SCIENCE REPORTER

ISSN: 0036-8512                                                                                               

VOLUME 47                                                         NUMBER  5                                                  MAY 2010

Total visitors: 4962 since 10-05-2010

CONTENTS

 

COVER STORY

 

BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION

ARVIND SINGH

 

8

FEATURE ARTICLES

International Year Of Biodiversity-2010

RAMPRASAD BABU G.

 

16

Protecting the Wild Beauties

R. RAMASUBBU

 

19

Little-known Treasures of Wetlands Need Conservation

R. N. MANDAL & P. K. MUKHOPADHYAY

27

The Kashmir Valley

Nature’s Medicinal Treasure

MOHAMMAD IMRAN KOZGAR & SAMIULLAH KHAN

 

30

Asphyxiating Asthma

P. CHEENA CHAWLA

 

35

Frozen Zoos!

MUKESH THAKUR & RUHINA JAVED

 

44

Eroding Domestic Animal Biodiversity

LALIT SHARMA

 

52

SHORT FEATURE

Restoration Ecology
K. VENKATRAMAN

 

23

 

FICTION

BHAVISHYA

VIJETH B

 

40

DEPARTMENTS

 

REACTIONS

6

EDITORIAL

7

 

BOOK REVIEW

14

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE

24

PUZZLE CORNER

50

 

LIVING FOSSILS                                                                                 

53

NATURAL HAZARDS

56

 

FUN QUIZ

58

WHAT’S NEW   

60

CROSSWORD                     

62

 

 

Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 8-13

BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION

Protecting Species Before They Are Gone

 

ARVIND SINGH

 

Species extinction is not a pleasant phenomenon. But around 27,000 species become extinct every year. This is a big blow to the biological diversity that sustains life on Earth. If this trend of biodiversity depletion continues, one-fourth of the world’s species may be gone by the year 2050. Biodiversity conservation strategies need to focus on several factors to be really effective.

 

ANY natural calamity—a drought, a fire, a flood or a new disease—would have a tough job wiping out everything alive. The reason? All living things are a little bit different from each other. While some will perish, there will be others who would have certain genes or characteristics that will help them survive the calamity. This variability, also known as biological diversity, is a big defence mechanism essential for the survival of nature in all its pristine glory.

Biodiversity or biological diversity refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 16-18

International Year of Biodiversity-2010

RAMPRASAD BABU G.

 

The year 2010 has been designated as the International Year of Biodiversity aimed at raising public awareness of the threat to biodiversity from mankind and its impending consequences not only to human survival but also the survival of all the other species on Earth.

 

HAVE you ever considered that the water we drink from our taps may have been purified by a wetland or forest? Did you know that much of the food we eat depends on the services provided by a diversity of pollinating insects and animals?

Biodiversity may be a buzzword, but as a concept it lies at the heart of ecological research. Bio means life and diversity means variety. Biodiversity is life, your life is biodiversity and biodiversity is you. Biodiversity is the term used to describe the variety of life on Earth from genes to species to broader scale of ecosystems. It includes every plant and animal as well as micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Biological diversity is not evenly distributed over the Earth's surface.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 19-22

 

Protecting the Wild Beauties

 

R. RAMASUBBU

India is rich in wild ornamental plants. But the current serious genetic erosion of wild plants demands urgent measures to be taken to conserve as many diverse plants in as large areas as possible.

 

THE wild is home to innumerable plants, animals, microbes and their associates, many of which are enormously beneficial to us. However, unsustainable management practices and over exploitation of forest resources have adversely affected forest areas of the world, especially in the tropical regions. Besides, population growth, increasing agriculture, over exploitation of non-wood forest products, and road construction have created great stress on forest ecosystems resulting in loss of biodiversity in forest areas.

Biological diversity of India is among the most significant and richest in the world. With just over two percent of the world’s landmass (329 millions hectares), it has about seven per cent of living resources, one third of which are land bounded. As many as 45,000 species of plants have so far been recorded from here. Further, it is estimated that 5,285 species of angiosperms belonging to 140 genera are endemic to the country.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 23

 
Restoration Ecology
K. VENKATARAMAN
 
 THERE is little doubt that ecology, which determines the fate of our planet and of our own survival, has been totally neglected. Population pressure, poverty and pollution have all brought the Earth to the brink of a planetary catastrophe, which if allowed to continue, could eventually render the Earth uninhabitable for all forms of life including human life.
                    Humans have a responsibility towards other living things and obligations to future generations. The ecosystem provides the human society with food, fuel and timber. Basically ecosystem-services involve the purification of air and water, detoxification and decomposition of waters, regulation of climate, regeneration of soil fertility and pollination of crops. However, environmental degradation and destruction of many of the Earth’s biota is taking on a catastrophically short time scale. The current extinction rate of species is 1000 to 10000 times the normal rate. Habitat loss is the leading cause of both species extinction and decline in ecosystem-services. 

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 27-29

 

Little-known Treasures of Wetlands Need Conservation

 

R. N. MANDAL & P. K. MUKHOPADHYAY

There is growing concern about dwindling of wetlands due to human interference. Experts opine that loss of wetlands brings with it a number of inevitable dangers for the environment. One of which is loss of wetland biodiversity.

WETLANDS are known repositories of many valuable biotic resources that have been serving the human civilization since times immemorial. Yet, there is no hue and cry over the disappearance of a few little known wetland flora that support the livelihood of large populations in rural area. These are mostly seasonal, a few are annual, having dense population, thus sharing a major part in the floral community of aquatic vegetation.

