Thursday, August 8, 2019

Importance of and Understanding Niche Formations in an Ecosystem.

Tiger reserves or National Parks everywhere are complex ecosystems with a simple overview. Writers or wild lifers in India describe the reserves as comprising of type of forests, grasslands, dominating Sal or teak and the water formations in form of water holes, streams and rivulets all woven together.

A simple overview that makes us look through these writer's prism forgetting the immense complexity of ecosystems which include niche habitats or rather micro habitats. The neglect would mean loss of biodiversity both in flora and fauna. 

Pandanus or Kewra Break at Bandhavgarh
Hence the ecosystems also comprise of uncommon niche with abundance of special floral elements and containing a unique geography which comprises of a catchment, rivulets, streams, ponds, swamps, sand, minerals, plain or scattered rocks, unique grass, micro life forms and more. The appearance of vegetation and geological formation is unique but they can also pass off as a dense patch of forest.  To make out a niche one need not be a biologist or a geologist etc. A close look is enough. 

Thus in a small spot or place, a complex ecosystem exists which sustains unique life forms, water in dry season, shelter, food and often climate control, tigers and other mammals, reptiles, insects and birds find succor or life sustenance environment during the time of stress and even on regular basis. 

These are important and fragile components of  life support systems that if damaged or broken can have a disastrous impact upon the ecosystem as whole. Absence of these niche which are often due to obliteration or neglect is not a good sign and will eventually lead to disintegration of the reserve or National Park in time to come.

Similar life supporting effect or preservation could be brought about by presence or grouping of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals in a reserve. 

To make it  clearer even within the large confines of your house, garden, office or factory premises such niche can exist. Whence destroyed you wiould discover absence or diminishing of a species of flora or insects like butterflies and birds if you are a nature lover with keen sense of observation. This is precisely how unplanned urbanization destroy biodiversity in our towns and cities.  This is another reason why linear development is often criticized or cautioned in India by acclaimed conservationists.    

In case of violent intrusions by humans and livestock in area not protected as inviolate or out of bounds the diversity diminishes. Many species become extinct and the environment as whole suffers. Though well preserved in the core of our tiger reserves they are conspicuous by absence in the buffer. This is due to constant biotic pressure especially caused by livestock, denudation, logging and many other factors.    

Any visitor if vigilant during the safaris in our tiger reserves would make out such spots albeit they are often presented as picturesque or described as place containing water etc. That is why it is important to be observant during the safaris and not only chase tigers and other mega fauna. 

Thankfully our wildlife managers and field staff of the reserve are in the know of these niche or micro habitats and their ecological value. That incidentally makes habitat preservation extremely complex is not only saving the trees or grassland.    

This is another reason why indicator species like the tiger has become extremely important. Presence of an animal at the top of the food chain is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and a certain proof of presence and well being of these niche or micro habitats. 

We are the worst whence it comes to the preservation of our ecosystems because of our unmindfullness, greed and a hording mentality.       

Though I am only a naturalist, I always advocate that   tourists must visit tiger reserves with an inclination to learn sincerely so that we can better shape our surroundings and the environment as whole. Children should be encouraged in this endeavour more and more for they will be the policy makers of tomorrow. The wildlife managers or field biologists in our country should organizes camps to educate our masses. This is how greater benefit will accrue out of eco-tourism globally especially whence there is an unrelenting onslaught on our diminishing ecosystems.   

Micro Habitats
Find description and photographs of micro habitats in Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India.

Uday is a naturalist and is passionate about conservation and the well being of tigers in India. He loves to write on these issues on his blog and elsewhere.