May 22 has been proclaimed by the United Nations as The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Earlier, it was first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December, was designated as the International Day for Biological Diversity.29th December was the date on which the Convention on Biological Diversity was put into force. Later, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the convention 22nd May 1992 was adopted as International Day for Biological Diversity by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention. “This was partly done because it was difficult for many countries to plan and carry out suitable celebrations for the date of 29 December, given the number of holidays that coincide around that time of year”. The theme of this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB is Marine Biodiversity.
The Concept of Biodiversity
We have immense range of forests, wetlands, grasslands, deserts, fresh water bodies, marine areas, coral reefs, hills and mountains in our world. All these areas are inhabited by vast varieties of organisms like plants, animals and microorganisms. An association of all the plants at a particular place is called as Plant Community and the association of all the animals at the same place is called as Animal Community. Both the plant and animal communities inhabit a particular place living completely merged and interacting among them. Members of a community not only interact with the members of other communities, they interact with the members of their own community and with the physical environment around them, as well. The physical environment surrounding a community is called as its habitat. Thus, a habitat is the place or area where communities live.
The association of all the communities of plants, animals and microorganisms at a particular place is called as biota or the Biotic Community. In a biotic community we may observe some species of plants and animals or microorganisms in abundance or in scarcity. Vast variability exists in the distribution or occurrence of different life forms in different habitats. The variability of life forms in a particular habitat is considered as the biodiversity of that habitat.
The variability of life forms: number of species of organisms on the global level
Source: UNEP-WCMC 2000
The biodiversity of an area is important for running the processes of nature in that area. If biodiversity of an area is depleted or disturbed due to some or the other reason, the processes of nature may not run properly in that area. It will lead to a condition which is called as Natural Imbalance. This natural imbalance causes further damages to nature and its biodiversity. So the balance of nature must be maintained at all costs. Since humans and also all the other organisms of the natural environment derive their livelihood and all the other things from the nature, it may be a suicidal tendency if someone disturbs this balance and causes any damage to the biodiversity. In the present chapter we are going to study about the real concept of biodiversity, its benefits and values, and its various types demarcated by ecologists.
What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is a composite word made from two words- Biological and Diversity. This word was used for the first time by the Science of Conservation in the year 1975 as Natural Diversity. The word biodiversity is supposed to have been coined by W. G. Rosen in 1985 while he was planning for the National Forum on Biological Diversity held in 1986.The word biodiversity appeared first in a publication in 1988 when entomologist C. O. Wilson used it as a title of the proceedings of that forum.
According to a report of the United Nations Environmental Programme -2002(UNEP-200), biodiversity refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are parts. This includes diversity within species, between species and, within and between ecosystems. The same opinions regarding biodiversity were also expressed in the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992 which was organized in Rio de Janeiro. The Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India reported in 1998 that biodiversity is the species richness of plants, animals and microorganisms, including their genetic make up and the communities they form.
According to another opinion, -the varieties of life forms, their variations and abundance alonwith the variation of the components of their habitat is called as biodiversity or the biological diversity. Further, some ecologists say that Biodiversity is the sum of all the different species of plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms living in the environment and the variety of habitats where they live. In a nut shell, the range of organisms, present in a given ecological community or system is called as biodiversity.
The ecologists of the world also accept another definition of biodiversity according to which-“The totality of genes, species, and ecosystems of a region is called as biodiversity.” This definition presents a unified view of the traditionally accepted three levels of the identification of biodiversity, - the genetic diversity, the species diversity, and the ecosystem diversity.
The Intrinsic Values of Biodiversity relate to the fact that humans too are parts of Nature. The concept of intrinsic value of biodiversity accepts that biodiversity is the foundation of civilization. The author of the Silent Spring- Rachel Carson asks - “Can any civilization wage relentless war on life without destroying itself and without loosing the right to be called civilized?” The integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community are values that can be saved and protected as it is evident from following lines-
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and the beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”- Aldo Leopold; sand Country Almanac.
The evolutionary values and the Noah’s principle accept that- since humans are and were parts of nature, they benefited from the evolutionary processes. This thought can raise a question, whether humans should endanger their own milieu and the process from which they stem. The Noah’s principle is named from the biblical Noah and the principle argues that the usefulness of a species is not considered when discussing its conservation, but rather its very presence in the long history of evolution is sufficient to warrant its preservation. Since most of the loss of biodiversity has been caused by human beings through the loss of habitat, overexploitation and other activities, the Environmental ethics says that- humans must have to protect the biodiversity of nature.
The Environmental Ethics demands extension of rights to species and landforms. According to the ethical point of view, the biodiversity and land forms have their rights to exist with us because of the simple reason that its long standing existence in Nature is deemed to carry with it the ‘ unimpeachable right’ to continued existence.
The Harward Biologist E. O. Wilson is of the opinion that love of nature has been deep rooted into us by the process of Natural Selection. The religious feelings about biodiversity can be seen as a natural extension of a tendency to focus on life and life like processes. Wilson coined the word “Biophilia” for this tendency. This tendency is seen in the form of human desire to remain surrounded by biodiversity and to manage natural things and also the artificial Greenland.
The Anthropocentric values centre around economic benefits, services of ecosystems; regulations of climate by biodiversity, generation of moisture and oxygen by plants and animals; formation of soil and improvement of fertility; de-toxification of wastes by organisms; and Aesthetic and recreational benefits.
Biodiversity, if it is healthy, it provides a number of natural services to us. According to the Global Issues, these services can be summed up as below -
· Ecosystem services, such as
· Protection of water resources
· Soils formation and protection
· Nutrient storage and recycling
· Pollution breakdown and absorption
· Contribution to climate stability
· Maintenance of ecosystems
· Recovery from unpredictable events
· Biological resources, such as
· Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
· Wood products
· Ornamental plants
· Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
· Future resources
· Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
· Social benefits, such as
· Research, education and monitoring
· Recreation and tourism
· Cultural values
Key Words: IDB, United Nations, Aldo Leopold, E. O. Wilson