Question: Highlight the significance of northeastern region in the context of India’s overall biodiversity and the role it plays in the country’s ecological balance. (150 words)
GS 3 Environment
Northeast India is not only either a place of rising sun or ethnic and cultural diversity but also a mega biodiversity centre. The region occupies 7.7% of India’s total geographical area supporting 50% of the Flora of which 31.58% is endemic. The region is rich in Orchids ,Ferns, Oaks, Bamboos, Magnolias and many other medicinal plants as well as rare and endangered animal species. The region supports rich biodiversity spanning from tropical rainforests to alpine scrub which has a significant role in the maintenance of the ecosystem.
Significance of Northeast India:
- Species Diversity: The region’s diverse landscapes, including the Eastern Himalayas, tropical rainforests, and high-altitude areas, support a wide range of species. For instance, the region is known for hosting over 200 species of orchids, making it one of the richest orchid habitats in the world.
- Endemism: The northeastern region is home to many endemic species such as the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) in the Eastern Himalayas and the Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock spp.) in the dense forests. These species are found only in this specific geographical area.
- Medicinal Plants: For example, the state of Arunachal Pradesh alone is estimated to have over 500 species of medicinal plants.
- Ecosystem Services: Wetlands like Deepor Beel in Assam provide vital ecosystem services by acting as natural filters for water purification. The region’s forests contribute to carbon sequestration and help regulate local climate patterns.
- Conservation Significance: The greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is found in the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. The region also houses the endangered Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris).
- Ecological Connectivity: The “hills and valleys” of the northeastern region provide ecological corridors for species movement. The region’s connection to Southeast Asia is vital for migratory birds and genetic exchange among species.
- Climate Regulation: The dense forests of Meghalaya contribute to rainfall patterns in the region. Cherrapunji, in Meghalaya, is one of the wettest places on Earth due to its unique geographical location.
- Cultural and Indigenous Knowledge: Indigenous communities, such as the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya, have intricate knowledge of the local environment. Their traditional farming practices, like jhum cultivation, have sustained the region’s ecology for generations.
The northeastern region’s extraordinary biodiversity and ecosystems are integral to India’s ecological balance. Protecting and conserving this region is essential not only for the well-being of its unique flora and fauna but also for the sustenance of human livelihoods and the overall health of the environment.