Biodiversity

In our biosphere immense diversity (or heterogeneity)exists not only at the species level but at all levels of biological organisation ranging from macromolecules within cells to biomes. Biodiversity is the term popularised by the sociologist Edward Wilson to describe the

combined diversity at all the levels of biological organisation.

The most important of them are–

(i) Genetic diversity: A single species might show high diversity at the genetic level over its distributional range. The genetic variation shown by the medicinal plant Rauwolfia vomitoria growing in different Himalayan ranges might be in terms of the potency and concentration of the active chemical (reserpine) that the plant produces. India has more than 50,000 genetically different strains of rice, and 1,000 varieties of mango.

(ii) Species diversity: The diversity at the species level. For example, the Western Ghats have a greater amphibian species diversity than the Eastern Ghats.

(iii) Ecological diversity: At the ecosystem level, India, for instance,with its deserts, rain forests, mangroves, coral reefs, wetlands, estuaries, and alpine meadows has a greater ecosystem diversity than a Scandinavian country like Norway.

It has taken millions of years of evolution, to accumulate this richdiversity in nature, but one could lose all that wealth in less than two centuries if the present rates of species losses continue. Biodiversity and its conservation are now vital environmental issues of international concern as more and more people around the world begin to realise the critical importance of biodiversity for our survival and well- being on this planet.

How Many Species are there on Earth and How Many in India?

Since there are published records of all the species discovered and named, As how many species in all have been recorded so far, but it is not easy to answer the question of how many species there are on earth. According to the IUCN (2004), the total number of plant and animal species described so far is slightly more than 1.5 million, but we have no clear idea of how many species are yet to be discovered and described. Estimates vary widely and many of them are only educated guesses. For many taxonomic groups, species inventories are more complete in temperate than in tropical countries. Considering that an overwhelmingly large proportion of the species waiting to be discovered are in the tropics, biologists make a statistical comparison of the temperate-tropical species richness of an exhaustively studied group of insects and extrapolate thisratio to other groups of animals and plants to come up with a gross estimate of the total number of species on earth. Some extreme estimates range from 20 to 50 million, but a more conservative and scientifically sound estimate made by Robert May places the global species diversity at about 7 million.

Since life originated on earth nearly 3.8 billion years ago, there had species been enormous diversification of life forms on earth. Biodiversity to the sum total of diversity that exists at all levels of biological organisation. Of particular importance is the diversity at ecosystem levels and conservation efforts are aimed at protecting diversity.  More than 1.5 million species have been recorded in the world, but there might still be nearly 6 million species on earth waiting to be discovered and named. Of the named species, > 70 per cent are animals, of which 70 per cent are insects. The group Fungi has more species than all the vertebrate species combined. India, with about 45,000 species of plants and twice as many species of animals, is one of the 12 mega diversity countries of the world.

Various steps and initiatives have been taken by government to conserve it and still contributing towards it.

Thank you.