Biological diversity is an index of a nation’s wealth. The simplest definition of biodiversity is “The totality of genes, species and ecosystems in a region”. Conserving biological diversity means perpetuating native species in numbers and distributions that provide a high likelihood of continued existence. Biodiversity performs a number of ecological services to humankind that have economic, aesthetic or recreational value. The tangible benefits include the economic benefit of harvesting timber and of recreation, and the intangible benefits include the pleasure of going on a hike or of bird-watching or eco-tourism to places of pristine environment and undisturbed natural bioparadises. Biodiversity also provides critical indirect benefits to humans which are difficult to quantify because we never put a price tag on them. These benefits include ecosystem services such as air and water purification, climate regulation and the generation of moisture and oxygen. Drastic changes in the Earth’s atmosphere are believed to have led to the disappearance of dinosaurs from Earth 65 million years ago.
Vegetation helps to recycle moisture into the atmosphere. Reports say that a single corn plant can transfer 60 gallons of water from soil to atmosphere in a few months. Similarly, a rainforest tree can transfer approximately 2.5 million gallons of water in its 100 year life span from soil to air.
Small animals like earthworms, mites, insects and millipedes help to give soil its texture and fertility and are important to its aeration. Tinier soil microorganisms and fungi are responsible for cycling essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and sulphur.
Wetlands are large filters which purify fresh water and remove heavy metals and other contaminants from it. It is the rivers which flush away and break down the sewage and effluents that we put into them and it is the microorganisms present in water which help in this transformation.
Protected wild areas where indigenous organisms live undistrurbed give people a sense of satisfaction in knowing that there are bears and wolves and rare plants and insects that still exist on this continent. Again natural and wild landscapes being aesthetically pleasing provide opportunities to get away from human dominated landscapes.
India has a total of 89,451 animal species accounting for 7.31% of the faunal species in the world and the flora accounts for 10.78% of the global total. But this rich biodiversity of India is under severe threat owing to habitat destruction, degradation, fragmentation and over-exploitation of resources. According to the Red List of Threatened Animals, 44 plant species are critically endangered, 113 endangered and 87 vulnerable. Among animals, 18 are critically endangered, 54 endangered and 143 are vulnerable. Ten species are Lower Risk conservation dependent, while 99 are Lower Risk near threatened. India ranks second in terms of the number of threatened mammals and India is the sixth in terms of countries with the most threatened birds.