Forest and Wildlife Resources Notes: Here are given study notes on the chapter ‘Forest and Wildlife Resources’. The notes are given here with proper headings and points. These notes will help students in understanding the chapter and drafting good scoring answers.
Q. Hint: Why is biodiversity important?
- Rich variety of wildlife and flora
- Diversity in form and function of life forms
- Interdependence in a network called ecosystem
Ecosystem or ecological system: A biological community, where all the living organisms interact with each other and are interdependent.
Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is important for ecological balance, availability of resources, coexistence of species, economic and ecological development and spiritual and recreational pursuits.
- Coexistence of life forms: An ecosystem is a home to many species from lichen to banyan trees to human beings.
- Interdependence: All the species are interdependent for their survival.
- Resource availability: For example, plants, animals and micro-organisms re-create the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that produces our food, things without which we cannot survive.
- Forests play a key role in the ecological system as these are also the primary producers on which all other living beings depend.
- Biodiversity provides wood, rubber, medicines dyes and other products useful to human beings.
- Biodiversity enables recreational, cultural and scientific growth through tourism, spirituality and medicines.
Biodiversity in India
- India is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of its vast array of biological diversity.
- It has nearly 8 percent of the total number of species in the world.
- Twice or thrice this number is yet to be discovered.
Decline of biodiversity
- Due to insensitivity towards the environment, many species are under stress.
- 10 per cent of India’s recorded wild flora and 20 per cent of its mammals are on the threatened list.
- Species which are on the verge of extinction are categorised as critical species.
- Asiatic cheetah, pink-headed duck, mountain quail, forest spotted owlet, and plants like madhuca insignis (a wild variety of mahua) and hubbardia heptaneuron are categorised as critical species in India.
Flora and Fauna
Q. Hint: What are the categories of flora and fauna in India based on the IUCN List?
- IUCN stands for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
- It is a global authority that surveys the natural world and undertakes measures to safeguard it.
- According to IUCN, the wildlife species are categorised into six categories based on the severity of the threat to their survival.
- Normal species
- Endangered species
- Vulnerable species
- Rare species
- Endemic species
- Extinct species
- The population level of such species is enough for their survival.
- For example, sal, pine, rodents, and cattle are normal species.
- Wildlife species that are on the verge of extinction are known as endangered species.
- Various negative factors lead to population decline in these species.
- The survival rate of such species is very low.
- Examples of endangered species are blackbuck, crocodile, Indian wild ass, Indian rhino, lion-tailed macaque, and sangai.
- Species whose population has fallen to a point where they may become endangered in the future are categorised as vulnerable.
- The populations of vulnerable species decline faster under unfavourable conditions.
- Examples of vulnerable species are blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, and Gangetic dolphin.
- Rare species have a small population and are more likely to become vulnerable or endangered species.
- The decline in their population is due to the unfavourable factors in their environment.
- Examples of rare species are Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert fox, and hornbill.
- These wildlife species are limited to some particular areas.
- They are isolated from the world due to natural and geographical barriers.
- Examples of endemic species are Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig, and Mithun
- These species are after searches in their native place.
- They have completely disappeared from the places where they had a natural habitat.
- Examples of extinct species are the Asiatic cheetah and pink-headed duck.
- Various organisations are working at the national and international levels to keep an eye on the declining numbers of wildlife species.
- Such organisations also help in the conservation of these species.
- Examples of organisations are WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature), WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society), National Wildlife Federation, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
Decline in Biodiversity
Q. Hint: What negative factors have caused a decline in India’s floral and faunal diversity?
Nature, a valuable resource
- Human beings are dependent on nature directly or indirectly.
- Various products are obtained from nature, such as wood, barks, leaves, rubber, medicines, dyes, food, fuel, fodder, manure.
- Certain human activities have resulted in the depletion of forest and wildlife resources.
- The greatest loss of Indian forests occurred during the colonial period.
- This loss was due to development and expansion in various sectors such as:
- Commercial expansion
- Scientific forestry
- Mining activities
Decline in forest and wildlife — agricultural activities
- The decline in forests and wildlife continued even after independence due to various reasons.
- The agricultural expansion was one major reason for the loss of forest cover.
- To meet the food demand of the growing population, acres of forest land was cleared to grow crops.
- Forest Survey of India has estimated that from 1951 to 1980, nearly 26,200 sq km of forest area was cleared and converted into agricultural land.
- Shifting cultivation, or jhum cultivation was another major reason for the depletion of forest cover.
Decline in forest and wildlife – development projects
- Many development projects after independence have severely affected the forests and wildlife of India.
- More than 5,000 sq. km of forest land was cleared for river valley projects.
- For example, Narmada Sagar Project in Madhya Pradesh will cover about 40,000 hectares of forest land.
Decline in forest and wildlife – mining activities
- Forests are also cleared to make way for mining sites.
- Excessive mining to extract various minerals have resulted in the degradation of soil quality.
- Loss of forest cover also adversely affects the wildlife.
- Loss of natural habitat
- Blocking of migration routes
- For example, wildlife species and the forest of the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal are under threat because of excessive mining of dolomite in the region.
Decline in forest and wildlife – overgrazing
- According to many foresters and environmentalists, overgrazing and wood collection for fuel are significant reasons behind deforestation.
