The Characteristics And Importance Of Biodiversity In India

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INTRODUCTION
Biodiversity encompasses the variety and variability of all life on planet. It is the outcome of over 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history (Anonymous 1992). Biodiversity provides variety of goods and services such as ecological, economic, social, cultural, educational, scientific and aesthetic to human societies. The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) spread from Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Jammu and Kashmir in the west covering 5,33,604 km2 geographical area (16.2% of India’s geographical area), holds a special place in the mountain ecosystem of the world (Anonymous 2006). It has been a paradise of unparallel, rich and unique biodiversity coupled with extremely rich traditional knowledge. The region as a whole supports nearly 50% of the total flowering plants in India of which 30% are endemic to the region (Khoshoo 1992). Review of existing biodiversity information of IHR reveals that there are approximately 18,440 plant species (Singh and Hajra 1996) out of which 1748 are medicinal plants (Samant et al. 1998), 675 wild edibles (Samant and Dhar 1997), 279 fodder species (Samant 1998), 155 sacred plants (Samant and Pant 2003), 118 essential oil plants with medicinal values (Samant and Palni 2001). Likewise, nearly 300 mammal species (12 endemic) and 979 birds (15 endemic) are recorded from the region. The region also exhibits great diversity of ethnic groups (171 out of a total 573 scheduled tribes in India) which generally inhabit remote inhospitable

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