Very often, people think of biodiversity as a collection of fantastic animals and plants; but it is much more than that. It includes various life forms and is associated with natural assets: water, soils, pollinators, all of which we now call the ‘ecosystem services’ that sustain us. So, I often tell people it’s not just plants and animals that we are interested in. We are interested in the other forms of life on the planet, how these interact with each other to form ecosystems; how these ecosystems sustain and enrich human lives; and how, without them, we perhaps cannot survive.

In my opinion, biodiversity science has become perhaps the most critical science for humanity. Biodiversity provides us with a framework to deal with challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, and land degradation. We can address climate change through restoration of biodiversity, land degradation through reforestation, and water scarcity by protecting watersheds and by looking at rivers as ecosystems and not channels that carry water from one source to another. We can address the agriculture crisis by bringing in more biodiversity, and by restoring soils. And so, biodiversity may be the most critical science for our survival.

My research has largely focused on biodiversity hotspots, such as the eastern Himalaya and the Western Ghats, both of which are very unique places not only because of their biological diversity, but also their cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity. Globally, there are 36 biodiversity hotspots, four of which are in India. The Western Ghats and the eastern Himalaya are the two largest in the country, and both are intensely affected by climate change.

Read the full article about biodiversity by Rachita Vora and Saahil Kejriwal at India Development Review.