The following points highlight the top two strategies for biodiversity conservation. The strategies are: 1. In Situ Conservation 2. Ex-situ Conservation Strategies.
Biodiversity Conservation: Strategy # 1. In Situ Conservation:
The areas of land and/or sea especially for protection and maintenance of biodiversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources. These areas are managed through legal or other effective means, e.g. National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
The earliest national parks are: The Yellowstone National Park in USA and the Royal National Park near Sydney, Australia. These parks were chosen because of their scenic beauty and recreational values.
Today, many such protected areas throughout the world protect rare species. World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) has recognized 37,000 protected areas around the world.
In India, some important measures are taken.
They are as follows:
Approximately 4.7 per cent of the total geographical area of the country has been earmarked for extensive in situ conservation of habitats and ecosystems. A protected area network of 89 National Parks and 492 Wildlife Sanctuaries have been created (MOEF, 2002). The results of this network have been significant in restoring viable population of large mammals, such as tiger, lion, rhinoceros, crocodiles, elephants, etc.
The Jim Corbett National Park, Nainital, Uttaranchal, was the first National Park, in India.
The Indian Council of Forestry Research (ICFRE) has identified 309 forest preservation plots of representative forest types for conservation of viable and representative areas of biodiversity. 187 of these plots are in natural forests and 112 in plantations covering a total area of 8,500 hectares.
A programme entitled ‘eco-development’ for in situ conservation of biological diversity involving local communities has been initiated in recent years. The concept of ‘eco-development’ includes the ecological and economic parameters for sustained conservation of ecosystems by involving the local communities with the maintenance of earmarked regions surrounding protected areas.
The economic needs of the local communities are taken care of under this programme through provision of alternative sources of income and a steady availability of forest and related produce.
The main benefits of protected areas are:
a. To maintain viable populations of all native species and subspecies.
b. To maintain the number and distribution of communities and habitats. Conservation of the genetic diversity of all the existing species.
c. To prevent human caused introductions of alien species.
d. To make it possible for species and habitats and shift in response to environmental changes.
Biosphere Reserve Programme:
Biosphere reserves are a special category of protected areas of land and/or coastal environments, wherein people are an integral component of the system.
The biosphere reserves are representative examples of natural biomes and contain unique biological communities.
The concept of Biosphere Reserves was launched in 1975 as a, part of UNESCO’s ‘Man and Biosphere Programme, dealing with the conservation of ecosystems and the genetic resources contained therein.
Till May 2002, there were 408 biosphere reserves dispersed in 94 countries.
In India, thirteen biodiversity rich areas have been designated as Biosphere Reserves applying the diversity and genetic integrity of plants, animals and microorganisms. (See map and table 14.8).
In India, Biosphere Reserves are also notified as National Parks.
Zonatism of a Terrestrial Biosphere Reserve:
A terrestrial biosphere reserve consists of core, buffer and transition zones.
(i) The natural or core zone comprises an undisturbed and legally protected ecosystem.
(ii) The buffer zone surrounds the core area, and is managed to accommodate a greater variety of resource use strategies, and research and educational activities.
(iii) The transition zone, the outermost part of the Biosphere Reserve.
This is an area of active cooperation between reserve management and the local people, wherein activities like settlements, cropping, forestry, recreation and other economic uses continue in harmony with people and conservation goals.
The main functions of biosphere reserves are:
To conserve the ecosystems, a biosphere reserve programme is being implemented, for example, conservation of landscapes, species and genetic resources. It also encourages traditional resource use.
The concept of eco-development integrates the ecological and economic parameters for sustained conservation of ecosystems by involving the local people with the maintenance of earmarked regions. Biosphere reserves are also used to promote economic development which is culturally, socially and ecologically sustainable.
(iii) Scientific Research Programme:
Programmes have also been launched for scientific management and wise use of fragile ecosystem. Specific programmes for management and conservation of wetlands, mangroves and coral reef systems are also being implemented.
Under this programme, 21 wetlands, 15 mangrove areas and 4 coral reef areas have been identified for management. National and sub-national level committees oversee and guide these programmes to ensure strong policy and strategic support.
