World Biodiversity Day (May 22) 2015 – the year of sustainable development

The relationship between decreasing rainfall in your city and the death of a tiger several thousand miles away is much more profound than you think. Mother Nature can be imagined as a beautiful web that functions through many small strands linked in perfect symmetry, each with its own unique role. Cut just one thread, and many other strands of the web no longer have anything to hold on to – they get destabilized, and they in turn affect their own neighbours and so on, till the whole web wobbles and becomes unstable. It is that delicate.

Every cricket, stoat,bush, frog or fly has a definite role in the ecological scheme of things, roles which  each of them are so masterfully adapted that it is only they who can undertake it. Take just one species away, and the role for which they exist can no more be dispensed; the local community to which they belong consequently suffers. It is like the city’s sanitation workers going on strike. The doctors, engineers, politicians, bank officers, BPO executives, sales managers and all remaining staff that help run a city and its economy are all there. But the city still suffers. You don’t probably acknowledge the sanitation workers in your neighbourhood. But just let them just be on holiday for a week and see what happens. Dirty roads, overflowing drains, flies, disease, discomfort and a terrible odor all greet you within a few days’ time.


Picture courtesy


Now imagine this in Nature. However, in this case everything gets amplified, because there are millions of interconnected relationships. The extinction of a species in a place can affect one or more aspects like soil fertility, climate, survival of other species, ambient moisture levels, and so much else. Again, any amount of emphasis is not enough – NATURE IS ONE HUGE WEB. And we are part of it, fortunately and unfortunately.

It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for – the whole thing – rather than just one or two stars.

David Attenborough


 Biodiversity must be saved, says research from all over the globe

Biodiversity, or the abundance of animal and plant life of a particular area, is one of the things in Nature, of which a lot is mostly considered good. The importance of a lot is outlined in its definition itself –

‘Biodiversity is the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.’

Mother Nature’s intricate setup has interactions between geological components, atmospheric components, plants, animals, water bodies and various other players all thrown into the mix. There is a lot going on and there are tons of actions need to be done in a precise and rhythmic manner, which requires many actors operating holistically. No wonder then, that ‘as many as possible’ is the rule of the thumb. And scientists from the world over cannot agree more on this.

Research just over the last month itself has brought cheer to environmantalists worldwide as they get more fodder to drive the point home. Researchers from the University of Minnesota have collected close to three decade’s worth of data on plant growth, species diversity, changes in atmospheric gas concentration, fire, grazing and water from the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve and have reached the conclusion that reduced biodiversity affected ecosystem stability.


Researchers from TERN at Queensland (courtesy


Four years ago, a ten research team consortium from around the world gathered at the Albert Ludwigs University at Freiburg, Germany to study something that is of importance from the human perspective. They concluded that in a world that is changing fast and is subjected to extreme climactic fluctuations, with every changing climactic feature that was affected, the addition of many more species of trees were needed to keep the balance.

Even in this age of industrialization and artificial synthesis, we are still largely dependent on the forests for many of our products. The collective services rendered to us by the forests are termed ‘ecosystem services’. At around the same time as the ALU Freiburg experiments, researchers from across Europe and North America were studying the effects of biodiversity fluctuations on ecosystem services. In the own words of Dr. Forest Isbell, principal investigator of this study –  “Our results indicate that many species are needed to maintain ecosystem services at multiple times and places in a changing world, and that species are less redundant (common) than was previously thought.” The findings were published in the journal Nature.

Almost a year later, the most ambitious multi author project yet undertaken to understand the relationship between species diversity and ecological function was carried out on every continent except Antarctica. One of the participating authors was Prof David Eldridge from the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia. He revealed the huge scope of the project and added interesting information on drylands. These currently cover 40% of the Earth’s surface and provide for 40% of its people. This study found that these are the ecosystems most at risk of degradation due to climate change. This is important news for people living in the NCR, as we too live in a semi arid region. The conclusion – the more the tree species richness, the more soil fertility, carbon trapping and prevention of desertification are smoothly managed. 

Give fools their gold, and knaves their power; let fortune’s bubbles rise and fall; who sows a field, or trains a flower, or plants a tree, is more than all.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Sustainable development is the theme for this edition of World Biodiversity Day

The United Nations realized the importance of biodiversity and its conservation more than 20 years ago. The first Biodiversity Day was celebrated in December in 1993, but was shifted to May 22 a few years later. To know more about the history of Biodiversity Day, please visit our news section.

The focus of this year’s edition of Biodiversity Day is raising awareness about sustainable development. The Convention on Biological Diversity, or the CBD (refer to details in the article on this topic in the news section) has outlined several examples that demonstrate the dependence of humankind on biodiversity. Biodiversity provides us with food supplies, clean water, goods essential for human health, local employment opportunities, traditional knowledge for application in our agroeconomics, and means to reduce climate change.

Since mankind receives so many benefits from biodiversity, some of which are crucial for our survival, others for our economic and socio-political development; it is common sense that the development of our cities and nations must be done such that biodiversity is harmed the least in the process. Many of the most economically successful countries in the world today have been factoring in sustainable development based on biodiversity conservation as part of their development plans. A more encouraging benefit that has arisen from this scenario is that such countries have little to zero percentage of their population living in poverty.

Do your bit

What does a solitary reader like you contribute to such a large scale awareness campaign about biodiversity? The answer is the strength in numbers. It is the principle of each one doing a little bit, which will collectively add up to become a lot! You need not turn into an environmental activist overnight, unless until you are retired and have nothing to do. Jokes apart, all you need to do is inculcate good sustainable practices in your immediate neighbourhood, if not then just your own house will do too. Pledge to carry your own bag..say no to plastic.Take the initiative to start garbage segregation at home..there is a wide range of easy-to-use home composters available today! Be water conscious and train your domestic help to conserve water..every drop counts.


Teach your kid(s) the importance of appreciating plants and animals. Grow native plant species in your house garden. Keep a look out for any city forests near your area. Go there on the weekends, learn about the species, talk about them in your friend circles. Try to reach out to environmental NGOs in your area and do just a couple of hours volunteering a week. Plant a tree in your street. You don’t need to do much. Being busy is not an excuse! Your contribution today will benefit your kids tomorrow and the entire nation too.

Come join us for planting season at the Aravali Biodiversity Park this monsoon. Plant your own sapling of hope. Make a change.