Conservation of biodiversity: Conservation is the protection, preservation, management and restoration of wildlife and natural resources such as forests and water.
Types of Conservation: There are two types of conservation.
- Insitu conservation:Conservation of habitats, species and ecosystems where they naturally occur.
- Ex-situ conservation:The conservation of elements of biodiversity out of their natural habitat.is refered to as ex-situ conservation. Zoo and Botanical gardens are example of this type of conservation.
EXTINCT SPECIES: A species is called extinct when there is no doubt that the last individual of that species has died in that ecosystem. E.g, Dinosaur.
ENDANGERED SPECIES: A species is called endangered when it is at risk of extinction in near future. Examples of endangered animal species are lion, tiger, Asiatic cheetah, Indian one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, Indian wild ass, hangul, black buck etc.
Hot spots: A region of high conservation patriority is known as hot spot.
Keystone species: Species that play a key rule in functioning of a habitat and their loss would lead to greater than average change in other species population or ecosystem processes are known as keystone species.
Flagship species: Species that are threatened and are easily conserved as compared to other threatened species are known as flagship species.
Importance of Forests: Forests support considerable biodiversity. The utilization of forest products, including timber and fuel wood, have played a key role in human societies. Today, developed countries continue to utilize timber for building houses and wood pulp for making paper. The forest products industry is a large part of the economy in developed and developing countries. Short-term economic gains made by conversion of forest to agriculture often leads to loss of long-term income.
Forests extract carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air, thus contributing to biosphere stability. Forests are also valued for their aesthetic beauty and tourist attraction.
IMPACTS OF HUMAN BEINGS ON BIODIVERSITY: Human beings effect biodiversity by different ways. Some are as follows.
- Deforestation:Cutting down or removal of the forests is known as deforestation.
Causes of Deforestation: forests can be cleared due to poverty, buildings developments, fuel, etc. Poverty is the main cause of deforestation. Poor people go to forests and cut down trees to meet their needs. Forest fire is also a major cause.
Affects of deforestation: Deforestation affects the amount of water in soil and moisture in atmosphere. When there are no trees to keep soil in place, there are more chances of soil erosion. Heavy rainfall washes soil into rivers (Figure 3.8). Essential nutrients are washed out of soil. Rivers become choked up with mud and silt, which can cause floods. The silted water gets stored in dams and it reduces their water storage capacity. Deforestation also contributes to decreased transpiration, which reduces cloud formation. This ultimately reduces the sources of rains.
More than 260,000 people are added to the world population each day, or more than 180 each minute!
Habitat loss is probably the greatest threat to biodiversity on Earth today.
Sea star (starfish) eats mussels. If sea stars are removed from a region in ocean, mussels rapidly increase in number. Large number of mussels prey on small animals and become dangerous for their existence.
Eucalyptus plants were imported from Australia and introduced in Pakistan. These plants consume more water and have disturbed the water table (level of underground water). It harms other small plants that grow near Eucalyptus trees.
The race to produce cash through fruits, spices, sugar, tobacco, soap, rubber, paper, and cloth has stimulated many to get them by using soil and by destroying the forests.
In developing countries, almost 3 billion people rely on wood for heating and cooking.
These important aspects of forests are also harmed due to deforestation. In Pakistan too, deforestation is a great threat to biodiversity. In the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the closed canopy forests are shrinking at approximately 1% per year.
Over-hunting has been a significant cause of the extinction of hundreds of species and the endangerment of many more such as whales, ibex, urial, markhor (the national animal of Pakistan) etc. Commercial hunting, both legal and illegal, is the principal threat.
STEPS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY: Conservation of biodiversity has become a global concern. Biologists urge the national policy makers to state a set of rules necessary to protect a species. They demand that laws should define species which are threatened by extinction and must be protected. Though rich in biodiversity, Pakistan today faces severe threats to its animal and plant species. The greatest concern is the loss of natural habitats. Main causes of this loss are rapid growth in human population and the prevailing poverty in rural areas of Pakistan. In addition, low literacy rate is also a reason for the failure of conservation measures taken so far.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund-Pakistan (WWF-P) work in close coordination with Pakistan’s Ministry of Environment and other government and non-government institutions. The IUCN has prepared the first national Red List (list of endangered or threatened species).
Following are a few examples of environmental work that has been carried out in Pakistan in order to conserve species and associated habitats.
- National Conservation Strategy:In1980’s, IUCN and the government of Pakistan formulated the National Conservation Strategy for Pakistan for the conservation of Pakistan’s biodiversity.
- UN Convention on Combating Desertification (CCD):This is an international treaty against damage and poverty in dry-lands. Pakistan signed this in 1997.
- Himalayan Jungle Project (HJP):It started in 1991 in the Palas Valley, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). It aimed at protecting one of the richest areas of biodiversity in Pakistan.
- Conservation of biodiversity of the Suleiman Range, Balochistan:Suleiman Range Chilghoza Forest is the largest Chilghoza forest in the world. In 1992, the WWF-P started its conservation program.
5. Northern Areas Conservation Project: The northern areas of Pakistan serve as a habitat for a number of wildlife species. The survival of these species is under threat. The NACP is a project of WWF-P which is successful in implementing a ban on the hunting of these species.
6. Conservation of migratory birds in Chitral, KP: Chitrallies on the migratory route of several important bird species. These birds face enormous hunting pressure. WWF-Pakistan initiated efforts to reduce the hunting pressure in 1992. The efforts proved successful.
7. Conservation of Chiltan Markhor:Hazarganji National Park is located close toQuetta and is the only remaining habitat of Chiltan Markhor in the country. WWF- Pakistan developed the management plan of the park.
8. Ban on games:Foreigners visit the northern areas and play many games in which bears are used. WWFPakistan has been successful in imposing a ban on this illegal practice.
The threat to biodiversity is among the hot topics discussed at the UN World summits.
ENDANGERED SPECIES IN PAKISTAN:
Due to human activities, the biodiversity in Pakistan is facing a great loss. Here are a few examples of endangered species in Pakistan.
According to WWF-P, only 600 animals of the species of Indus dolphin are left today in the Indus River. The population of this species declined due to water pollution, poaching, and destruction of habitat.
The northern areas provide habitats to Musk deer, Snow leopard, Astore markhor and Himalayan ibex, Woolly flying squirrel and the Brown bear.
It is estimated that about 200,000 of the one million migratory birds passing through Chitral are killed during migration.
The herders capture the bear cubs and sell them to the trainers who train them and sell to the foreigners.
Marco Polo sheep
Marco Polo sheep are mostly found in the Khunjerab National Park and nearby areas. Their numbers have been rapidly decreasing in the last two decades and WWF-P has started projects for its conservation.
This bird flies to Pakistan in winter season from former Soviet territory and settles in Cholistan and Thar deserts. The decline in its population is due to hunting by foreigners and destruction of its habitats.