Sacred Forests and Sacred Lakes:
In India and some other Asian countries, a traditional Strategy for the protection of biodiversity has been in practice in the form of sacred forests or groves. These forest patches of varying dimensions are protected by local people due to their religious sanctity. Generally, they are most undisturbed forests without any human impact.
In India, sacred forests are located in several parts, such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Meghalaya, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, etc., and serve as refuge for a number of rare and endangered taxa.
Similarly several water bodies are declared sacred by the people, e.g., Khecheopalri lake in Sikkim. Such water bodies protect aquatic flora and fauna.
Six internationally significant wetlands of India have been declared as Ramsar Sites under the Ramsar Convention. To focus attention on urban wetlands threatened by pollution and other anthropogenic activities, state Governments were requested to identify lakes that could be include the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP).
World Heritage Sites:
Under the World Heritage Convention, five natural sites have been declared as ‘World Heritage Sites’.
Five natural World Heritage Sites are as follows:
a. The Tura Range in Gora Hills of Meghalaya is a gene sanctuary for preserving the rich native diversity of wild Citrus and Musa species.
b. Sanctuaries for rhodendrous and orchids have been established in Sikkim.
c. Project Tiger:
A potential example of an highly endangered species in the Indian Tiger (Pantfiera tigris). It is estimated that India had about 40,000 tigers in 1900, and the number declined to a mere about 1,800 in 1972. Hence project tiger was launched in 1973.
At present these are 25 Tiger Reserves spreading over in 14 states and covering an area of about 33875 sq. km and the tiger population has more than doubled now due to total ban on hunting and trading tiger products at national and international levels.
d. Project Elephant:
This project was launched in 1991-92 to assist states having free ranging population of wild elephants to ensure long term survival of elephants in their natural habitats.
Rhinos have been given special attention in selected sanctuaries and national parks in the North East and North West India.
All these programmes, though focussed on a single species, have a wider impact as they conserve habitats and a variety of other species in those habitats.
Biodiversity Conservation: Strategy # 2. Ex-situ Conservation Strategies:
The ex situ conservation strategies include: botanical gardens, zoological gardens, conservation stands and gene, pollen, seed, seedling, tissue culture and DNA banks.
Seed gene banks make the easiest way to store germplasm of wild and cultivated plants at low temperature.
While in field gene banks, preservation of genetic resources is being done under normal growing conditions.
This type of in vitro conservation is done in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of -196°C. This is particularly useful for conserving vegetatively propagated crops, e.g., potato.
Cryopreservation is the storage of material at ultra-low temperature (i.e., -196° C) either by very rapid cooling, as used for storing seeds, or by gradual cooling and simultaneous dehydration, as being done in tissue culture.
In cryopreservation, the material can be stored for a considerable long period of time in compact low maintenance refrigeration units.
According to currently available survey, Central Government and State Governments together run and manage 33 Botanical Gardens, while Universities have their own botanic gardens.
A scheme entitled Assistance to Botanic Gardens provides one-time assistance to botanic gardens to strengthen and institute measure for ex-situ conservation of threatened and endangered species in their respective regions.
There are more than 1500 botanic gardens and arboreta in the world containing more than 80,000 species. Many of these botanic gardens now have seed banks, tissue culture facilities and other ex situ technologies.
Zoological gardens (zoos). In India, there are 275 zoos, deer parks, safari parks, aquaria, etc. A Central Zoo Authority was set up to secure better management of zoos.
There are more than 800 professionally managed zoos around the world with about 3000 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Many of these zoos have well developed captive breeding programmes.
Conservation of Wild Species:
The conservation of wild relatives of crop plants, animals or cultures of microorganisms provides breeders and genetic engineers with a ready source of genetic material.
India has 47,000 species of flowering and non-flowering plants representing about 12 per cent of the recorded world’s flora. Out of 47,000 species of plants, 5150 are endemic and 2532 species are found in the Himalayas and adjoining regions, and 1782 in peninsular India.
India is also rich in the number of endemic faunal species it possesses, while its record in agro-biodiversity is very impressive as well.
There are 166 crop species and 320 wild relatives along with numerous wild relatives of domesticated animals. Overall India ranks seventh in terms of contribution to world agriculture.