Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Western Ghats may have been hailed as a world heritage site, but scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology have found that biodiversity is not well conserved in the vast hilly terrain and forest tracts there

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Western Ghats may have been hailed as a world
heritage site, but scientists at the city-based Centre for Cellular
and Molecular Biology have found that biodiversity is not well
conserved in the vast hilly terrain and forest tracts there.

CCMB scientists have investigated Annamalai and Madumalai Tiger
reserves in the Western Ghats and Gir National Park in Gujarat. Their
study, part of an international effort, shows that despite the
protection, the biodiversity is not well conserved in these regions.
The findings were published in the prestigious science journal, Nature.

Estimates of how biodiversity is changed in numbers over the past 20
to 30 years in these regions suggest that while most reserves were
helping to protect their forests, about half were struggling to
sustain their original biodiversity. This result is a sample of
protected areas across the globe.

“Decline of the number of species is extremely wide-spread and a large
variety of species are affected. These include big predators and other
large-bodied animals, many primates, old-growth trees, stream-dwelling
fish and amphibians, among others,” Dr G Umapathy, scientist attached
to the CCMB’s Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species
(LaCONES), pointed out. He was part of the international scientific
group involved in the research.

The study also reveals the importance of peripheral regions of the
reserves. Eighty five per cent of the reserves that were studied lost
some nearby forest cover over the past two to three decades resulting
in significant loss to the biodiversity in the forests. Only two per
cent saw increase in the surrounding forest.

“Preserving biodiversity is one of the important activities for our
survival.  Recognising this fact, countries all over the world have
established biodiversity reserves with the hope that these reserves
will sustain large biodiversity,” the study said.

The international team was led by Prof William Laurence of James Cook
University in Cairns, Australia. The research work spanned 36 nations
and 30 different categories of species – from trees, and butterflies
to primates and large predators in these regions.

According to CCMB director Dr Ch Mohan Rao, the important outcome of
this study is the necessity of preserving peripheral regions of the
reserves preventing human activities in and around the reserves. He
said such contributions from CCMB scientists will help realise its
mandate to solve the most impending science problems of society and
conserving the biodiversity is not a luxury but a necessity for human
survival.

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