Understanding Riverine Biodiversity - Need For Conservation

Rekha, P. D., Shashikumar, K. C. and Madhyastha M. N.*
Department of Biosciences, 
Mangalore University, Mangalagangotri, 
Mangalore 574 199
* Chemical Engineering Dept., National Institute of Technology, 
Karnataka, Surathkal 574 157
Phone: 0824-221339

Freshwater ecosystems in India are under grave threat. Water being a multipurpose resource, finds its way into all the spheres of developments. Large and growing human populations and the rapid pace of development have led to the degradation of natural water systems.  Agricultural and domestic water requirements were the most demanding arenas of the ancient India. Later due to industrial growth, increased population, urbanization etc., demand for freshwater increased tremendously. In a hurry for industrial revolution, competition for resources has overlooked the environmental sustainability of the practice.

 Riverine wetlands are important ecosystems due to their geomorphic features, landscape diversity, riparian interactions, hydrological connectivity, and for the species pool in the river corridor. Riverine biodiversity faces particular challenges because of poor understanding of biotic and abiotic dynamics of the system. The diversity of fauna and flora supported by these ecosystems has been escaped wide attention. Habitat fragmentation due to various aspects such as flow regulation, landscape alterations, land based activities, clearance of riparian vegetation, flood control, riverscaping, water pollution, overexploitation of the water resources, etc., have resulted in the loss of biodiversity.

 Reversal of the loss requires a change in focus by limnologists, water resource managers, industrialists and the general public, and the urgent adoption of a conservation agenda for freshwater conservation in India is demanded.  Further, understanding of broadened concept of biodiversity encompassing spatio-temporal heterogeneity, functional processes and species diversity could provide a unifying theme for river ecology. Role of structural and functional diversity should not be underestimated while preserving species diversity within the communities.  A widened concept of biodiversity could provide an integrative perspective for holistic studies of rivers as ecosystems of its own diversity. Biodiversity integrates ecology with evolution and biogeography. An operational understanding of biodiversity links basic research with applied research by providing a basis for effective river conservation and management initiatives.  

Various aspects of riverine biodiversity with suitable examples from the studies on rivers of Dakshina Kannada are discussed in the present paper.