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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Food Chain - Biotic/Abiotic Components & Tigers

Understanding Ecosystem in Tiger Landscapes 

The article's emphasis is on tiger surviving outside the protected areas in India. This is more of a simplification of the biotic components that prevail in an area highly stressed by human and livestock use.    

To understand this phenomenon we have to first under stand food chain in its simplest form. The food chain is best explained using a pyramid. 

How the creation and transfer of energy takes place.  

1) At the lowest level are the autotrophs the living beings that use abiotic elements like sunlight, soil, water, Co2 in order to produce energy. These are also called producers. Examples are plants, grass, herbs, shrubs, some micro-organisms and trees.   

2) Consumers or primary consumers subsist on the autotrophs so as to enable transfer of energy. Herbivores are the example . Deer, Wild Ox, Bison, Elephants, Primates and so on.    

3) Secondary Consumers are small predators and omnivorous creatures who subsist on primary consumers. Examples are fox, jackal, wild dog, raptors etc. 

4) Tertiary Consumers are large predators which subsist on primary consumers and to some extant on secondary consumers.   Like Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs & Leopards, some bears etc. These are also known as Apex predators, Normally these are designated as indicator species since their presence is a sign of a healthy ecosystem.    

5) Decomposers  or scavengers feed on dead organism they are small predators, hyena, vultures, eagles, corvids, bacteria and so on. 

Each layer from 2nd stage acts as population control mechanism, in order to maintain an equilibrium in the environment. All components are instrumental in maintaining humidity/moisture and composition of gases. Hence tigers are major control elements, and as top predators they are indicators of healthy ecosystem. I think this should justify conservation to all minds, Further understanding should arise by reading literature from acclaimed field biologists, conservationists etc.    

When the tiger habitats contain a perfect ecosystem, the animal's survival is assured...in presence of protection from nefarious human activities like poaching. Land grab is another major threat to ecosystems all over. Niche habitats are destroyed by expanding human settlements, industrialisation and agriculture. We have lost large tracts of grasslands, marshlands, estuaries, river, marine ecosystems and forests...all on massive scale.    

In areas outside the critical tiger habitats, multiple pressure arise from agricultural practices, human habitation, livestock and waste including toxic chemicals. The latter are as a result of widespread use of toiletries, fertilisers and pesticides. Fumes emanating from vehicles, cooking, noise pollution also contribute to damage to some extent. 

Livestock compete with natural inhabitants for vegetable matters and are instrumental in damaging the fragile ecosystem. They have been seen to easily outnumber the natural consumers reducing prey base for predators including the tigers. In most of the buffer areas of our NPs the big cats are dependent on cattle and other live stock.  Besides conflict with man they are susceptible to contagious disease.

Tree felling in order to feed livestock is another practice that reduces the canopy. Denuded land is easily subject to loss of top soil, proliferation by weeds like parthenium or carrot grass and  lantana.  As a result altered weather can inhibit breeding of tigers along with reduced prey base. 

Another reason for denudation is our dependency on wood for energy, furniture and construction.  In the past clear felling was resorted for commercial logging resulting in wide scale denudation as done by agricultural practices. Mining has the same impact as the latter besides contributing to hazardous environmental pollution.  

Hence we depend on tigers as well as all life forms for our survival plus not forgetting the purity of abiotic elements.  

Lack of planning has resulted in indiscriminate use of our land and not leaving the niche habitats inviolate. As we aim for high economic growth further pressure is created. PA's are good example of wise land use but we need this on larger scale to preserve all that we can.   

Humans should minimise land use and let the Earth flourish. 

This article is in order to create an impressive group of thinkers, nature lovers and environmentalist. A large voice/pressure group would mean the implementation of better policies which would save critically endangered species like the tiger in India and elsewhere.