April 7, 2009
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Birds comprise of approximately 10,000 species and are essential building blocks of biodiversity. Even though, one can see birds in almost all possible environments, a closer look will reveal that each species is unique in its ecology and distribution. Scientists are just now beginning to understand the importance of birds as valuable indicators for global environmental change. For eg.The presence of a particular bird species in a particular area during a particular time indicates the flowering pattern of various wild flowers. Birds provide a wonderful window of opportunity to study and focus on the biodiversity of various biomes because both biodiversity and birds are intricately linked to the web of life. India is one of the worlds top ten countries for diversity of wild life and we as responsible citizens should do all that we can to recognize and protect this wealth which few other Nations have.
The Western Ghats possesses a distinct identity, not only because of its geography but also because of the great diversity of its natural ecosystems. The Western Ghats comprise the mountain range that runs along the western coast of India from the Vindhya-satpura ranges in the North to the Southern tip, and runs through the States of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, covering an estimated area of 159,000 sq.km. These unique, ecological mountain ranges have not only been classified as mega biodiversity hotspots but have also been recognized as World Biodiversity hotspot by Birdlife International. The stretch has gained global importance because of the exceptional biological richness it supports in a variety of habitats—Evergreen tropical forests, dry alpine scrub, semi evergreen forests, deciduous monsoon forests, thorn jungle scrub forest, mangroves, mixed hill forests, montane grasslands, and scrub forests. The complex topography and the heavy rainfall have made certain areas in accessible have helped the region retain its diversity. Less than 18 % of the Western Ghats is protected by way of game sanctuaries and National parks. (20 national parks and 68 sanctuaries).
INDIA IN RELATION TO THREATENED BIRDS:
The Western Ghats contains over 500 species of birds and are considered as a bird endemic area by Birdlife International. A majority of Karnataka's bird species are from the Western Ghats region.
Threatened birds are found virtually throughout India but their numbers are unsustainable. The western Ghat forest range support groups of species with small and declining ranges. The recently rediscovered Forest Owlet inhabits a few forest fragments in Central India, and a group of birds endemic to the Western Ghats are also globally threatened. Certain species of birds, especially the birds of prey like the eagles, falcons were pushed to the brink of extinction by indiscriminate use of chemicals like DDT. A huge effort by conservationists has helped the population to recover ground.
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Some rare or endemic birds
Malabar Parakeet, Nilgiri Pipit, White bellied blue robin, Broad tailed Grasshird, Black and orange flycatcher, Nilgiri flycatcher, White bellied blue flycatcher, white-bellied minivet ,grey-headed bulbul ,Malabar lark ,great Indian hornbill ,Malabar trogon ,Ceylon frogmouth ,rufous-bellied (hawk) & black eagles ,Malabar woodpecker ,Nilgiri wood pigeon ,white-bellied shortwing ,painted bushquail ,Nilgiri pipit ,Wynaad, Nilgiri & grey-breasted laughing thrushes,Caspian plover,Asian dowitcher,ducks, terns, waders and raptors ,Spoon-billed sandpiper,
KEY BIODIVERSITY AREAS: KBA
We need to accept that all wildlife habitats have been greatly affected by man made activities. Although India has strict laws that protect both wild life and sanctuaries from encroachment, these out dated laws, need to be updated to be in tune with reality. One such concept that has caught the attention of planners is in the formation of Key Biodiversity Areas within the Western Ghats.
These are globally important sites for biodiversity conservation, defined by the presence of irreplaceable and threatened biodiversity: globally threatened species, restricted-range species, and species that concentrate in globally significant numbers. 126 KBA are earmarked as high priorities for conservation action. These are not only important local sites but globally important sites for biodiversity conservation.
The Ministry of Environment and forests, Multilateral and Bilateral donor agencies, including the World Bank, Asian development Bank provide loans and grants to both Government and Non Governmental organizations in the areas of conservation. Successful conservation requires public private partnerships with model citizen groups.
Citizens, students, Government employees need to be educated and informed periodically about natural resource values and the importance of safeguarding these vital links for future generations.
The message that we are trying to convey is that the public can voice their opinion in decision making when vital nesting grounds and other bird habitats are threatened by change in land use pattern like the formation of SEZ or townships.
How many birds are threatened with extinction?
Bird Life International is the leading authority on Birds.
In their latest assessment in 2008, 1,226 species are considered threatened with extinction (i.e. in the categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Extinct in the Wild). This represents 12.4% of the total of 9,856 extant bird species in the world. An additional 835 species are considered Near Threatened, giving a total of 2,061 species that are urgent priorities for conservation action. Of the threatened species, 190 species are considered Critically Endangered and are therefore at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
How many birds have gone extinct?
Since the year 1500, we have lost over 150 bird species – an extinction rate far higher than the natural background. Today, one in eight bird species is threatened with global extinction, with 190 species Critically Endangered, and Red List assessments show that things are getting worse. Particularly alarming are sharp declines in many formerly common and widespread species. This is a signal of wider environmental problems, and of the erosion of biodiversity as a whole.
A total of 134 species are documented as having gone extinct since 1500. A further four species are now extinct in the wild and survive only in captive populations. Fifteen such species are categorized as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) or Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild). Thus, a total of 153 species may have been lost in the last 500 years.
Bird Life International identifies 218 endemic bird areas where it’s particularly important to focus on conservation of birds, habitat and biodiversity.
The currently designated EBAs account for only 7,300,000 square kilometers of Earth’s land surface (4.5 percent).
More than three quarters are in the tropics or subtropics.
Many are islands or mountain ranges.
All but seven percent of Earth’s 2500 endemic birds live in EBAs.
Each EBA is home to at least two restricted-range endemic birds and some have as many as eighty. Endemic species of other life are also common in these areas.
A diversity of human culture and language is typical in EBAs.
The Western Ghats is an area of exceptional biological diversity. The entire region is threatened due to unplanned human activity. Satellite images clearly shows that this hot spot has already lost a significant part of its original forest cover due to timber extraction, construction of dams, flooding due to sand mining, and overexploitation of natural resources. Factors such as fragmentation of wetlands, pollution and global-warming are also creating problems. We need to stop the destruction before it is too late.
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