India has only 2.4% of the world’s land area, but contributes about 8.1% to global species diversity. This makes India one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries in the world. The country is divided into 10 biogeographic regions. The diverse ecological habitats such as forests, grasslands, wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems and desert ecosystems have helped to harbour and sustain immense biodiversity in the country.
The Indian subcontinent is rich in biodiversity with a good percentage of endemic flora and. fauna. This richness in biodiversity is due to variety of climate, topography and varied ecological habitats. These vary from the humid tropical Western Ghats to the hot deserts of Rajasthan, from the cold desert of Ladakh and snowcapped mountains of Himalayas to the warm coasts of peninsular India.
The country is one of the 12 primary centres of origin of cultivated plants and domesticated animals. It is considered to be the homeland of 167 important cultivated plant species of cereals, millets, fruits, condiments, vegetables, pulses, fibre crops and oilseeds, and 114 breeds of domesticated animals. The cultivated crops include rice, sugarcane, jute, mango, and several medicinal and aromatic plants (Table 2). The trees of India are listed in Table 3.
The numbers of the different kinds of animals are listed in Table 4.
There are over 45,000 species of plants and 75,000 species of animals identified. There are more than 100,000 plant species and more than 300,000 animal species yet to be discovered. About 4,900 species of flowering plants are endemic to the country.
These are concentrated in the floristically rich areas of North-East India, the Western Ghats, Northwest Himalayas and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is estimated that 62% of the known amphibian species are endemic to India, of which a majority is found in Western Ghats. The Western Ghats in peninsular India and the North-East region are the treasure house of species diversity.
The coastline of India is about 7,000 kms long where there is an abundance of seaweeds, fish, crustaceans, molluscs, corals, reptiles and mammals.
The conservation and sustainable use of biological resources in India is based on local knowledge systems and practices ingrained in Indian ethos. The country has a number .of alternative medicines, like Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathic systems, which are predominantly based on plant-based raw materials. Plant-based raw materials are also used in various herbal preparations in. the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.
However, India as a country has several challenges such as overpopulation, growing demand for land, energy and water supply. Due to overexploitation there is shortage of various materials and many animal species face the danger of extinction.