Book Review | Environmental Change and Biodiversity: Uttarakhand Experiences

The authors observed that banning of construction activities and tree felling has not achieved the desired result in terms of conservation of biodiversity.

Environmental Change and Biodiversity: Uttarakhand Experiences is written by R.B. Singh and Suraj Mal, Published by Rawat Publications (ISBN 81-316-0301-6). In the book, the authors vividly highlighted some of the key concerns of environmental change in general with specific focus on biodiversity loss at global and local level. The study presented in the book is well supported by a case study on environmental change and biodiversity loss in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserves of Himalaya with a purpose to evaluate the biodiversity status in the last two-three decades. The authors presented the used of multidisciplinary approach to answer the following questions: 1) What are the spatial patterns of environmental change and biodiversity loss and their driving forces across the world in general and the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in particular? 2) What are the linkages between land use/cover change, landslides and biodiversity loss? 3) To what extent community participation can help for conservation of biodiversity?

The entire book is divided into nine major chapters. The first three chapters of the book are dedicated to global and Indian experiences of environmental change. In the first chapter, the authors clearly indicate environment had changed and modified the various components of environment to such extent that these changes are adversely affecting all the living organisms in the planet. Significance of biodiversity and driving forces influencing the India’s biodiversity has also been emphasized clearly. Environmental changes, biodiversity loss and extreme events have become a worldwide phenomenon.

The second chapter deals with environmental change in Uttarakhand; where the authors stressed on Uttarakhand’s experiences of environmental changes and biodiversity in general and climate change and extreme climate events in particular. Expansion of roads, communication facilities, hydroelectric projects and illegal felling and poaching has degraded floral and faunal biodiversity drastically. Change in the socio-economic status of people adds to the factors for degradation. The sharp changes in the extreme climate events such as heavy snowfall, rainfall, droughts, and extreme temperature conditions have also increased. The third chapter gave importance to environmental change and biodiversity with focus on the conceptual framework and research design. The authors furnished a synoptic review which was divided into general literature review and literature review of the study area. The research methodology included the identification of the problem then defining of the research problem and hypothesis. Both primary and secondary data were collected and base on the analysis the conclusion were drawn.

Environmental profile of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve presented in the fourth chapter gave a detailed account about the salient features of the Biosphere Reserve including historical background, geology, flora and fauna etc. The authors highlighted the pressures on the biodiversity of the region which resulted in the alteration of several species leading to extinction of many species. The authors stress that the biodiversity of the regions needs due attention in order to maintain sustainability of the entire ecosystem in a time where the world is engulf with whole lots of environmental problems. In the fifth chapter, land use/ land cover and biodiversity using remote sensing, GIS and perception approaches were highlighted. Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is a high altitude biosphere reserve having two important national parks. Though the biosphere reserve is located in highly rough and difficult terrain, it has experienced changes in the land use/ land cover in the recent past. The authors observed that banning of construction activities and tree felling has not achieved the desired result in terms of conservation of biodiversity. The authors reported that land use/ land cover change has been found to be the main cause for the loss of biodiversity in this fragile region.

An inventory of biodiversity using remote sensing and GIS has been presented in the sixth chapter. Here, the authors gave a lucid account on the biodiversity of the region which are characterised by the presence of highly endangered and threatened species such as snow leopard, common leopard, brown bear, black bear, musk deer etc. Furthermore, intensified land use/ land cover change coupled with landslides led to disappearance of some species from the region and some have become endangered. The authors underscored the need of the local people involvement in the planning process in order to conserve all the species in particular and ecosystem in general. Landslide hazard and biodiversity had been dealt with great detail in the seventh chapter. In this chapter, the authors found increase in landslides which are attributed to anthropogenic activities like road and dam construction. The occurrence of landslide often leads to devastation of flora and fauna in the region. The authors apprehend that the loss of flora and fauna is likely to increase in the near future as the landslides will increase in the study area.

Biodiversity conservation global to local initiatives have been described in the eighth chapter. The initiatives taken at global level for biodiversity conservation has been highlighted. The authors describe the history of conservation efforts in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve along with the conflict between the local communities and reserve authority. The current community based conservation efforts in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve has also been presented by the authors. The ninth chapter presents the conclusion and suggestions. The patterns of environmental change and biodiversity loss and their driving forces across the world in general and the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand in particular have been critically described in the book. Moreover the linkages between land use/ cover change, landslides and biodiversity loss indicate the intricacies and the extent of community participation in the conservation of biodiversity. The unprecedented loss and changes in biodiversity are taking place at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels. One of the major concerns of biodiversity loss is the reduction in the capacity of natural and managed ecosystems to render quality ecological services, such as production of food and fibre, carbon storage, nutrient cycling and resistance to climate and other environmental changes.

In conclusion, it is evident that current trends of habitat conversion and destruction are reducing the number of species at such a rapid pace that extinction of contemporary species is leading to imbalance of ecosystem. The problem of biodiversity loss needs to be minimized in order to keep the ecosystem functional. Therefore, assessing the causes and consequences of biodiversity loss and environmental changes, and establishing the bases for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are major scientific challenges of our time. Base on the significance of the findings of the case study; a concrete implementable strategy and action plans could have been highlighted to augment conservation and management efforts in the fragile Himalayan environment. Finally, this book will be really useful for researcher working in the domain area of environmental change and biodiversity issues.

First Published: July 18, 2020, 9:03 p.m.