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Biodiversity of IIT Bombay

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Alok Chorghe
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The studies of biodiversity have now assumed greater significance as ecologists try desperately to document global biodiversity in the face of unprecedented perturbations, habitat loss and extinction rates. With advances in science and technology, we are on the verge of understanding the natural world while at the same time in real danger of destroying it. The environment is larger and much more complex than any man-made machinery, and the consequences of system failure are thus more disastrous. Every human activity has some effect on the natural environment as a whole, and over the past few decades, there has been a growing recognition and concern that increasing economic activity and development carry environmental costs. Environmental trends such as urban congestion; increasing waste production and inadequacies of waste disposal; erosion; global warming and climate change; and pollution and ozone depletion—with consequent deterioration of landscape quality, loss of biodiversity and habitats and over exploitation and depletion of resources—are all symptoms of environmental deterioration. Biodiversity is intrinsically valuable as a means of improving our understanding of the structure and functioning of ecological communities. The IIT Bombay campus has rich and diverse ecological communities performing a variety of functions. This diversity has been modified at times and has tried to sustain it self in changing circumstances. Documentation of the biological diversity was lacking which prompted this study. The outcome of the study can be used constructively in planning sustainability of bothman and natural environment. The Study of biodiversity of IIT Bombay campus was conducted for a period of six months from September 2008 till February 2009. The study involved seasonal documentation of the flora and fauna for its abundance and distribution. The study involved 140 days of field visits to the campus covering an area of 566 acres. The Campus was divided into two main sectors viz. urbanized sector and vegetated sector. The Urbanized sector was further divided into three sub sectors based on the degree of construction work, while theVegetated Sectorwas further divided into five sub sectors. The total number of species observed during the period of study was 843; 44 % of which comprised of flora, 39%of invertebrate fauna and 17% vertebrate fauna.Among the flora the trees were dominant,while the insects and birds were the dominant invertebrate and vertebrate fauna. The comparison between the urban and vegetated sector revealed that the vegetated sector was more balanced than the urban sector.The campus has 84 alien species of which 17 are invasive species, most of whom were observed in the urban sector indicating their introduction in the campus. The campus also has 100 species of flora and fauna that are accorded protection status as per the different wild life laws.All these observations indicated that the campus has a rich biodiversity that is vulnerable to the human intrusion. In the six month duration of the study it was observed that out of 149 quadrants plotted to study flora, 30 quadrants measuring 10 x 10 m were cleared, while 34 (of 2 x 2 m) out of 178 faunal quadrants were cleared. The IIT-Bombay campus is important not only from education point of view but also as a green lung. The campus being adjacent to the SanjayGandhiNational Parkwas known to have several mega fauna visiting it but with fragmentation of habitat the visits have become sporadic. The campus can still support a lot of biodiversity but implementing conservation measures is the immediate need. Development is a necessary evil and will take place with time but one needs to recognize the potential of the campus as a green lung and carbon sink; if absolutely needed sustainability of the natural wealth should be given due consideration.