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Biodiversity conservation: Reasons and Ways to conserve Biodiversity, Practice Problems and FAQs

Biodiversity conservation: Reasons and Ways to conserve Biodiversity, Practice Problems and FAQs

You all know about the epic ‘Ramayana’. Have you seen the famous series ‘Ramayan’?

If yes, do you remember the incident when Lord Lakshman fainted during the war and Lord Hanuman was sent to get the medicinal plant ‘Sanjeevani’ from the forest of ‘Dronagiri Parvat’. Unfortunately, he could not identify the plant and in stress he carried the whole mountain to Sushena, the Lankan physician, who could identify it. In this way the Lord Lakshman was cured.

Please enter alt text
                          Fig: Lord Hanuman with the mountain

Similarly, in today’s world also, forests are enriched with a large number of resources. We get food, industrial raw materials, shelter, protection, medicines and many more things from the forest.

What if nature started putting service charge on its natural resources? We are using free oxygen and if nature started charging a price for its natural service, what would happen? You can get an idea about this by visiting your nearest hospital and ask how much they charge for one oxygen cylinder. Being a responsible human being, it is our duty to protect nature. So that it can sustain and provide its service for the coming generations too. Let’s take a deep dive into the details of biodiversity conservation methods in this article.


                                         Fig: Biodiversity conservation

Table of contents

  • Reasons to conserve biodiversity
  • Ways to conserve biodiversity
  • Practice Problems
  • FAQs

Reasons to conserve biodiversity

For a sustainable future, protection, upliftment, and management of biodiversity is essential. Every organism depends on one another in the food chain or the web. If the population of one species declines, the population of dependent species also will decline in number. Therefore, biodiversity should be conserved.

Reasons for the biodiversity conservation are enlisted below:

  • Narrowly utilitarian reasons
  • Broadly utilitarian reasons
  • Ethical reasons

Narrowly utilitarian reasons

The narrowly utilitarian reasons to conserve biodiversity is based on the fact that we, humans get countless direct economic benefits from nature in the form of food (cereals, pulses and fruits), firewoods, fiberes, construction materials, industrial products (tannins, lubricants, dyes, resins, and perfumes) and products of medicinal value such as taxol which is an anti-cancer drug used in chemotherapy.

Food

To grow different types of vegetation, forests are cleared which is a main cause of deforestation. There are some trees in forests that provide nutritious sap instead of water. The examples of such trees are baobab, palm, sycamore and birch. Forests are also a source of fodder for cattle.


                                            Fig: Narrowly utilitarian reasons

Protection

The products we used to protect and cover ourselves, such as cloth bags, are obtained from natural resources. Silk, jute, cotton and wool are the natural products obtained from plants and animals. These are processed and then used as clothes. Narrowly utilitarian resources also include firewood that is used to cook food and provide warmth in colder regions.


                                                Fig: Narrowly utilitarian resources

Industrial products

Chemically, tannins are polyphenolic organic compounds. They are obtained from tea leaves, grape skins, seeds, and oak tree barks. Tannins are used in tanning of leather, dyeing process of cellulose fibres and as mordants (chemical that fixes a dye). Natural dyes are made from flowers, fruits, leaves, roots and insects. They are used to dye clothes and are not harmful to the environment.


                                                        Fig: Tannins

Medicines

Forests contain around 25000 varieties of plant species. These plant species are used in traditional medicines. Forests account for more than 25% of drugs in the market. There are many medicines whose main source is forest.

Examples of medicines

Example include quinine, isolated from Cinchona tree bark that has antimalarial properties. Another example is reserpine, a drug isolated from the Rauwolfia plant. It has anti hypertensive properties. Morphine is used as an analgesic. It is obtained from Papaver somniferum.


                                                  Fig: Benefits in medicines

Bioprospecting

There is a need to explore molecular, genetic and species level diversity with increasing resources to obtain products that are economically important. This process is known as bioprospecting. The new medicinal compounds are then processed into drugs and then sold into the market.

