By Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira
Jun 5: “We buy things, we don’t need,
With money, we don’t have,
To impress people, we don’t like”
Each year, the United Nations celebrates June 5 as World Environment Day, with a special theme, to help world leaders and every responsible citizen, understand the importance of safeguarding the biological richness of planet Earth. The theme for 2020 is 'Celebrate Biodiversity'. In simple words, biodiversity encompasses all living organisms from terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems.
With 1 million species facing extinction, it’s a wakeup call, not only for the world leaders but for individuals like you and me, to take action and save this green jewel in the solar system.
Biodiversity seems like an easy concept. However, its broad definition can open new lenses, through which, to explore ways of implementing conservation or even to explore what we mean by conservation itself. A look into our recent article (May 6, 2020) in Daijiworld, titled 'Living Green' which outlines various measures that communities and individuals can take to make our common home 'Mother Earth' a more habitable place, will enable readers, to gain a better understanding of the present article.
Biodiversity conservation itself is a dynamic concept. As such all living entities on this planet earth have the right to live and carry out the tasks and functions assigned to them by nature. However, if one vital link gets disturbed, it can result in a chain of irreversible reactions that will have a telling effect on the globe's food security. For e.g. the tiger is at the top of the food chain because it is an apex predator. It keeps the population of deer (chital), sambar, and gaur in check, thereby maintaining the balance between herbivores prey and the vegetation upon which they depend as food. If the tiger goes extinct, the entire ecosystem will collapse.
Why the need to protect biodiversity?
Biodiversity plays a critical role in sustaining the human population across the globe. Biodiversity acts as a ladder in supporting the web of life, both on land (terrestrial) and in water (aquatic), which provide a multitude of ecosystem services essential for the existence of mankind. The air that we breathe, the electricity that we consume, the water that we drink and the medicines that we obtain are all products of biodiversity. In short, biodiversity plays an important role in influencing the life support systems. In addition, biodiversity plays a role not only in the social and economic well-being of the society but acts as crucial links in supporting the poorest of the poor in making a decent living. Forests provide livestock and wild varieties of plants, some of which have been domesticated to provide food security.
Recent scientific reports (2019) have clearly elucidated the facts that the earth is undergoing a rapid transformation where species of wildlife and rare medicinal plants are lost even before they are discovered. Species that evolved over millions of years will never be seen again. Most of these species of rare herbs and shrubs hold vital clues to cure cancers, flu virus and other diseases of the present and future. The coming extinction spasm is the essence of the biodiversity crisis. With widespread degradation of highly biodiverse habitats such as coral reefs and rainforests, as well as other areas, the vast majority of these extinctions are thought to be irreversible and will have far-reaching consequences that threaten the very existence of mankind. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates. All these extinctions can be linked to human impact. Man is the global super predator. The World Wildlife Fund report (2018) indicates that overconsumption of finite resources by the global population has destroyed 60 per cent of wildlife population and habitats. If the present trend continues, almost 70 per cent of the major critically endangered species, which includes both flora and fauna will disappear by 2020.
According to the International Union for the conservation of Nature (ICUN), one of the most respected organizations on conservation, states that the big cat populations have significantly declined over the last half-century, some on the brink of extinction. Lions are down to 25,000 from 450,000; leopards are down to 50,000 from 750,000; cheetahs are down to 7,100 from 45,000; tigers are down to 3,000 in the wild from 50,000.
Just to give the readers a snapshot of the extinction rate as per scientific literature.
Cheetah in India, Snowy egret, heath hen, passenger pigeon, Bachman’s warbler, Carolina parakeet, Ivory-billed woodpecker.
Fossil record: 1 species per year (last 200 million years)
Recent/current: 1 species per year (~280 birds and mammals over past 300-400 years)
Current/future: 10,000 species per year.
Prediction: By the end of the next century, perhaps 25% of species will be lost.
The exploitation of the Earth’s finite resources at unsustainable levels by man.
Habitat loss and fragmentation of pristine forests due to farming, grazing, SEZ creation, deforestation, encroachment towards rail/ highway corridors.
Invasion of non-native species
Overhunting both on land and water,
Impact of global warming/pollution
Illegal wild trade/trophy hunting, exotic pet trade/medicinal uses-wet markets.
How do we conserve/protect biodiversity?
The World Environment day is also 'People’s Day' which is a day, to do something to take care of our environment. A change in behaviour could bring in a considerable impact. We can begin with simple sustainable lifestyle changes and work on the concept of minimalism. The choices we make in our day to day activities are critical in supporting biodiversity conservation. Today, we have a number of green choices that are environment-friendly. A few examples: Cycling, hybrid energy, using compost instead of synthetic chemicals, terrace gardens, indoor plants which purify the air, outdoor tree planting, garden to attract bees and butterflies. If one browses through our archives, one can find a number of recommendations, both at the institution level as well as at the individual level.
Despite the fact that ecosystems have been resilient to human intervention in the past, does not necessarily mean they will continue to be, in the face of increasing and intensely altered human influence. Without question, biodiversity has been decreasing at a pace where species have no time to evolve. We discover fewer amounts of species than we witness going extinct. We often highlight the point that economic growth cannot and must not be achieved at the cost of harming biodiversity. Any economic growth should consider nature as the foundation stone. This can only happen when we speak in terms of green GDP.
These wildlife pictures were shot by Aarav Rasquinha, Electropneumatics and Hydraulics, during his visits to different wildlife sanctuaries and his wanderings in nature. Aarav is studying in his IX grade and is an avid wildlife enthusiast and brings out a calendar on wildlife each year to help people understand the value of wildlife conservation.