Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020

Jun 29, 2021

Current Affair 1:
What is molecular ecology and how does it help in conservation?

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As urbanisation, deforestation, loss of wildlife, and human-wildlife conflicts continue to spiral up, there is a need to use every available tool available, to help protect what is left of the natural world. Molecular ecology is one such tool for conservation and can help in wildlife disease management and forensics in illegal trade.

What is molecular ecology?

Molecular ecology is a hybrid field that combines molecular biology techniques with ecological data to make sense of natural processes such as the growth or decline of populations, formation of new species, extinctions and invasiveness.

Molecular ecology is used to estimate population genetic diversities to aid wildlife breeding and conservation efforts, define species for conservation policy, track diseases, and combat poaching.

What are genetic data and population genetic diversity?

Genetic data from organisms is collected in the form of ‘molecular markers,’ which are biological molecules that may be used to distinguish between species, populations, or individuals.

By studying and documenting the variations in the genes and molecular markers, one can measure the genetic diversity of a population of animals with the help of statistics.

Why is genetic variation important for wildlife breeding and conservation efforts?

Genetic diversity is the fuel for natural selection. It is a source of inheritable variations in characteristics that can allow populations to survive changing environments. Higher the genetic diversity of a population, higher the chance that some individuals in that population can adapt to new environmental conditions. Thus, the population will not go extinct due to any changes.

Large populations typically have high genetic diversities, whereas small populations have low genetic diversities. If the population size of a species drops sharply due to natural disasters or human negligence and anthropogenic activities, its genetic diversity is reduced, creating a genetic bottleneck. When this happens, not only is the population robbed of its potential to survive, it also becomes vulnerable to inbreeding. Inbreeding occurs in small populations, where genetically related individuals are more likely to mate with each other.

Over time, such populations suffer from ‘inbreeding depression’, a condition where genetic variants with harmful mutations begin to accumulate.

How is molecular ecology useful in detecting and managing diseases in wild animals?

Molecular ecology has now become an important part of wildlife disease management. Rapid detection of even low intensities of viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections is now possible using tests based on PCR (polymerase chain reaction — a technique that ‘amplifies’ or makes more copies of specific DNA regions). Currently, PCR-based diagnostic tests allow for the swift detection of a number of diseases in wildlife such as the Kyasanur forest disease (a tick-borne viral disease in South India), Ebola, Nipah, tuberculosis, rabies, and malaria, all of which are directly responsible for endangering wildlife and spilling over into domestic livestock and human populations.

Current Affair 2:
Ladakh pitches for a new state bird and animal after getting union territory status

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The former state of Jammu and Kashmir had the black-necked crane and Kashmir stag as its State Bird and State Animal. But the black-necked crane is found only in Eastern Ladakh and the Hangul is found only in Kashmir Valley. So, following the bifurcation, new options for the bird and animal symbols were needed for the newly created state and union territory.

Local wildlife bodies in Ladakh are batting strongly for the black-necked crane and the snow leopard to be named as the State Bird and State Animal.

So, we see two species.

  1. Black-necked crane
  2. Kashmir stag

Black-necked crane

The high-altitude wetlands of the Tibetan plateau, Sichuan (China), and eastern Ladakh (India) are the main breeding ground of the species.

Protection Status:

IUCN Red List: Near Threatened

CITES: Appendix I

Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I

Kashmir Stag (Hangul):

Habitat — dense riverine forests in the high valleys and mountains of the Kashmir Valley and northern Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. It is mostly restricted to the Dachigam National Park.

Current Affair 3:
What is Familial Forestry?

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This year’s Land for Life Award goes to Familial Forestry of Rajasthan, India, a unique concept of Shyam Sunder Jyani, Associate Professor for Sociology at in Rajasthan that relates a tree with a family, making it a green "family member."

Familial forestry starts with domestication of trees and goes beyond later. It directly involves family in plantation and its care. When a house hold grows and nurture its own forest in and around house then the children of that house get sensitized about the surrounding during their primary stage of socialization. It shapes them as environmental connected individual. Fruit’s plant at home not only provide nutrition but can become a source of income also. Family gets fresh and organic vegetables, without extra land, water and labour because these vegetables are grown with trees. Family trees provide nesting place to birds, insects thus increase biodiversity. Familial Forestry associates ritual and festivals with trees to make green foot- printing an integral part of social structure.

About Award:

Every two years, UNCCD organizes the Land for Life Award. The Award recognizes excellence and innovation in efforts towards land in balance. The past editions shed light on inspiring initiatives of recovery and restoration of degraded landscapes worldwide. They all made a significant contribution towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15: "Life on Land", in particular Target 15.3 land degradation neutrality (LDN).

Current Affair 4:
Destruction in Thar Desert

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The Thar Desert is the driest place of the arid zone of the NW Indian subcontinent).

Past geomorphic processes and climate change acting on this territory generated a diversity of landforms depending on the structural geology and bedrock intensity weathering and the resulting depositional bodies. Natural landscapes have been changed by modern human activities modifying the original relief and contributing to the present environmental vulnerability and a loss of natural resilience.

Something important. Just read. How destruction has taken place in the Thar desert?

  1. In India, a study notes that the dry wastelands of Thar occupy most of Rajasthan (60%); the remaining portions expand into the neighbouring Haryana, Punjab and Gujarat states in the north and south, respectively.
  2. Desertification, groundwater salinity and soil nutrient loss are the common ecology risks in the desert regions of western Rajasthan and this worsens as the desert grows every year, threatening the ecology of the region.
  3. This ongoing desert expansion represents an adverse factor with respect to the economic development, ecological integrity, and environmental sustainability of western Rajasthan.
  4. The degradation of the environment in Rajasthan has resulted in destruction of the ecological system and loss of biodiversity.
  5. Human activities like applying new agriculture techniques, mining, overgrazing by animals, introducing foreign flora and fauna, inserting tube wells, overexploitation of the IGNP Canal and human settlements in the desert have become a hazard to the Thar desert’s natural ecosystem. The Thar is the most densely populated desert on earth. Of course, these developments have severe consequences.
  6. The propagation of exotic, invasive plant species like Acacia tortilis and Prosopis juliflora that were planted by the Britishers for sourcing wood and later by the forest department of Rajasthan as forest cover, have had a detrimental effect on the environment.
  7. These species could survive on little water, were good for nitrogen fixation and stabilised the sand dunes in the desert, so were easy to plant in a desert where forestation usually is an arduous task.

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