Broadly utilitarian reasons

Broadly utilitarian reasons are based on the fact that biodiversity plays a major role in ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are characterised as the products of ecosystems that are beneficial to humans. This group involves the following ecosystem services:

  • O2 production and CO2 sequestration
  • Pollination
  • Intangible benefits
  • Climate regulation
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Soil protection
  • Aquifers
  • Biological pest control
  • Flood control

O2 production, CO2 sequestration

Amazon forest is known as the ‘lungs of the planet’ because it produces 20% of Earth’s total oxygen through the process of photosynthesis. Earlier, the Amazon forest absorbed carbon dioxide and saved Earth from the climate crisis. As the deforestation and forest fires increased, the Amazon forest started emitting more carbon dioxide than it can absorb.


                                                   Fig: Amazon rainforest

Pollination

Pollination is described as an act of transferring pollen grains from anther of the male flowers to the stigma of the female flower. It is done by natural agents, such as bees, butterflies, birds, bats etc. These agents are known as pollinators. Pollination occurs through insects is termed as entomophily, whereas pollination occurs through birds is known as ornithophily.

Pollination is essential for successful crop, seed and fruit production. If a farmer does pollination manually, then it becomes a tedious, expensive and unfruitful process.


  GIF: Pollination                                                                  Pollination

Intangible benefits

Nature provides a lot of benefits that are intangible. It involves the aesthetic pleasure of walking through thick woods in the jungle. It also involves watching the blooming of spring flowers and waking up to a bulbul’s song in the morning. These benefits provide peace, calm and boost our mental state.


                                                                Fig: Ecotourism

Climate regulation

Forests and ocean systems in the world regulate the global climate.

Nutrient cycling

Soil microorganisms are involved in the cycling of nutrients. It is maintaining and making the nutrients available to the food chains and webs.

Soil protection

Plants and grasses cover and protect the soil from surface runoff, rain and wind.

Aquifers

Plant cover is required for retaining rainwater, its percolation and storage in aquifers and reservoirs.

Biological pest control

In nature pests are kept under control by their natural predators. For example, dragon flies can prey on mosquitoes.

Flood control

Plant cover reduces surface runoff and prevents flooding.

Ethical reasons

Ethical reasons emphasise the significance of protecting millions of plants, animals, and microbiological species that survive on this planet, whether or not they are valuable. Even if they have little economic value, humans must recognise that every species has intrinsic value, intellectually or spiritually. Humans have a moral obligation to look after their health and pass on a healthy biological legacy to future generations.


                                                    Fig: Ethical reasons

Ways to conserve biodiversity

Conservation of biodiversity involves the protection of existing biodiversity. If a destroyed biodiversity is restored, then it is termed as restoration of biodiversity. There are two ways to conserve biodiversity. These are as follows:

  • In situ conservation
  • Ex situ conservation

In situ conservation

In situ conservation is an on site conservation of biodiversity in which animals and plants are conserved in their natural habitat. In this method, biodiversity can be conserved at all levels. For example, the whole forest is conserved to save tigers. The in situ conservation can be done by the following methods:

  • Biodiversity hotspots
  • Biosphere reserves
  • National parks
  • Sanctuaries
  • Sacred groves

Biodiversity Hotspots

Biodiversity hotspots are considered as those areas that have a high level of species richness and endemism. Endemism involves those species that are only found in a particular area and not found anywhere else. Examples of endemic species include lion tailed macaque found in Western Ghats and red panda in Himalayas.


                                                            Fig: Endemic species

Initially there were 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world and later on nine more hotspots were added. Today, 34 hotspots are present in the world that constitute less than 2% of the total land area in the world. These hotspots are rich in biodiversity. The strict protection of these hotspots regions decrease the mass extinction by 30%. Examples of three hotspots are Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, Indo-Burma and Himalaya.


                                            Fig: Biodiversity hotspots

Biosphere reserves

They are multipurpose areas which are protected. They preserve genetic diversity, natural biomes and wild populations. Currently there are 14 biosphere reserves in India. Biosphere reserves include three different zones that are involved in different activities as follows:

Transition area

Transition area is the peripheral area which is used in various activities like human settlement, medicine collection, cattle grazing, timber collection and tourism.

