Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Environmental Studies - Biodiversity, Environmental Pollution and Legislation along with miscellaneous topics

A plant, animal or microorganism that is in immediate risk of biological extinction is called endangered or threatened species.
The following are the threats to biodiversity:-
-Habitat destruction (Draining and filling-up of inland wetlands)
-Extension of agriculture
-Filling-up of wetlands
-Conversion of rich biodiversity site for human settlement and industrial development
-Destruction of coastal areas
-Uncontrolled commercial exploitation
-Pollution (Frog eggs, Tadpoles and adults are extremely sensitive to pollutants especially pesticides)
-Populations can be adversely affected by introduction of non-native predators and competitors
-Disease producing organisms play an important adversary in reducing populations of endemic species.
Asia's rarest animals found in India are:
-Asiatic Cheetah
-Asiatic Lion
-Asiatic Wild Ass
-Bengal Fox
-Indian Elephant
-Indian Rhinocerous
-Marbled Cat
Endemic species are species concentrated in a particular region. 60% of the endemic species are found in the himalayas and western ghats in India.
-NE India
-NW Himalayas
-Western Ghats and
Andaman & Nicobar islands
Endemic flora found in India are:
-Sapria Himalayana
-Ovaria Lurida
-Nepenthis Khasiana
Endemic species of conservation significance in the western ghats are:
-Lion Tailed Macaque
-Nilgiri Langur
-Brown palm civet and
-Nilgiri Tahr
187 endemic reptiles and 110 endemic amphibian species are found in India.
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and natural resources) defines conservation as management of human use of biosphere so that it might yield the greatest sustainable benefit while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.
Biodiversity is one of the important tools for sustainable development. The commercial, medical, genetic, aesthetic and ecological importance of biodiversity emphasizes the need for its conservation.
-provides recreation and tourism
-preserves genetic diversity of plants and animals
-ensures sustainable utilization of life supporting systems on earth
-is essential for conservation of ecological diversity and life supporting systems
-helps maintain a stable and healthy environment
-is an important source for drugs, herbs, food and other important raw material as these are derived from plants and animals
Types of biodiversity conservation
1. In-situ conservation and
2. Ex-situ conservation
In-situ conservation involves protection of flora and fauna within its natural habitat. These areas are called protected areas. It is the ultimate conservation strategy.
Ex: National parks, Gene Sanctuaries, wildlife Sanctuaries and Biosphere reserves
Biosphere reserves:-cover large areas (>5000 sq. km)
-are used to protect species for a long time
Role of biosphere reserves are:
-long time survival of evolving ecosystem
-protection of endangered species
-protect maximum number of species and communities
-serve as site of recreation and tourism
-used for educational and research purposes
Biosphere reserves serve as an open system and changes in land use are not allowed. Explosive activities are not allowed in biosphere reserves.
A national park is an area dedicated for the conservation of wildlife along with its environment. It covers an area ranging from 100 to 500 sq km. One or more national parks may exist within a biosphere reserve.
A national park is used for enjoyment through tourism without affecting the environment. It is used to protect, propogate and develop wildlife.
Grazing domestic animals inside national parks is prohibited. All private rights and forestry activities are prohibited inside a national park.
Wildlife sanctuary is an area that is reserved for conservation of animals only. It allows operations such as harvesting of timber, collection of forest products, private ownership rights and forest operations provided it does not affect animals adversely.
Gene sanctuary is an area where plants are conserved.
Few notable projects for the conservation of animals are listed below:
-Project Tiger
-Gir Lion Project
-Crocodile breeding project
-Project Elephant, etc
The advantages of this type of conservation are listed below:
-It is cheap and convenient
-Species get adjusted to natural disasters like flood, drought, forest fires, etc
The disadvantages of this type of conservation are listed below:
-large surface area of earth is required to preserve biodiversity
-Inadequate maintenance due to shortage of staff and pollution
Ex-situ conservation refers to conservation of flora and fauna outside their natural habitat.This type of conservation is mainly done for conservation of crop varieties and wild relatives of crops. It provides back-up solution to in-situ conservation projects.
Ex-situ conservation involves maintenance and breeding of endangered plant and animal species under controlled conditions
It identifies those species that are at high risk of extinction
It prefers species that are important for man in near future among the endangered species.
Ex: Seed banks, botanical gardens, microbial culture collections, cell cultures, pollen storage, tissue culture, genetic engineering centres and zoological gardens.
Methods of Ex-situ conservation
-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NPBGR)
 It is located in New Delhi
 It uses CRYOPRESERVATION technique to preserve agricultural and horticultural crops
 This technique involves using liquid nitrogen at -19 C
 Varieties of rice, turnip, radish, tomato, onion, carrot, chilli, tobacco, etc have been successfully preserved for years using this technique.
-National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR)
 It is located in Karnal, Haryana
 It preserves the semen of bovine domesticated animals
-National Facility for Plant Tissue Culture Repository (NFPTCR)
 It conserves varieties of crop plants or trees using tissue culture
 This facility has been created within the NBPGR.

Benefits of biodiversity conservation:
1. Increase in food supplies by developing new crop plants, animal sources, etc
2. Increased use of biological control agents to control pests
3. Source of genes through hybridization and genetic engineering

Threats to biodiversity:
Human population growth, industrialization and change in land-use pattern (Ex: Urban sprawl)
Man-wildlife conflicts
Habitat loss
The reasons for loss of biodiversity are listed below:
-Destruction of forests
-Over-exploitation of bio-resources
-Shifting cultivation
-Illegal trade
-Smuggling and biopiracy
-Soil degradation and erosion
-Diminishing green cover
-Mining for ores
-Infrastructure development (Roads, river valley projects)
-Exploitation of timber and non-timber forest produce
-Loss of land fertility
-Tourism business
-Greed vs Need

Issues involved in enforcement of environmental legislation
Environmental legislation has minimal impact on the social fabric and people in a community without effective enforcement. Environmental legislation evolved to protect the human population, the environment and the earth's resources. Successful implementation of environmental legislation involves data collection and analysis. This information is then passed on to an enforcement agency that takes necessary legal action on all defaulters. The issues essential for enforcement of environmental legislation are:
-Precautionary principle: This principle evolved to deal with risks and uncertainities faced by environmental management. It does not prevent problems but mau reduce their occurrence and ensures preparation of contingency plans.
-Polluter pays principle: This principle states that a polluter pays for damaging the environment in addition to monitoring and policing. There is a debate if this principle should be retrospective.
Freedom of Information: Environmental planning and management is hindered if anyone is not given access to information. Under this principle, every citizen of the country, or any organization, Ex: NGO is provided access to information on the environment due to infrastructure development projects.