• Human impacts on species occur across 84% of the earth’s surface, finds a study published on March 13 in PLOS Biology, an international journal dedicated to biological science.
  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including India’s biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, Himalaya and the north-east — also fall in this category; India ranks 16th in such human impacts, with 35 species impacted on average.
  • Using sources, including the recently-updated Human Footprint data, they found that a staggering 1,237 species are impacted by threats in more than 90% of their habitat; 395 species are affected by threats across their entire range.
  • While the impact of roads is highest (affecting 72% of terrestrial areas), crop lands affect the highest number of threatened species: 3,834.
  • Malaysia ranks first among the countries with the highest number of impacted species (125). India ranks 16th (35 threatened species affected on average).
  • Southeast Asian tropical forests — including those in India’s Western Ghats, Himalaya and north-east — are among the ‘hotspots’ of threatened species.
  • For instance, the average number of species impacted in the South Western Ghats montane rainforests is 60 and in the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, 53.
  • Roads and croplands are extensive in India and conversion of habitat for such activities could be a main threat.
  • However, these very areas are also ‘cool-spots’ (the world’s last refuges where high numbers of threatened species still persist).
  • Cool-spots could be the result of protection or because of intact habitat that has not been cleared yet, adding that India still has crucial refuges that need protecting.
  • Identifying such areas could aid conservation and development planning for countries.
  • However, these refugia do not necessarily have to be off-limits to human development, just free of the actions that directly threaten species there.
  • With India having the world’s second largest road network, we really need to plan for development that keeps wildlife conservation as a primary goal in biodiversity-rich areas, agreed wildlife
  • Similarly, if wildlife-friendly cropping patterns lead to conservation of wildlife, that would be a victory too.
  • For instance, agricultural crops such as pulses have supported the conservation of the critically endangered great Indian bustard.