Rethinking Biodiversity Conservation

Last year we celebrated 25 years of action for Biodiversity to highlight the progress made by countries for the safeguard of our natural treasure. It is pertinent to mention that we are facing a worst form of environmental crisis and all living organisms, including human beings are under continuous threat from different anthropogenic perturbations. Knowing the gravity of situation, question arises: Does it really matter to us? Are we fully conscious about the decline of biodiversity and its consequences on our socioeconomic development? Needless to say that humans are watching the extinction and decline of other species of the earth as a mute spectator, and don’t take it so seriously to the extent that it may be their turn in the future to face the same fate. So, it is important to ponder about biodiversity loss and take immediate steps for biological conservation. Biological diversity is not simply the variety of life forms or amazing natural places which we look around, but it is more than this. Apart from being amazing and awesome, biodiversity has massive and key roles in ecological functioning.In this article, I will focus on major hurdles which we face in conserving our precious biodiversity and the efforts needed for sustainable conservation.

In the past 25 years, a lot of efforts have been made to take tangible steps for the conservation of biodiversity, yet there has been no let up in the decline of biodiversity. In recent past, there has been increased urge to achieve the goal of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and also to achieve larger goal of Sustainable Development. But the question arises why all these efforts are not fetching any end results. Are our global efforts just an eyewash and cosmetic? The efforts for the conservation of bio-resource across the globe has not been fully successful due to the monopoly of few developed countries to impose their dictation. For example, significant damage has been done to the global biodiversity by developed countries, yet they have never owned their responsibilities. This arrogance and irresponsible behavior of rich nations is basically becoming main hurdle for conservation of biological organisms. It was in 1968, when an American ecologist and philosopher, Garret Harden in his famous article ‘Tragedy of Commons’ blamed rich countries indirectly for the over exploitation of natural resources.

Another hurdle that is hampering the process of conservation of biodiversity is the fact that biodiversity decline/loss is not only driven by a single factor, but multiple of factors. Biodiversity loss has been linked to local, regional and global factors and there have been calls from various quarters that response is needed from all scales. For example, efforts of conservation made on a specific geographical region will not fetch results until other geographical regions are also integrated holistically. Both direct and indirect forces responsible for the decline of biodiversity need to be elucidated across the geographical boundaries and relevant remedial steps should be suggested to address the biodiversity loss. The response at local or regional scale will help to promote local biodiversity and human well-being, while as global responses will set priorities for conservation and preservation of biodiversity in different regions to achieve the ‘Millennium Development Goals’.

The impediment in the measurement of biodiversity has further complicated the process of conservation strategies. We still struggle to get field information about the density and diversity of rare and unknown species. In addition, majority of measuring efforts in the past has been localized with less effort made to measure regional or global biodiversity value.

Despite above hurdles, we need to focus on the conservation of whole biodiversity. The conservation of biodiversity should not mean conservation of productive species, but in ecological terms we need to conserve all, whether they are beneficial or harmful. Even parasites which were previously considered detrimental to human beings are now showing positive roles in different fields. One may argue whether to conserve only productive species or have a same approach for all. Ecologically it is not wise to have conservation strategies with regard to Chiru (Pantholops hodgsonii) or Hangul (Cervus elephus hanglu) and remain silent spectator with the loss of other species because every organism has its role to play in an ecosystem.

The integrative approach (holistic approach) is the best way to restore the original status of biodiversity. Following are the important measures by which we can accomplish the holistic approach:

•Ecosystem approach is needed to follow where we need integration across different scales.

•Regional and global factors needs to be studies to see whether there is link between global biodiversity losses with the regional biodiversity loss.

•Multiple stakeholders should come forward voluntarily and put their efforts for restoration of original status of biodiversity.

We need to develop biodiversity-friendly environment at community level. The key to a successful biodiversity-friendly environment at grass root level is allowing space for nature. Some may argue that it will be small step and will have hardly any impact on the restoration of biological diversity, nevertheless, if everyone starts caring about his environs, then time will come when every species around us will be safe.

All has happened in the last 70 years, but we need to come up with rescue operation immediately. We had already been advised by the Patron Saint of Kashmir, Sheikh Nur-ud-din Wali [RA] about the importance of forests and biodiversity. He [RA] once quoted:

‘An poshi teli yeli wan poshi’ ‘Food will suffice till forests survive’

We need to think and act quickly to take tangible steps for conservation of biological diversity at different scales. Although conservation of biological resources remains a Herculean task for humans, but with firm conviction and commitment we can make sure that we preserve a natural treasure for our future generations.

Dr. Ummer Rashid Zargar is Assistant Professor, Zoology, Higher Education Department J&K