- This view is challenged as fuel fodder is collected by lopping and not by felling trees.
- Forests are storehouses of minerals, forest products, and other valuable resources.
Other reasons for the decline in forests and wildlife
A significant decline is witnessed in the biodiversity of the country. Various reasons for the decline are:
- Habitat destruction
- Environmental pollution
- Poisoning and forest fires
Reasons for environmental degradation
- Unequal access to resources
- Unbalanced consumption of resources
- Unequal responsibility-sharing for environmental well-being
- The richer consume more natural resources
- Americans consume 40 times more natural resources than Somalians.
- Thus, an average American depletes natural resources at a faster rate than an average Somalian.
- The richer section of Indian society causes more ecological damage.
- This section of the society has greater access to various resources and tends to overuse or misuse them.
- But the same richer section bears minimal responsibility for environmental conservation.
- The poor section of Indian society has the lowest access to resources and causes minimal waste of resources.
Biological Loss and Impact on Community
- Loss of forest and wildlife leads to loss of rich biodiversity of the country.
- Biological loss is also correlated to loss of cultural diversity.
- Cultural loss is evident as the loss of forest lands and wildlife have marginalised many tribal and forest-dependent communities.
- These tribes and communities depend on forests for their food, water, medicine, wood, and cultural practices.
- As these tribes and communities decline or are absorbed in mainstream society, their cultures are lost, and India’s cultural diversity declines.
Impact of deforestation on women
- Deforestation has affected human beings directly or indirectly in many ways.
- Among the poor, it has affected women more than men.
- Women bear responsibilities to meet the basic needs of the family, such as:
- Collection of fuel (wood) from the forest
- Collection of fodder for cattle
- Fetching water
- Due to the depletion of forest cover, the labour of women has increased manifolds.
- Women have to walk several kilometres to fetch water, fuel, fodder, and other necessities.
- These hardships have led to serious health problems among women.
- It has also resulted in serious social problems such as:
- Neglect of home and children due to long working hours.
The Indirect impact of environmental degradation
- Deforestation may cause severe droughts or floods.
- Poor people are most vulnerable to natural calamities due to a lack of access to resources.
- Environmental destruction also leads to poverty, especially for forest-dependent communities.
- It is the duty of each individual and society as a whole to adopt strategies and policies for the conservation of forests and wildlife.
Q. Hint – What conservation strategies are adopted by the Indian government to protect biodiversity?
Meaning of conservation
- Conservation is the care and protection of valuable natural resources so that these will be available for future generations.
- Conservation prevents excessive exploitation of resources by human beings.
- It also promotes awareness among people of the need for sustainable use of these resources.
Need for conservation
- Increased demand for forest and wildlife products has caused increased destruction and degradation of forest and wildlife resources.
- Conservation helps to preserve the ecological balance of the environment.
- Conservation helps to preserve valuable natural resources such as water, air, and soil.
- It also preserves plant species and fisheries for breeding in the future.
- The country’s agricultural and industrial advancement in recent years has been accelerated by proper conservation of forest and wildlife resources.
The Indian Wildlife Protection Act
- In 1972, The Indian Wildlife Protection Act was passed.
- The main aim of the Act was to protect the natural habitats of wild species.
- The wildlife protection program published a list of protected species.
- The Act also aimed at protecting endangered species by prohibiting their hunting and restricting trade in these species.
Role of central government
- To conserve the flora and fauna of the country, the central government established many national parks, sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves.
- Various projects, such as Project Tiger, Project Elephant, and Project Crocodile, were introduced to protect certain species that were threatened and were on the verge of extinction.
- Many wildlife species have been given full or partial legal protection against their hunting and trade within the country.
- For example, Indian elephant, blackbuck (chinkara), the great Indian bustard (godawan), and the snow leopard.
- Due to illegal hunting and poaching of tigers worldwide, the number of tigers dropped drastically from 55,000 to 1,827 in the 1970s.
- These malpractices were found mainly in India and Nepal, as these two countries held about two-thirds of the surviving tiger population.
- Project Tiger was launched in 1973 to conserve the existing tiger population.
- Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand, Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal are among the few tiger reserves in the country.
New approach of conservation
- The meaning of conservation is no longer limited to the preservation of endangered species.
- Conservation programs are now also focusing on biodiversity conservation, conservation of insects, and so on.
- Butterflies, moths, beetles, and one dragonfly species are also included in the protected species under the Wildlife Acts of 1980 and 1986.
- In 1991, six species of plants were also included in the protected list.
Classification of Forests in India
Forests and wildlife resources in India are owned by the Forest Department or other government bodies. Forests in India are classified into three categories — reserved forests, protected forests, and unclassed forests.
- These forests are protected areas that do not allow hunting and poaching.
- Reserved forests are created to protect the natural habitats of wildlife species.
- More than half of the total forest land in India is declared as reserved forests.
- Habitats and wildlife species in these forests are protected from further depletion.
- One-third of the total forest land in India is declared as protected forests by the Forest Department.
- Reserved and protected forests are called permanent forests.
- Forests that are not in the reserved or protected categories are termed unclassed forests.
- These forests and wastelands may be owned by the government or by private individuals and communities.
- These forests are found in parts of the north-eastern states of India and Gujarat.