Apart from being leafy vegetables that are eaten, they are potentially nutritious and medicinal in nature too. These have become part and parcel of daily meals in rural areas. Without manuring and less care, they grow wildly in fallow wetlands. Treated as non-conventional leafy vegetables they are more organic than other leafy vegetables cultivated. Rural masses are acquainted with their taste along with traditional knowledge based medicinal importance to some extent, but are not much aware of their nutritional excellence.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 30-33

The Kashmir Valley

Nature’s Medicinal Treasure

 

MOHAMMAD IMRAN KOZGAR & SAMIULLAH KHAN

 

Jammu & Kashmir can become a major producer of medicinal plants provided this sector gets due attention. Medicinal plants of this region hold the potential to completely change the socio-economic status of the state.

ACCORDING to the World Health Organization, over 80% of the world’s population relies on traditional forms of medicine, largely plant-based, to meet primary health care needs. With the introduction of scientific procedures, researchers have been able to understand the medicinal and toxic principles present in the green flora. Recent estimates suggest that over 20,000 plant species have known medicinal applications in various cultures and countries, used at one time or another, and this is without having conducted comprehensive research amongst several indigenous communities. At least 8,500 plant species in Asia, among them 3,400 in India, are used as home remedies. Jammu & Kashmir, apart from its exceedingly beautiful environs, also boasts of a varying degree of agro-climatic zonation—from temperate to alpine. This makes it a veritable bowl of innumerable varieties of medicinal plants.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 35-38

 

Asphyxiating Asthma

 

P. CHEENA CHAWLA

Staying away from stimuli that trigger an asthma attack, knowing the warning signs and timely medication are crucial to control asthma.

JUST imagine the human body without the in and out rhythmic flow of breath. It is only at death that the breath and the body separate. It is this constant alternate breathing in of oxygen and breathing out of carbon dioxide that keeps us alive. But this process of breathing is compromised in about 300 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma, as the flow of air through their lungs is obstructed.

                The inhaled oxygen reaches the lung through the windpipe/trachea, which divides into two large tubes or bronchi, one for each lung. Each bronchus further divides into millions of thin, tiny air passages called bronchial tubes through which the inhaled oxygen passes before it reaches the round structures, present at their tips, called the air sacs or alveoli. These airways become smaller and narrower as they get deeper into the lungs, just like the branches of a tree that are smaller and narrower than the tree trunk.  It is in the alveoli that the exchange of gases occurs, as the inhaled oxygen gets into our bloodstream through the rich capillary network surrounding the alveoli, while carbon dioxide — a by-product of cellular metabolism — passes into the air passages, through the capillary network around alveoli, to be exhaled out through the nostrils.

 

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 44-48

Frozen Zoos!

 

MUKESH THAKUR & RUHINA JAVED

 

Despite there being numerous gene repositories in the country, there is no initiative as yet to develop a national gene bank exclusively for the preservation and utilization of wild animal germplasm. Genome Resource Bank (GRB) or Frozen Zoo would provide significant benefits for wildlife managers as it holds particular promise for endangered species.

IT’S not a zoo that you would particularly enjoy visiting. Unlike the conventional zoo where antics of animals in captivity keep you entertained, in a Frozen Zoo you are more likely to come across tanks containing semen and embryos of wild animals frozen in liquid nitrogen. Sometime in the future, when an animal in the wild is threatened with extinction, it could be reproduced thanks to the gene material safely stored in the Frozen Zoo. 

Wildlife reproduction is a new and upcoming trend in conservation of wildlife. Practiced widely in several countries, it is not yet frequently applied in India. There are several new methods available today in wildlife reproduction including Cross-fostering, Artificial incubation, Artificial insemination, and Embryo transfer. All these methods go a long way in boosting genetic variability, increasing population size, and improving reproductive success.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 52-54

 

Eroding Domestic Animal Biodiversity

LALIT SHARMA

 

The rich biological diversity in farm animals is progressively getting eroded, especially in cattle, poultry, sheep and pigs where a large percentage is either being replaced by exotic or crosses of the exotic and native breeds.

 

EVERY animal, wild or domestic, has a role to play in the bio-chain. Over a period of time, livestock farmers have developed a wide range of domestic animal breeds. These breeds are adapted to the conditions of subsistence farming practiced by close to 640 million livestock keepers. Domestic animals provide milk, eggs and meat, plough the fields, and transport goods and people in rural areas, often despite the pressures of heat, drought, diseases and parasites. They not only contribute to the national GDP significantly, but also help in uplift of the socio-economic status of the rural masses.

India, owing to the geological events in the landmass and subsequent geography, provides conditions for high levels of biological diversity. In spite of occupying only 2.4% of the world, India has 7% of rich animal diversity, making her a hub for global domestic animal diversity.

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Science Reporter

Vol. 47, May 2010, pp 40-41

 

FICTION

BHAVISHYA

VIJETH B

 

I was watching the science fiction ‘The Future’ on Star movies.  It was late Saturday night.  The film was more or less like a dream.  “It would never come true in real life,” I thought to myself.  After watching, I switched off the television and slept wondering.

                Sunday was here.  I was playing cricket at the II cross road where my house was situated.  I hit the ball for a six, only to land the ball on a terrace.  I had to get the ball as I had hit the ball.  This was the rule.  I climbed the stairs, got to the terrace, picked up the ball and was just returning to the stairs when I saw a ward man running towards me.  I got scared and ran back to the terrace.  But this time, I saw a chair-like contraption with two big buttons on it.  The number ‘29’ was blinking on one of the buttons.  In a sudden sort of hypnotic trance I just sat and pressed the other button and whoooosh!  The contraption started rising.  Suddenly it gained speed.

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