Biodiversity and Conservation of Medicinal Plants

 

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       In the present times, total protection of areas, small or big, requires heavy financial inputs. Such protection will also defeat the objective of utilisation of natural resources for human welfare. Total protection of an area to prevent biodiversity loss is both impossible and impracticable. It is also not feasible in the long run to preserve the whole of biodiversity in botanical/zoological gardens, green houses, etc., (Tewari, 1993). No matter what we do, natural and time dependent changes in biodiversity are inevitable.

CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY

Conservation is the planned management of natural resources, to retain the natural balance, diversity and evolutionary change in the environment (Lincoln et al., 1982). It is a protective measure taken a) to prevent the loss of genetic diversity of a species, b) to save a species from becoming extinct, and c) to protect an ecosystem from damage so as to promote its sustained utilisation.

The aims and objectives of biodiversity/species conservation programmes are:

a) to promote conservation of biodiversity in defined habitats and geographical areas;

b) to identify components of biodiversity in a region for conservation and sustainable use;

c) to promote in situ (explained later) conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems, natural habitats and species populations;

d) to establish and formulate strategies for ex situ (explained later) conservation for the components of biodiversity through an integrated scientific research;

e) to study the intrinsic and extrinsic factors causing the depletion of species/populations and to formulate and adopt scientifically oriented conservation strategies;

f) to identify Biodiversity Conservation Regions and ‘hotspot’ areas (that require urgent measures) in the world for concentrated research and protection;

g) to promote research in traditional and ethic knowledge areas on, and utilisation of, natural resources, and to encourage equitable sharing of benefits arising out of utilisation of such knowledge systems;

h) to promote research on wild relatives, land races and cultivars of cultivated species;

i) to maintain database systems on economically important groups of plant and animal species as a source information on them;

j) to evolve guidelines for the management of protected areas so as to enable the policy makers and managers to take effective measures to conserve biodiversity and species; and

k) to disseminate information on the importance of conservation and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity, through popular and scientific publications and other educational programmes.

Since the criteria and action plans differ very widely, often within a particular country, depending upon the needs of a specific situation, no uniform approach is practicable. Biological conservation has its own impacts on environment and the society, which need to be addressed carefully before any programme is implemented (Balakrishna, 1999).

MEASURES FOR CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY

        It is essential that biodiversity, particularly in the tropical regions of the world, is conserved taking urgent steps. Economic gains, immediate or long range, concerning individuals, organisations or governments are one of the important factors in biodiversity conservation priorities. Politics follow potential economic gains. Countries which have the diversity would like to gain by their natural resources. Countries which lack in an appreciable and/or profitable biodiversity component, want to benefit from the biodiversity of other countries without payment, or with payment of minimal costs. The fact that most wars were fought for natural resources and/or trade in them, should be kept in mind.

          In the absence of definitive knowledge to determine the component of biodiversity that has to be conserved and of plans and machinery to effect it, the only sensible option is to monitor a reasonable protection to the existing biodiversity, till such time that priorities are determined and an action plan emerges.

OPTIONS FOR BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION

EX SITU CONSERVATION

IN SITU CONSERVATION

SUSTAINABLE USE OF BIODIVERSITY

        An often suggested alternative to development or conservation options, is sustainable use of biodiversity, which is hoped to provide for a balanced utilisation and conservation of biodiversity. Sustainable utilisation has not fully satisfied either the developmentalists or the conservationists. In addition, the economics vary according to the climate, soil conditions, topography, infrastructure (Pearce and Moran, 1994), and the biological component harboured in the area. Consequently, no universal criteria are available for sustainable use of biodiversity.

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