India and its neighbours have together lost 90% of their original natural vegetation under their four common biodiversity hotspots with the biggest one — Indo-Burma hotspot — being the worst hit by reporting loss of nearly 95% of natural vegetation from the originally estimated area of 2.3 million sq km.
The biodiversity loss figures were highlighted by the Centre for Science and Environment in its latest annual statistical compendium on the state of India’s environment, released on World Environment Day last week.
Noting that the four biodiversity hotspots have been reduced to less than 10% of their original extent, the CSE in its report also flagged that 25 plant species have gone extinct in these hotspots which cover India and its neighbour in south Asia and south-east Asia.
Besides the Indo-Burma hotspot which includes entire north-eastern India (except Assam), Andaman group of islands, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China, the other three hotspots in the country are the Himalayas (Indian Himalayan region and the areas falling in neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar), Western Ghats & Sri Lanka, and Sunda Land (Nicobar group of Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Philippines).
A ‘biodiversity hotspot’ is a region characterised both by exceptional levels of plant endemism and by serious levels of habitat loss. There are 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world.
“Each hotspot faces extreme threats and has already lost at least 70% of its original natural vegetation,” said the Botanical Survey of India.
It noted that over 50% of the world’s plant species and 42% of all terrestrial vertebrate species are endemic to the 35 biodiversity hotspots.
The CSE’s report has used and compiled the publicly available data from the ‘ecosystem accounts for India’ and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s report on endangered species. It said12% of 1,212 animal species in India, monitored by the IUCN under its Red List monitors, are endangered.