Biodiversity in India
Just 17 of the world’s 190 or so countries contain 70 percent of its biodiversity, earning them the title “megadiverse.” India is one of these megadiverse countries with 2.4% of the land area, accounting for 7-8% of the species of the world, including about 91,000 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants, that have been documented in its ten bio-geographic regions. Of these 12.6% of mammals, 4.5% of birds, 45.8% of reptiles, 55.8% of amphibians and 33% of Indian plants are endemic, being found nowhere else in the world.
The above figure represents a species wise endemic content of the biodiversity in India. These endemic species are found nowhere else in the world.
It is further estimated that about 4,00,000 more species may exist in India which need to be recorded and described. The baseline data on existing species and their macro-and micro-habitats, is also inadequate.
This biodiversity has arisen over the last 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history and its sustainable use has always been a part of the Indian culture. India home to nearly one-fifth of the world’s human population and is rapidly seeing a change in its economy from a predominantly agrarian society into a diversified one resulting in mounting pressures on land use. A consequence of this has been the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats, which has been identified as the primary threat to biodiversity.
India also has three of 34 “global biodiversity hotspots” - unique, biologically rich areas which are facing severe conservation threats. The rapid rate of hotspot degradation makes it imperative that conservation science be pursued immediately and vigorously in these habitats, to devise effective measures which curtail the rapidly diminishing biodiversity, and to protect its unique biota.
The value of this biodiversity for sustaining and nourishing human communities is immense. To take an example, the ecosystem services from the forested watersheds of two great mountain chains, the Himalayas and the Western Ghats, indirectly support several million people in India.
Open and free access to biodiversity information is essential to promote conservation, management and sustainable use of biodiversity and has immense potential to increase the current and future value of the country’s biodiversity for a sustainable society.