Buffer zone

The zone surrounding the core area is the buffer zone. This area is mainly used for research and education activities. Buffer zone is less used in human settlement and tourism.

Core area

This area is used for only research purposes and therefore, it is legally protected. It is characterised as the innermost and undisturbed area. The information obtained from this area is used to assess the sustainability of surrounding areas. Human interference is prohibited in this area.


                                           Fig: Biosphere reserve

Importance of biosphere reserves
  • They promote sustained economic development.
  • They ensure the conservation of landscapes.
  • They help in the restoration of degraded ecosystems.
  • They allow research.

National parks

They are funded areas that are set and conserved by the government. The national parks are only used for tourism and research purposes. The rules and regulations are very strict and do not allow human interference, grazing activities, timber collection and trespassing. There are 90 national parks in India currently. For example, Bandipur National Park is situated in the city of Mysore (Karnataka) which is specific for tigers. Jim Corbett national park is a large tiger reserve situated in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand state.


                      Fig: Tiger conserved in national park

Sanctuaries

Sanctuaries are characterised as naturally occurring areas where endangered species are protected from hunting, poaching and predation. They are specific ecosystems where specific species are protected. Human settlement, tourism and research work are allowed in the area of sanctuaries. There are 448 wildlife sanctuaries in India. Gir wildlife sanctuary for Asiatic lions is one of the examples of sanctuaries.


                            Fig: Asiatic lions protected in sanctuary

Sacred Groves

There are several places that hold spiritual and religious value. Therefore, people show respect and devotion towards these areas and preserve the trees and wildlife of these areas. These are termed as sacred groves. There are four sacred groves in India. These are as follows:

  • Khasi and Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya
  • Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan
  • Western Ghat regions of Karnataka and Maharashtra
  • Surguja, Bastar and Chanda regions of Madhya Pradesh.


                                        Fig: Sacred groves of India

Ex situ conservation

Ex situ conservation involves the taking away of plants and animals from their original habitat and placing them in a new environment which is mimic to their native environment. Special care has been taken to establish a native environment. This is also known as off site conservation and done by the following methods:

  • Zoological parks
  • Botanical gardens
  • Wildlife safari parks
  • Gene banks

Zoological parks

Those animals that may become extinct are kept in zoological parks and provided with necessary requirements.


                                        Fig: Zoo

Botanical gardens

In botanical gardens, different types of plants are preserved at similar sites. They include nurseries, greenhouses, cactus homes, ponds etc.


                   Fig: Botanical garden

Wildlife safari parks

The wildlife safari parks are designed in such a way that animals wander freely. Visitors are taken around the parks in vehicles.


                        Fig: Wildlife safari park

Gene banks

They maintain and preserve stocks of genetic material in different forms. It include the following:

  • Seed banks
  • Orchards
  • Tissue culture
  • Cryopreservation
Seed banks

It is used to store the germplasm of wild and cultivated plants. Dried seeds are stored in seed banks. Seed banks require a regulation of moisture, temperature and light.

Seeds are of two types based on the storage methods as follows:

Orthodox seeds

They are able to tolerate a reduction in moisture content up to 5% and temperature of -10ºC to -20ºC. Examples include cereals, legumes etc.

Recalcitrant seeds

These seeds get killed on reduction of moisture and exposure to low temperature. Examples include tea, cocoa etc.

Orchards

The plants with recalcitrant seeds are grown here. Examples include litchi, oil palm etc.

Tissue culture

This method is useful for those plants with recalcitrant seeds or seedless. They can be maintained through callus formation, pollen grain culture, and meristem culture. It is useful for hybrid rescue and rapid multiplication.

Cryopreservation

Cryopreservation is a technique to store biological samples in liquid nitrogen at -196℃. At this low temperature, all the cell activities stop and stay viable for a very long time. Using cryopreservation techniques, gametes of threatened species are preserved for a long period in viable and fertile conditions. Various biological samples can also be preserved, such as sperm, seeds, pollen, ova and plant tissues.


