North East Priority: Protection of its diversified Eco-Zone

Requires novel initiatives for documenting the biodiversity of North East Himalayas

The bygone year has been probably great for the biodiveristy and people of North East India. The long cry over getting positive attention to its unique bota has been heard, thanks to the nature’s bliss. The North Eastern region of India is ecologically represented by the Eastern Himalayan biome and is rich in a number of endemic flora and fauna. Several species inhabiting this unique ecosystem are not found or reported anywhere else in the world. Recent news on researchers’ discovery of four new species of horned frogs in the Northeast has solved 150 years of identity crisis, and raised the eyeballs of researchers across the globe. Later, the identification of six lizards from the forests of seven sisters added to the richness of wild life treasure. Several rare species of both resident and migratory birds are reported from this pristine habitat. Being located within the biome of the majestic Eastern Himalayas, the eco-region provides a unique habitat for a wide diversity of local species.

“The North Eastern Himalayas is a unique biogeographic region within the Indian subcontinent. This is part of two global biodiversity hotspots – the Himalayan, and the Indo-Burma and the confluence between the Indo-Malayan and the Palaearctic Biogeographic realms. This unique geographic position is reflected by its rich flora and fauna. Recent studies have revealed that North East harbors more than 50% of ants (450 out of 800 species) and 40% of dung beetles (240 out of 400) so far known from India. Though most diverse, Insects remains one of the least underexplored biotas of the region,” opined Dr. Priyadarsanan Dharma Rajan, Senior Fellow at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment.

“The Union Ministry of Science and Technology has initiated a multi-institutional collaborative project focuses on documenting Bioresource and societal interactions for sustainable livelihood in the region. It is coordinated by our institute in collaboration with Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) in Imphal, Sikkim and other 11 institutions from the region are participating to it. This project, apart from mapping plant diversity of the region, also documents many ecologically and economically important insect groups. This has been critical in meeting targets and obligations of international treaties and conventions such as the convention on biological diversity,” added Dr. Dharma Rajan.

This eco-zone was relatively undisturbed for several decades due to its remoteness and industrialization was yet to knock its doors; though people relied mostly on the vast forest resources and traditional agriculture for their livelihood, they lived in harmony with the environment. But today, the existences of rare species are threatened by habitat degradation, landuse changes, hunting and harvesting and pollution. There are no longer any safe havens for any species, anywhere. Examine the patterns of species richness, distribution and abundance of species, and the impact of climate change on biodiversity and biodiversity-based livelihoods are the areas of focus.

Unfortunately, the rapid urbanization, climate change, anthropogenic developmental and economic activities have grown as a potential threat to the sensitive ecosystem. However, the changing lifestyle and food habits, together with the need for economic opportunities of the resident population and other infrastructural initiatives have been penetratingly rising over the years. The increased focus on areas of hydroelectricity, oil-gas exploration, coal mining and aggressive focus on tourism development also a cause a risk to this unique eco – system.

There are also studies that has identified that the dam, road and rail construction are causing damage to the biodiversity in the region. Every North Eastern citizen has the obligation to protect the richness of its biodiversity. Immediate actions should be taken from the state governments to advocate knowledgeably to the right people about the need for its conservation. Individuals can also help protect this diversified eco system – through reduced use of pesticides, changing the consumption habits and by empowering others.

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