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Bio-reserves not well conserved: study

M. Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on July 27, 2012

India’s biodiversity, especially in the Anamalai and Mudumalai Tiger reserves in the Western Ghats and the Gir National Park, Gujarat, is not well conserved.

Though protection measures are in place, they seem to be inadequate and there is widespread decline of a number of species. This trend, is not just limited to India, but consistent in the biodiversity reserves in tropical regions, across 36 countries, says a global study.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court of India had on Tuesday banned tourism activity in core tiger reserves in several states, taking note of the declining tiger population in the country.

The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, here, was part of the Study done by Prof. William Laurance of James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and colleagues. The results have been published in the latest issue of Nature journal.

The study looked at 30 different categories of species — from trees and butterflies to primates and large predators in these bio-reserves. It spanned 20 to 30 years and covered 60 protected areas. The rapid disruption of tropical forests probably imperils global biodiversity more than any other contemporary phenomenon.

The study highlights that despite protection, biodiversity is not conserved adequately in these regions. While most reserves were helping to protect their forests, about half were struggling to sustain their original bio-diversity.

Dr Ch. Mohan Rao, Director of CCMB, said that conserving biodiversity is not a luxury but a necessity for human survival. Dr G. Umapathy, a scientist at the Institute’s Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), is a co-author of the scientific paper.

Decline in numbers of big predators, large bodied animals, many primates, old growth trees, stream-dwelling fish and amphibians, among others was observed. As much as 85 per cent of the reserves studied showed loss of nearby forest cover, over the past 2-3 decades, resulting in significant loss to the biodiversity in the forests. The exception was in two per cent cases, where there was an in increase in surrounding forest area.

Hence, an important lesson from the study was the urgent need to preserve peripheral regions of the reserves by preventing human activities in the vicinity. With deforestation advancing quickly, protected areas are increasingly becoming final refuges for threatened species and natural ecosystem process. In several cases, human encroachment and other ecological stresses are taking their toll, the study pointed out.

Focus on managing both external and internal threats should increase resilience of biodiversity in reserves. Similarly, it is also necessary to establish sizeable buffer zones around reserves, promote lower-impact land uses near them by engaging and benefiting local communities.

The study could be a pointer for the discussions at the upcoming global biodiversity conference and conference of parties, scheduled to be held in Hyderabad during October. The biggest event to be held in India, it will see participation from over 100 leading countries and many heads of nations.

> somasekhar.m@thehindu.co.in

Published on July 27, 2012
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