                                      Fig: Biological samples stored using cryopreservation

The Earth Summit

The earth summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 in which all nations are come forward to conserve biodiversity by sustainable use of resources The major focussed areas of this summit are as follows:

  • Transport and emissions
  • Alternate fuel sources
  • Water supply and shortage

World Summit

It was held on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002 as a follow-up of the Earth Summit. In the World Summit, 190 countries pledged to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.


                                                          Fig: Earth Summit

Practice Problems

1. You visited a protected area where vehicles are allowed to roam and see the different types of animals roaming there. Identify the area where you visited?

  1. Zoo
  2. National park
  3. Sanctuary
  4. Wildlife safari

Solution: The wildlife safari parks are designed in such a way that animals wander freely. Visitors are taken around the parks in vehicles here. Hence, the correct option is d.

2. Go to a nearby nursery and see the different species of plants. You can buy a plant from there. The nursery is an example of which type of conservation?

  1. In situ conservation
  2. Ex situ conservation
  3. Cryopreservation
  4. Seed bank

Solution: Nursery is an example of botanical garden which is an approach of ex situ conservation. Ex situ conservation involves the taking away of plants and animals from their original habitat and placing them in a new environment which will mimic their native environment. Special care has been taken to establish a native environment here. Hence, the correct option is b.

3. A person ‘X’ is living in mountains where the environment is so clear and peaceful. X daily wakes up when listening to a bulbul song in the morning. This is an example of which service of nature?

  1. Bioprospecting
  2. Intangible benefit
  3. Pollination
  4. None of the above

Solution: Nature provides a lot of benefits that are intangible. Listening to a bulbul song in the morning is an example of intangible benefits. These benefits provide peace, calm and boost our mental state. Hence, the correct option is b.

4. Match column A with column B and find out the correct option.

Column A

Column B

  1. In situ conservation

P. Storage in liquid nitrogen at -196℃

  1. Ex situ conservation

Q. National park

  1. Cryopreservation

R. Zoological park

  1. 1 - Q, 2 - R, 3 - P
  2. 1 - R, 2 - P, 3 - Q
  3. 1 - Q, 2 - R, 3 - P
  4. 1 - P, 2 - R, 3 - Q

Solution: National parks are funded areas that are set and conserved by the government. It is considered as an in situ conservation method. Those animals that may become extinct are kept in zoological parks. It is a method of ex situ conservation. Cryopreservation is a technique to store biological samples in liquid nitrogen at -196℃.

Column A

Column B

  1. In situ conservation

Q. National park

  1. Ex situ conservation

R. Zoological park

  1. Cryopreservation

P. Storage in liquid nitrogen at -196℃

5. Why is it essential to conserve biodiversity?
Answer:
For a sustainable future protection, upliftment, and management of biodiversity is essential. Every organism depends on another one in a food web. If the population of one species declines, then the number of its dependent species will also decline. Therefore, biodiversity should be conserved.

6. How can we differentiate between in situ conservation and ex situ conservation?
Answer:

In situ conservation

Ex situ conservation

In situ conservation is an on site conservation of biodiversity in which animals and plants are conserved in their natural habitat.

Ex situ conservation involves the taking away of plants and animals from their original habitat and placing them in a new environment which mimics their native environment.

It involves biodiversity hotspots, biosphere reserves, national parks, sanctuaries, and sacred groves.

It involves zoological parks, botanical gardens and wildlife safari parks.

FAQs

1. Which country has the maximum biodiversity on the Earth?
Answer:
Brazil has the maximum biodiversity on the Earth. It is considered as the Earth's biodiversity champion. It has the Amazon rainforest, Mata Atlantica forest, the massive inland swamp called the Pantanal, the woody savanna called cerrado, and a variety of other types of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. It has more plant and amphibian species counts.

2. Which country possesses the lowest biodiversity?
Answer:
The UK has the lowest biodiversity.

3. Where does India stand in the ranking system of plant biodiversity?
Answer:
India occupies the fourth place in Asia and tenth place in the world in plant diversity.

4. Why is India called the mega diversity centre?
Answer:
The term 'mega' means 'large'. If a large number of species are present in the ecosystem then it is called megadiversity. India has a rich diversity of animals and plants, hence it is called a mega diversity centre.

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