Varied climate, tropics & regions bestowed us with an immense beauty of flora and fauna.
Although India has only 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area, its share of the global species diversity is an impressive 8.1 per cent. That is what makes our country one of the 12 mega diversity countries of the world. Nearly 45,000 species of plants and twice as many of animals have been recorded from India.
Biodiversity as measured by the numbers of plants and vertebrate species is greatest in the Western Ghats and the northeast. This is because of the presence of tropical rainforests that are typically the richest habitats for species diversity. Both these areas are included in the world’s list of hotspots of biodiversity: small geographic areas with high species diversity. Of the two, the Western Ghats have more endemis species those that are found nowhere else.
If we accept May’s global estimates, only 22 per cent of the total species have been recorded so far.
Applying this proportion to India’s diversity figures, we estimate that there are probably more than 1,00,000 plant species and more than 3,00, 000 animal species yet to be discovered and described.
Consider the immense trained manpower (taxonomists) and the time required to complete the job. The situation appears more hopeless when we realise that a large fraction of these species faces the threat of becoming extinct even before we discover them. Nature’s biological library is burning even before we catalogued the titles of all the books stocked there.
The country is divided into 10 Biogeographic regions. The diverse physical features and climatic situations have formed ecological habitats like forests, grasslands, wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems and desert ecosystems, which harbor and sustain immense biodiversity.
Biogeographically, India is situated at the trijunction of three realms Afrotropical, IndoMalayan and PaleoArctic realms, and therefore, has characteristic elements from each of them. This assemblage of three distinct realms makes the country rich and unique in biological diversity.
The country is also one of the 12 primary centres of origin of cultivated plants and domesticated animals. It is considered to be the homeland of 167 important plant species of cereals, millets, fruits, condiments, vegetables, pulses, fibre crops and oilseeds, and 114 breeds of domesticated animals.
About 4,900 species of flowering plants are endemic to the country. These are distributed among 141 genera belonging to 47 families. These are concentrated in the floristically rich areas of NorthEast India, the Western Ghats, NorthWest Himalayas and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These areas constitute two of the 18 hot spots identified in the world.
It is estimated that 62 per cent of the known amphibian species are endemic to India of which a majority is found in Western Ghats.
Based on this, over 46,000 species of plants and 81,000 species of animals have been described by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) established in 1890 and Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) established in 1916, respectively.
The Forest Survey of India established in 1981 assesses the forest cover with a view to develop an accurate database for planning and monitoring purposes.
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.
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