Numerous new species discovered in India - GulfToday

Numerous new species discovered in India

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

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Photo has been used for illustrative purpose.

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) discovered 540 new species in 2021. According to ZSI officials, the new discoveries took the Indian faunal diversities to 1,03,258 species, accounting for 6.1% of the global faunal diversity. India stands 8th out of 17 mega bio-diverse countries in the world. The new species would be added to the repository of 92,037 faunal species surveyed in the ZSI’s 106-year-old history.

The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) website states that India is one of the recognized mega-diverse countries of the world, harbouring nearly seven to eight per cent of the recorded species of the world, and representing 4 of the 34 globally identified biodiversity hotspots (Himalaya, Indo-Burma, Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, Sundaland). India is also a vast repository of traditional knowledge associated with biological resources.

So far, over 91,200 species of animals and 45,500 species of plants have been documented in the ten biogeographic regions of the country. Inventories of floral and faunal diversities are being progressively updated with several new discoveries through the conduct of continuous surveys and exploration. Along with species richness, India also possesses high rates of endemism.

In terms of endemic vertebrate groups, India’s global ranking is tenth in birds, with 69 species; fifth in reptiles with 156 species; and seventh in amphibians with 110 species. Endemic-rich Indian fauna is manifested most prominently in Amphibia (61.2%) and Reptilia (47%). India is also recognized as one of the eight Vavilovian centres of origin and diversity of crop plants, having more than 300 wild ancestors and close relatives of cultivated plants, which are still evolving under natural conditions.

As per ZSI records, there are about 1.7 million living species described from all over the world and another 15 million species are waiting to be discovered. In India till date, 1,00,693 species of animals have been described, but a large number of species are expected to be discovered especially from the lower invertebrate groups occurring in various ecosystems. Also, the status of the higher group of animals need to be studied before their habitats disappear.

In the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List version 2010.4, 94 species of mammals, 78 species of birds, 66 species of amphibians, 30 species of reptiles, 122 species of fish, 113 species of invertebrates and 255 species of plants in India are listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable. So far, 758 animal and plant species are listed as globally threatened in India by the IUCN, which is about less than 1% (i.e., 0.55%) of species documented in India.

As reported by Down to Earth, loss of biodiversity will downgrade the credit ratings of several countries, including India, increasing their bankruptcy risk, according to a study by British economists. A team of economists from British universities analyzed the sovereign credit ratings of 26 countries, including India.

Sovereign credit ratings are an independent assessment that determines the creditworthiness of a country. The team claimed that investors and corporations ignoring biodiversity loss from calculations could lead to market stability being undermined. They found that at least 58% of the 26 countries would face a detrimental impact. China and Malaysia would be the worst-affected with downgrades of more than six notches.

India, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Bangladesh can expect downgrades of four notches while a third of the countries studied would experience more than three. The downgrades to four notches for India and other countries means that they will be burdened with billions of dollars in interest. Twelve of the 26 countries analyzed will be at the risk of bankruptcy.

The CBD website points out that the main threats to biodiversity include habitat fragmentation, degradation and loss; over-exploitation of resources; shrinking genetic diversity; invasive alien species; declining forest resource base; climate change and desertification; impact of development projects; impact of pollution.

In the backdrop of the varying socio-cultural milieu and often conflicting demands of various stakeholders, there is an urgent need for augmenting and accelerating the efforts for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

Scientists in ZSI are engaged in exploring, naming, describing, classifying and documenting animals from all over India. But the ZSI stresses that a lot more needs to be done to understand and investigate the faunal diversity of India in the light of the objectives of the CBD for scientific use and equitable sharing of the benefits of animal resources of the country.


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