Environmental science incorporates Biology Topics to understand environmental issues.
How to Conserve Forest Resources and Wildlife ?
We have just studied that one of the adverse effects of deforestation (large scale cutting down of forest trees) is the destruction of natural habitats of wild animals (and birds). So, deforestation poses a serious threat to the survival of wild animals and their natural environment. The large scale poaching (killing) of wild animals residing in the forests by man (to obtain their skin, etc.) is also a big threat to the survival of many animal and bird species.
The death or killing of wild animals disturbs the food chains in which these animals take part, resulting in undesirable consequences for the whole ecosystem. We should conserve forests and wildlife to preserve biodiversity (variety of species), to prevent endangered species from becoming extinct, and to maintain ecological balance in nature. Some of the measures which can be taken for the conservation of forests and wildlife are given below :
(i) The unauthorised felling (cutting) of forest trees for timber trade and fire-wood should be stopped immediately. This is because depletion of forests destroys the natural habitats of wild animals and birds, and exposes them to the cruelty of man as well as nature.
(ii) In case of Government authorised felling of forest trees, for every acre of forest cut down, an equal area of land should be planted with saplings of trees to make up for the loss in the long run.
(iii) The natural habitats of wild animals should be preserved by establishing conservation areas such as Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks where the wild animals can flourish in natural surroundings protected from the outside world.
(iv) A total ban should be imposed on the poaching (killing) or capturing of any wild animal or bird.
Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks
There are three types of protected areas which have been established (or earmarked) by the Government for the conservation of forests and wild animals. These are :
- Biosphere Reserves,
- Wildlife Sanctuaries, and
- National Parks.
Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks are the areas protected by law which have been established throughout our country for the conservation of plants and animals (flora and fauna) present in the area. The human activities such as cutting of forest trees, cultivation of crops, plantations, grazing of cattle, hunting and poaching of wild animals are prohibited (not allowed) in these protected areas.
The purpose of establishing several Biosphere Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks in India is to conserve wild animals and their natural surroundings (such as forests) so as to maintain a healthy balance in nature, and to prevent the extinction of endangered wild animals. We will now discuss Biosphere’ Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks in detail, one by one.
A Biosphere Reserve is a large, protected area of land meant for the conservation of wildlife, biodiversity, and the traditional lifestyle of the tribal people living in the area. In creating the large areas of conservation called Biosphere Reserves, the need of local people to have access to the resources of this area has been kept in mind.
So, a special feature of the protected areas called Biosphere Reserves is that local people or tribals are an integral part (necessary part) of it. Thus, Biosphere Reserves jointly manage biodiversity and economic activity. We will now describe the basic design of a Biosphere Reserve.
A Biosphere Reserve is a very large conservation area which is divided into three zones : core zone, buffer zone and transition zone (see Figure).
(i) The innermost zone of a Biosphere Reserve is known as core zone (see Figure). The core zone of a Biosphere Reserve is devoted to strict protection of wildlife. No human activity (or economic activity) is allowed in the core zone of a Biosphere Reserve.
(ii) The middle zone of a Biosphere Reserve is called buffer zone (see Figure). Buffer zone surrounds the core zone. In the buffer zone only limited human activity (compatible with conservation) is allowed. For example, research, environmental education and tourism are allowed in the buffer zone of a Biosphere Reserve.
(iii) The outermost zone of a Biosphere Reserve is called transition zone (see Figure). In the transition zone, several non-destructive human activities such as settlements (houses) of tribals and cultivation of crops, etc., are allowed which are necessary to sustain the life of tribals.
Some tribal people live in the outermost zone (transition zone) of a Biosphere Reserve who depend on the local natural resources to fulfil the various needs of life. In a Biosphere Reserve, the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity are combined with the sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of local people (called tribals). No commercial exploitation of natural resources is allowed in a Biosphere Reserve.
A Biosphere Reserve may also contain other protected areas in it. For example, a Biosphere Reserve may contain Wildlife Sanctuary and or National Park in it. Biosphere Reserves are open to tourists up to the buffer zone. No tourists are allowed in the core zone of a Biosphere Reserve. There are 14 Biosphere Reserves in India. The names and locations of some of the Biosphere Reserves of India are given below:
- Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve (Andaman and Nicobar)
- Kaziranga Biosphere Reserve (Assam)
- Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve (West Bengal)
- Kanha Biosphere Reserve (Madhya Pradesh)
- Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve (Madhya Pradesh)
We will now describe the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve in somewhat detail. Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve is in Madhya Pradesh state of our country (see Figure). The biodiversity found in Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve is unique. The plants and animals found in Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve are similar to those of the Upper Himalayan Peaks and to those belonging to lower Western Ghats.
Conserving and preserving areas of such biological importance make them a part of our National heritage. The Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve contains other protected areas in it. In fact, Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve contains two Wildlife Sanctuaries and one National Park (see Figure).
The two Wildlife Sanctuaries contained in Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve are Bori Sanctuary and Pachmarhi Sanctuary. The National Park contained in Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve is called Satpura National Park. There is also a reservoir called ‘Tawa Reservoir’ in the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve. The other names written in the outline map of Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve shown in Figure are the tribal settlements (or villages).
Role of Biosphere Reserves
The Biosphere Reserves perform the following roles (or functions) :
- Biosphere Reserves help in the conservation of wildlife (wild animals and plants) of the area.
- Biosphere Reserves help to maintain the biodiversity of the area.
- Biosphere Reserves preserve the natural ecological conditions (or ecosystems) in the area.
- Biosphere Reserves promote the economic development of the area which is compatible with conservation objectives.
- Biosphere Reserves help to maintain the lifestyle (or culture) of the tribal people living in the area.
- Biosphere Reserves prevent the commercial exploitation of the area.
- Biosphere Reserves provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education and tourism.