Jenga—a classic game reminiscent of your childhood. You stack rectangular, wooden blocks in a tower, and then carefully slide pieces out, trying to make your move without weakening the foundation too much and toppling the tower. The concept of biodiversity is similar in the fact that the loss of too many species leads to the collapse of the entire ecosystem.
Biodiversity is quite literally defined as the variety (diversity) of life (bio). In some areas, known as biodiversity hotspots, this level of variance is much higher, which makes for a stronger and more stable ecological community. For example, in India, there are four major biodiversity hotspots: the Himalayan region, Indo-Burma, the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, as well as the Sundalands. It’s integral to protect zones like these because of their contribution to our environment’s well-being through the stabilizing of generally delicate ecosystems and also due to the invaluable species which live there.
These areas tend to be popular spots for ecotourism because of the rich and exciting wildlife. In fact, just a 1% rise in biodiversity led to a 0.87% rise in tourism. However, without proper care and the right measures, this ‘ecotourism’ can actually begin to harm the environment as footfalls rise. Greater tourism often leads to development, and therefore loss of habitat by deforestation, since the locations become prime for industries like hospitality and foodservice.
It’s important to note that biodiversity isn’t nearly as easy to rebuild as a Jenga tower; introducing new species into a habitat can be disastrous, and even become the start of a case of a new invasive species. Invasive species are those which are introduced artificially and begin to take over that area, depriving the naturally occurring organisms of the nutrients, space, and resources that they need.
India’s biodiversity is in crisis, and yet the topic is left undiscussed in order to focus on the more common issues like air pollution and littering. With the second largest population in the world and an expectation to steal the number one slot from China by 2027, India is only growing faster, and so is the desire to develop economically, technologically, and socially. According to a recent study, “large-scale activities have eroded the ecosystem in central Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot known for its rich ecology, natural forest systems, and perennial rivers.” Construction, land use, and other developmental activities are destroying habitats and therefore causing hotspots to shrink drastically or be lost altogether. In the Western Ghats itself, almost 500 different species are in danger of extinction. In just over forty years, the canopy has decreased by about 30% due to projects like dams, the Kaiga nuclear plant and the Dandeli paper mill.
This is just one case of depreciation from many around the world. But what can you, a civilian, do to help stop this? Every choice you make matters, from the food you buy to the fertilizer you use to even the way you make more people aware. Spread the message over social media, plant wildflowers, donate to appropriate campaigns, sign petitions.
“There’s so much you can do, because just like you, #mychoicematters”
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