Let's Not Wait for a Silent Spring in the Kumaon Himalayas - The Wire
- Ghazala Shahabuddin
For a less developed country, India has always had more than its fair share of birdwatchers, and their numbers are only going up. More people are discovering the joys of birdwatching, of spotting rare and beautiful bird species, identifying them and even getting lucky with a clear picture. In 2018, Indian birdwatchers contributed the third-highest number of lists (globally) during the Global Backyard Bird Count held in February.
Despite an increasing number of observers, we still do not know enough about the vulnerability of our bird species in the face of prevailing global change, including forest conversion, fragmentation, large-scale pollution and wetland destruction. What are the ecological processes that condemn birds to disappearance from small and big habitat patches of forests, grasslands, cultivation and swamps? Which are the species that could be particularly vulnerable to such threats? Which are those that can adapt readily to human-modified habitats?
With commercial activity and infrastructural development rapidly extending to once-remote areas, we need to quickly understand threats more quantitatively. The cases of the Great Indian bustard, white-rumped vulture and the lesser florican, all of which declined to very low numbers over one or two decades, shows that systematic research and monitoring of avifauna is required on a continuous basis. Long-term monitoring and impact studies, if designed well, could form an early warning system and help us preempt endangerment.
Change of land use from natural forest to commercial plantations, farms and suburban sprawl is thought to be the biggest threat to forest avifauna worldwide. While clearcutting for timber and agriculture have the most direct impact on forest species, degradation due to overuse is another unrecognised chronic threat. Further, fragmentation by highways, industry, dams and urban sprawl has put paid to many rich wildlife habitats as well....