Biodiversity of jammu kashmir

Biodiversity of J&K
The state is rich in the cultural diversity of the people, as well as diversity of flora and fauna in the forest areas, and domesticated species outside the forest. Plant diversity is the life support of almost all terrestrial ecosystems, with both humans and animals being entirely dependent on plants directly or indirectly.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a fairly rich diversity of plant life, and on this the people depend for their daily needs of food, medicine, fuel, fibre, etc. The varied plant life also contributes to the food and habitat needs of the wild and domesticated animals in the state. Plants are also an integral part of the social fabric of the state. The environmental, social and economic values of plants are very well known. On the other hand, the faunal component of the bio-diversity of the state is rich, with interesting and unique forms both in the forest zones and above the forest-line. The variety of animal forms ranges from higher groups like vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and lower groups like invertebrates including insects and even unicellular micro-organisms.

The flora

The flora of Himalayan Kashmir comprises about 3,054 species. About 880 species are found in Ladakh. The flora of the Jammu district comprises 506 species. These figures include only the angiosperms, gymnosperms and pteridophytes. The species lists of different districts are being continually updated in taxonomic publications. The lower plants like fungi and algae have not been studied exhaustively; information on the micro-flora of isolated regions is available for some plant orders and families only. The plants of the western Himalayas are well known for their medicinal properties. This area is a store house of medicinal and aromatic plants, which are used in pharmaceutical and perfume industries. The list includes 55 species of important medicinal and aromatic plants. There are 11 medicinal plants in the temperate, cold, arid regions of Jammu and Kashmir. Several medicinal plants grow wild in the temperate and alpine habitats. Some native medicinal plants have been taken up for cultivation, e.g. Dioscorea deltoidea is now cultivated for its tubers which are rich in diosgenin and yield cortisone, a steroid hormone.

Phyto-geography and vegetation types

Within the Indian region, the area of Jammu and Kashmir is, phyto-geographically, the most complex and diverse. The flora has passed through various stages during the geomorphological evolution of this region. This region has been colonised at different times by humid tropical Malayan forms, tropical African forms, temperate and alpine north Asiatic-European forms, sclerophyllous Mediterranean forms, temperate East Asian and semi-arid Central Asian forms. The rigorous environment has further acted upon this mosaic of geographical forms leading to the extinction of species, breaking up of distribution ranges, or induction of genetic variation with or without speciation. The flora of the surrounding regions has enriched the flora of Jammu and Kashmir.

Floristically, the state of Jammu and Kashmir can be divided into three regions:

Alpine desert vegetation of Ladakh: The region is an almost treeless expanse. Due to the scarcity of precipitation the plants are generally found growing along moist river margins, or moist rock crevices. There are three main elements in the flora of Ladakh, viz. alpine, desertic and oasitic. A large proportion of the plant diversity exists in the cultivated state only. This includes crops like barley, wheat, gram, peas, lentil, onion, potato, etc.

Temperate vegetation of Kashmir: Though the vegetation of the Kashmir valley is disturbed due to extensive cultivation of grain crops like paddy and maize, one can see extremely rich vegetation in the beds and banks of the streams and canals. The Kashmir valley abounds in lakes and swampy lagoons with distinctive hydrophytic formations. The other Pir Panjal forests form a compact and linear strip-like area running from south-east to north-west and constitute the southern boundary of the Kashmir valley.
Sub-tropical vegetation of Jammu: The vegetation of the Jammu region is of a dry, mixed deciduous type. During the rainy season the low-lying areas become jheels that support a number of aquatic plants.

Aquatic vegetation
The high altitude lakes situated above 4,000 m in the Pir Panjal Range and in Ladakh are devoid of macro-phytic vegetation, whereas the lakes situated in the pine forest zone of the Pir Panjal and the Kashmir valley have well developed stratified vegetation. Most of the lakes of the Kashmir Himalayan range have typical zonation of plants. The innermost zone has submerged plants, which have their flowers and fruits above the water surface. In the shallower water there is a zone of plants that have their leaves floating on the surface of water. Along the lake margins, the plants stand in water with the greater portion of the plants being visible above water. Small free-floating plants occur in the shallow waters and along lake margins.

Characteristic features of Kashmir lakes are the floating islands . These are strips of land artificially created and towed along from place to place. These floating islands are used for growing crops and horticultural plants.

Threatened plants
Many factors, both natural and man-made, have been responsible for extinction of species. It is well known that several plant species have become extinct due to certain natural phenomena, such as land upheavals, volcanic eruptions, glaciations, protracted periods of drought, spread of desert lands, forest fires and eutrophication in the geological past. In certain other cases species became too old or senescent and suffered genetic depletion, thus becoming unable to adapt to the new environment, leading to restricted distribution and, eventually, extinction.

Normally for a species the processes involved in its evolution, spread and finally extinction are very slow. While such natural processes in the past had no doubt led to the extinction of species, they had also contributed to the evolution and speciation of plants. Anthropogenic factors, on the other hand, have accelerated rarity and extinction of plants species to a level where the very existence of the eco-system is threatened.

The bio-diversity of the rich areaof Kashmir happens to be one of the 26 hotpots in India where there are high rates of deforestation and endemicity. The whole Himalayan belt is one hotspot mega centre, having 8 critical areas, which include two regions from the state, viz. Ladakh and Kashmir.

The fauna

The fauna of Jammu and Kashmir is diverse due to its unique location and climatic condition. About 16% of the Indian mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies are presented in the state. Birds contribute much to the chordate diversity following by mammals, reptiles, fishes and amphibians. The state is home to about 75 species of mammals , besides several sub-species, belonging to 54 genera, 21 families and 8 orders. Carnivores represent 32% of the total mammalian fauna in the state. Of the 19 species of the ungulates reported from the state,13 have been listed as globally threatened.

The avian diversity of the state varies seasonally and available data suggests the existence of as many as 358 species of birds belonging to 179 genera, 51 families under 16 orders. The state is home to 14 species of amphibians belonging to 6 genera, 5 families and 1 order, and 68 species of reptiles belonging to 43 genera, 12 families and 2 orders.

The available data suggests that 44 species of fishes belonging to 14 genera under 5 families occur in the state.

The available data also reveals that as many as 225 species of insects , besides several sub-species, belonging to 136 genera, 35 families and 4 orders occur in the state.