Chapter 15 Biodiversity and Conservation
Name the three important components of biodiversity
The three important components of biodiversity are genetic diversity, species diversity and ecological diversity. These components are the basic building blocks of biodiversity. These are intimately linked and may have common elements.
How do ecologists estimate the total number of species present in the world?
The diversity of living organisms present on the earth is very vast. According to an estimate by researchers, it is about seven million. The total number of species present in the world is calculated by ecologists by statistical comparison between species richness of a well-studied group of insects of temperate and tropical regions. Then, these ratios are extrapolated with other groups of plants and animals to calculate the total species richness present on the earth.
Give three hypotheses for explaining why tropics show the greatest levels of species richness.
The three hypotheses for higher species richness in tropical areas are:
- Prolong evolutionary time – Temperate areas have undergone frequent glaciation in the past. It killed most of the species. No such disturbance occurred in the tropics where species continued to flourish and evolve undisturbed for millions of years.
- Favourable environment – There are no unfavourable seasons in the tropics. The continued favourable environment has helped tropical organisms to gain more niche specialisation and increased diversity.
- More sunlight – More solar energy is available in the tropics. This promotes higher productivity and increased biodiversity.
What is the significance of the slope of regression in a species-area relationship?
The slope of regression/regression co-efficient of species-area relationship indicates that species richness decreases with a decrease in area.
- The regression coefficient is between 0.1 – 0.2 regardless of taxonomic group or region, eg: Plants in Britain, Birds in California.
- But in large areas like continents value is eg:- Frugivorous birds, mammals is tropical forests.
What are the major causes of species losses in a geographical region?
The major causes of species losses in a geographical area are:
- Habitat loss and fragmentation
- Alien species invasion
- Disturbance and degradation
- Intensive agriculture and forestry.
How is biodiversity important for ecosystem functioning?
An ecosystem with high species diversity is much more stable than an ecosystem with low species diversity. Also, high biodiversity makes the ecosystem more stable in productivity and more resistant to disturbances such as alien species invasions and floods.
If an ecosystem is rich in biodiversity, then the ecological balance would not get affected. Various trophic levels are connected through food chains. If anyone organism or all organisms of any one trophic level is illed, then it will disrupt the entire food chain. For example, in a food chain, if all plants are killed, then all deer will die due to the lack of food.
If all deer are dead, soon the tigers will also die. Therefore, it can be concluded that if an ecosystem is rich in species, then there will be other food alternatives at each trophic level which would not allow any organism to die due to the absence of their food resource. Hence, biodiversity plays an important role in maintaining the health and ecological balance of an ecosystem.
What are sacred groves? What is their role in conservation?
Sacred groves are forest patches around places of work. These are held in high esteem by tribal communities/state or central government. Tribals do not allow to cut even a single branch of trees in these sacred groves. Preserved over the course of many generations, sacred groves represent native vegetation in a natural or near-natural state & thus is rich in biodiversity & harbour many rare species of plants & animals. This is the reason why many endemic species flourish in these regions.
Among the ecosystem services are control of floods and soil erosion. How is this achieved by the biotic components of the ecosystem?
- Control of soil erosion: Plant roots hold the soil particles tightly and do not allow the topsoil to be drifted away by winds or moving water. Plants increase the porosity and fertility of the soil.
- Control of floods: It is carried out by retaining water and preventing runoff rainwater. Litter and humus of plants function as sponges thus, retaining the water which percolates down and gets stored as underground water. Hence, the flood is controlled.
The species diversity of plants (22 percent) is much less than that of animals (72 percent). What could be the explanations for how animals achieved greater diversification?
Scientists recorded 22% of plant species diversity including algae, fungi, bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. But they recorded 72% of animal species (including insects, mollusks, fishes, mammals, birds etc.) diversity. Plants have the less adaptive capacity as compared to animals. Animals show locomotory movements and can move from one place to another to suit the environment and also in search of food. On the contrary, plants are fixed. Moreover, animals have well organised body structure with various organs to help adjust to the environment.
Can you think of a situation where we deliberately want to make a species extinct? How would you justify it?
Yes, there are various kinds of parasites and disease-causing microbes that we deliberately want to eradicate from the earth. Since these micro-organisms are harmful to human beings, scientists are working hard to fight against them. Scientists have been able to eliminate the smallpox virus from the world through the use of vaccinations. This shows that humans deliberately want to make these species extinct. Several other eradication programmes such as polio and hepatitis B vaccinations are aimed to eliminate these disease-causing microbes.