Documenting India’s Marine Biodiversity

Documenting India’s Marine Biodiversity

By: K Venkataraman
As per available data, there are 21,663 marine species in India, of which, 20,444 are faunal communities. However, in the absence of adequate documentation, the exact numbers are uncertain, and so is the status of India’s marine biodiversity.

Except for parts of the Andaman-Nicobar Islands, there is no pristine area left in India today. The decline of marine resources in India goes back to the time of Gardiner, who in 1936, expressed concern about the degradation that was taking place. By the end of the last century and the beginning of the present century, very few marine areas remained unaffected.
Mangroves and sea grass are being cut down for building of ports, roads, aquaculture and agriculture, mudflats and salt marshes are being taken over for industrial and infrastructural development. Coral reefs suffer from destructive fishing practices, industrial pollution, sedimentation, besides coral harvesting for ornamental work and construction activity.
At a time when climate change is all set to alter coastal marine ecosystems and affect the range of species at a rate faster than we can discover them (Keesing and Irvine, 2005), it is high time that we increase awareness levels on the extent and nature of our rich marine biodiversity, and take concrete steps to keep our coastlines ‘swachchh’, rather than use it as a dump yard and destroy all we have. It will also require a mammoth exercise aimed at documenting lesser known, though economically as important, species in our maritime environment.


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