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What is in Ex-Situ and In-Situ Biodiversity Conservation?

Biodiversity Conservation

Once, Cheetah was prominently seen on the grasslands of India, but now, it's an extinct animal. Many such extinctions have been recorded by the Wildlife Institute of India and the forest department. It has been observed that with rapid growth and industrialization, climate change, and some other natural reasons, extinctions have become the new normal. To limit any more extinctions of biodiversity, environmentalists recommend various Ex-situ and In-situ biodiversity conservation methods. 


In this article, we will learn the concepts related to biodiversity conservation.  


Biodiversity - Introduction 

The word ‘bio’ means life and ‘diversity’ means variety. So, in simple terms, biodiversity means the variety of life that exists on the planet Earth. The term biodiversity was given by Edward Wilson.


As per the IUCN report of 2004, the total number of species of both plants and animals is more than 1.5 million, but the exact number is not yet discovered. More than 70% of all species recorded are animals, and among animals, insects occupy a maximum portion. This data shows that out of every 10 animals, 7 are insects. The number of fungi in the world is more than the combined total species of fish. Whereas plants occupy more than 22% of the total species. 


Methods of Biodiversity Conservation

A. Ex-situ Conservation

In this type of conservation, the threatened animals and plants are taken out from their natural habitat and placed in a special area or location where they can be protected and given special care. For example - zoological parks, botanical gardens, wildlife safari parks, gene banks, germplasm banks, and seed banks.


Many animals have become extinct in the wild but few of them are kept in zoological parks. The gametes of threatened species can be preserved in viable, fertile conditions for long periods using cryopreservation techniques, In this, the eggs can be fertilized in vitro, and plants can be propagated using tissue culture methods. Seeds of different genetic strains of commercially important plants can be kept for long periods in seed banks.


B. In-situ Conservation

In this type of conservation method, species are protected in their natural habitat by making their habitats protected areas. For example- national parks, sanctuaries, biosphere reserves, etc.


Types of In-Situ Conservation Areas 

  • National Parks: These areas are maintained by the government and reserved for the betterment of wildlife, cultivation, grazing, forestry; and habitat manipulation is not allowed.

  • Sanctuaries: They are tracts of lands with or without lake share where wild animals/fauna can take refuge without being hunted. Other activities like collection of forest products, harvesting of timber, private ownership of lands, tilling of land, etc. are allowed.

  • Biosphere Reserves: They are multipurpose protected areas that are meant for preserving genetic diversity in representative ecosystems of various natural biomes and unique biological communities by protecting the wild populations, traditional lifestyles of tribals,, and domesticated plant/animal genetic resources. They are specified protected areas in which multiple uses of the land are permitted. 


Reasons to Conserve Biodiversity

There are many reasons to conserve biodiversity. We can group them into three categories:

  1. Narrow Utilitarian: It is concerned with direct economic benefits from nature for food, firewood, fiber, construction material, industrial products of medical importance, etc.

  2. Broad Utilitarian: It is concentrated with indirect benefits from nature like photosynthesis, pollination, oxygen, etc.

  3. Ethical: It is our moral duty to care for the well-being of biodiversity and pass on our biological legacy in good order to future generations.


Key Points to Remember 

  • Biodiversity means the variety of life existing on the Earth.

  • More organisms mean more biodiversity.

  • More biodiversity will lead to a healthy food chain and food web.

  • Currently, anthropological or man-made causes are the main reasons for biodiversity extinction.

  • The in-situ method of conservation is done in the natural ecosystem or habitat.

  • Examples of In-situ include national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

  • The Ex-situ method of conservation is carried out on man-made habitats or ecosystems.

  • Examples of Ex-situ include zoological gardens, seed banks, and gene banks. 

  • For the existence of human beings and other living organisms, the conservation of biodiversity is the need of the hour. 

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FAQs on What is in Ex-Situ and In-Situ Biodiversity Conservation?

1. Explain the reason to preserve biodiversity?

  1. Narrow Utilitarian: It is concerned with direct economic benefits from nature for food, firewood, fibre, construction material, industrial products of medical importance, etc.

  2. Broad Utilitarian: It is concentrated with indirect benefits from nature like photosynthesis, pollination, oxygen, etc.

  3. Ethical: It is our moral duty to care for the well-being of biodiversity and pass on our biological legacy in good order to future generations.

2. Explain In-situ Conservation?

In-situ Conservation

These species are protected in their natural habitat by making their habitats protected areas for example-National parks, Sanctuaries, Biosphere reserves, etc.

National Parks: Part of land which is controlled by the government and reserved for well being of wildlife, cultivation, grazing, forestry, and habitat manipulation is not allowed.

Sanctuaries: They are tracts of lands with or without lake share where wild animals/fauna can take refuge without being hunted. Other activities like collection of forest products, harvesting of timber, private ownership of lands, tilling of land, etc. are allowed.

Biosphere Reserve: They are multipurpose protected areas that are meant for preserving genetic diversity in representative ecosystems of various natural biomes and unique biological communities by protecting wild populations, traditional lifestyle of tribals and domesticated plant/animal genetic resources. It is a specified protected area in which multiple use of the land is permitted.

3. What will happen if we stop conserving biodiversity? 

Life cannot exist in individuality and is related to other organisms and the surrounding environment. If we stop the process of conserving the biodiversity we have, the very existence of humans may come into danger. But we are glad as India has a National biodiversity conservation policy that aligns its conservation targets vis-a-vis targets set by IUCN. 

4. How are food webs and biodiversity conservation interrelated? 

The Foodweb is the interdependence of one organism on another for food. If there is more biodiversity in the environment, there will be the existence of a healthy food web. At the same time, scarcity of biodiversity will lead to narrower food webs, which, in turn, will cause the extinction of various organisms. Thus, for the survivability of the organisms, the conservation of biodiversity is needed. 

5. How is In-situ conservation different from Ex-situ conservation? 

When the conservation is made on the site of the biodiversity’s existence, i.e, the natural ecosystem, like the natural parks and wildlife sanctuaries, it is called in-situ conservation. When the conservation is done in an artificial ecosystem, that is, man-made, like zoological parks, botanical gardens, etc., it is called Ex-situ conservation.

6. What are the factors that cause loss of biodiversity? 

Factors responsible for the loss of biodiversity are divided into anthropological (man-made) causes and natural causes. 

  • Anthropological Factors: 

  1. Industrialization and rapid growth

  2. Conversion of wetlands into concrete land

  3. Soil, air, water, and noise pollution

  4. Invasive species 

  5. Climate change 

  • Natural Factors:

  1. Earthquake, tsunami, waves, flood

  2. Forest fires

  3. Spread of zoological diseases 


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