ecosystem health.More the diversity of the ecosystems, the scientists have observed “increased stability, increased productivity, and resistance to invasion and other disturbances.”
A specific location that has enormous species diversity but is also under threat from human activities is known as a biodiversity hot spot. According to Norman Myers, the man who coined the term “hotspot,” two key criteria must be met for an area to be considered a biodiversity hotspot: “it must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of plants known to only exist in that region called endemic species, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation.” At least 25 areas around the world meet these unfortunate qualifications, and they “support nearly 60% of the world’s plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, with a very high share of endemic species.” This gives us a sense of how many unique species are under threat from human impacts around the world.
Western Ghats of India is one of those Hotspots in the world. There are two major reasons for turning the natural sites to ‘biodiversity hotspots’. First is the human activity (or the greed to grab and degrade the ecosystems!) and other is climate change. TERRE Policy center is working with community in Kaas Plateau –one of the World Natural Heritage sites of the Western Ghats-for the conservation of the biodiversity through development of the communities in sustainable way. See: http://www.terrepolicycentre.org/pdf/Report-Card-June-2013.pdf
By Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE Policy center and former Director UNEP