Our ecosystems are increasingly being subjected to human-induced pressures, such as extractive use of goods, and increasing fragmentation and degradation of natural habitats. In the coming days, climate change will increasingly exacerbate these human induced pressures, causing a progressive decline in biodiversity which is a cause of worry for all of us. It should be noted that projected future climate change and other human induced pressures will be much more than what we have seen and experienced in the past. This is partly due to human greed and partly due to increasing population and limited availability of resources.
Species extinctions, and especially global extinction as distinct from local extinctions are key issues that need to be addressed and that too urgently, as the former represents irreversible change.
The outcome of climate change in India would thus be region-specific involving various complex factors. Though the whole country would be impacted by the climate change the nature and the extent of impact would vary from region to region.
For example, sea-level rise along the Indian coast would submerge the mangroves as well as increase the salinity of the wetland in coastal areas which would in turn, would favour mangrove plants that tolerate higher salinity. Increased snowmelt, on the other hand, in the western Himalayas could bring larger quantities of freshwater into the Gangetic delta which may have significant consequences for the composition of the Sundarbans mangroves, favouring mangrove species that have the least tolerance to salinity.
Changes in local temperature and precipitation will also influence the salinity of the mangrove wetlands and have a bearing on plant composition. Increase in temperature will lead to bleaching of corals. Coral reefs could also be potentially impacted by sea-level rise.
Measures to counter climate change become essential as change in plant phenology is one of the earliest observed responses to rapid global climate change and could potentially have serious consequences for the plants and animals that depend on periodically available resources. Impact of climate change is already becoming visible in the form of irregular arrival of monsoon, long winter dry spells, increased frequency of forest fi res during winter, the early flowering/fruiting of native trees, etc.
Though in 2002, the Biological Diversity Act was enacted by the Union Government for conservation, sustainable utilization and equitable use of its components fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilization of genetic resources, nothing much seemed to have happened after the enactment of the Act. Factors like pollution, overexploitation and degradation, coupled with natural causes, pose a threat to biodiversity and the Act tries to deal with these problems with soft hands. Loopholes like inadequate access to local communities, non-inclusion of genetic resources and access benefit sharing are yet to be addressed to.
Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that most of the people concerned are not aware of the significance of biodiversity. Therefore, there is immediate necessity to create awareness about biodiversity and its importance in our life. Also, the government should realise that it’s the right time to create such awareness.