India is a megadiverse nation, housing around 10% of world’s species. It also has a rich cultural heritage going back thousands of years. Much of Indian biodiversity is intricately related to the socio-cultural practices of the land. Bio means life and diversity means variety. Biodiversity in India refers to the different types of Plant (Flora) and Animal species (Fauna) existing in our country, India. This term covers the existing diverse living forms in India.
Biodiversity in India
Out of more than 190 countries in the world, only 17 countries have 70% percent of its biodiversity. Such countries, which include India, are called “mega diverse” countries. 2.4% of the country’s contains 7- 8 % of the species of the world. This includes about 91,000 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants. A point to noted is that 12.6% mammals, 4.5% birds, 45.8% reptiles, 55.8% Amphibians and 33% Plants in India are endemic and not found anywhere across the globe.
Biodiversity Hotspots in India
Biodiversity in India is distributed in its rich geographic eco-systems like Mountains River deltas, Mangroves, Coastal areas and Rainforests. Though India is a mega biodiversity centre, two of its biologically-rich ecosystems – Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas are listed under biodiversity hotspots, meaning places which have species facing conservation threats. Efforts need to be made on war footing in such areas to curb declining biodiversity. Eastern Himalayas called cradle of speciation due to presence various primitive flowering plants
Bio geographic classification of India
The topography of our country, India, is divided into 10 bio geographic zones based on the climate and physical features of that place. The same are mentioned below:
Indian Territory immediate north of Himalayas is grouped as Trans-Himalayan Eco-system. Vegetation is sparse here but wild sheep and goat are found in large numbers. This area is also home to snow leopard and black-necked crane.
Himalayas is relatively new range of mountains as compared to other mountain ranges across the The features of this geographic system are High altitude, Steep gradient and snow covered peaks
The forests in this area are home to Evergreen tall trees like Chestnut, Conifer, Ash, pine, deodar. There is no greenery at the snow-capped peaks of these ranges. Some of the animals found here are Snow Leopard Wild sheep, mountain goats, Shrew, Ibex, tapir and panda.
North Eastern Himalayas
This area contains Alluvial Grasslands to Alpine meadows, Sub tropical broad leaved forests. Large birds, water buffaloes, Rhinos, tiger and elephant populate here
The Indian Desert
The northwestern part of the country is an arid zone and constitutes the eco-system – The Indian Desert. These areas have stretches of sand, some hillocks and sandy pains. Vegetation is sparse but life is Vibrant even in this part of the country!
Due to lack of water and extreme heat, most animals have developed several survival strategies. Blackbuck, Chinkara and Indian Wild ass are some types of Ungulates found here. 23 lizard species and 25 snake species reside in the arid Indian Desert. Peacocks, Red fox and Caracal are some other animals that are found here. 141 migratory and resident birds have adopted the Indian desert as their home. These include laggar falcons, short-toed eagles, vultures and kestrels.
Gum Arabica, Pipal and Prosopis cinerariaor Khejri and grasslands complete the Flora picture in this arid place.
Biodiversity in India is so very diverse. The transitional zone between the Indian desert and the dense forest forms an entirely new habitat. Thorny shrubs, grasses some bamboos varieties, xerophytic herbs and ephemeral herbs grown in large numbers here and are seasonal due to lack of water during the non-rainy seasons.
Fauna includes some birds, jackals, snakes, buffaloes, eagles and leopards.
Wester Ghats is a range of mountains stretching, across 1,600 kilometres, from North of Mumbai and southern tip of India. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Biodiversity present here is amazing. Some species found here is not found anywhere else in the world.
Western Ghats is an Endemic biodiversity Hotspots
Western Ghats is home to 290 freshwater species, 5,000 flowering plants, 139 mammals, 6000 insect species, 508 birds and 179 Amphibians and this Geographic area has been declared as a biodiversity hotspot because of its rapidly declining species.
This eco spot is home to birds like Nilgiri flycatcher, Nilgiri Pipit,tigers, and animals like Sloth bears, Nilgiri Tahrs and the Lion tailed Macaque.
Flora Population includes both indigenous and exotic flower plants.
Olden than Himalayas and south of the Gangetic Plain, Deccan plateau, is a covered with old forests full of Plants and animals, which derive their energies from rivers like Narmada, Godavari, Tapti and Mahanandi. The Deciduous forests here are home to Chinkara , Black buck, Wild Guar, Water buffalo and the four-horned Antelope.
This geographic division is situated just below the Himalayan ranges and is the region where the mighty and Holy Indian river Ganga flows.
Flora in this region includes Teak, Sal, Mahua, Khair and Shisham. Herds of Indian Elephants, Indian and Javan Rhinos, Indian wolves, Dholes, Asiatic Cheetahs, Sloth bears, Hippos, Gazelles, wild pig, deer and wild buffaloes are the animals found here. The rivers provide shelter to Gharials, Mugger crocodiles and river dolphins.
Northern East India
Biodiversity in India – Northeast India, is located on the North-eastern expanse of the Himalayas. The only ape found in India, the Hoolock is present in these regions. This habitat is populated by Golden Langur, Phayeri Langur and other Langur species. Slow Loris is found in the forests south of Brahmaputra river. Four of Indian six big cats, the Tiger, the Leopard, the Snow Leopard, and the clouded Leopard, live in the North East. Also found here are the Golden cat, Fishing cat, Jungle cat and Leopard Cat. Civet, Eurasian Otter, Binturong, Sun Bear, Wild Dog, Elephant and Rhino are the other animals found here.
Orchid are grown in large numbers here.
Coastal regions and Islands
Indian western and southern boundaries have a long coastal line above 7500 kms. The Western coastline has rocky seashores while eastern shoreline has beaches, lagoons and Deltas and Marshes.
Birds found here are Spot billed Pelican, Lesser Adjutants, Terns and Gulls/ Five of the total seven sea turtles species are found in Indian Ocean! Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead are some types of turtles that occur here. Mammals Ballen Whales, Sperm whales, Humpback dolphin, spotted dolphin. Saltwater crocodiles occur in Sunderbans.
Seagrass is found off the coast of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Coral reefs are a feature of Indian coastal line. The grandest biodiversity in India is found in the Coral reefs, formed by minute invertebrates in the Gulfs of Mannar, Kachch and Andaman and Nicobar islands. Some 27 prawn species, 200 species of molluscs including oysters, 3 turtle species, Mammals like dugongs, dolphins, whales, 30 crab species,120 species of Algae, 70 sponge species, 200 fish varieties, 8 shark types and other underwater creatures are found in these reefs.
The Islands around India are house to 2,200 varieties of plants of which 200 are endemic and about 1,300 varieties are not found anywhere else in India. Andamans feature deciduous forests that include Ferns and Orchids species.
Mangroves are eco-systems themselves. A mangroves are tropical vegetation growing in saline brackish water. These eco-spaces comprise 1600 plant and 3700 animal varieties. Tigers, crocodiles, monkeys, deer, snakes, bats, crabs and rare hummingbirds are some endangered species found here.
There may also be another 4,00,000 species that is still not recorded officially. This Varieties of Flora and Fauna have evolved in the last 3.5 billion years but has been negatively impacted by human population and its agrarian practices and greed. Conservation and Educating local populace is the only way to save this vibrant Biodiversity of India.