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The conservation and sustainable use of natural ecosystems and biodiversity is essential to support sustainable development with biological resources providing raw materials for livelihoods, sustenance, trade, medicine and industrial development. Protecting forests and other natural ecosystems can provide a host of services that reduce human vulnerability to natural hazards along with benefits of global value such as carbon sequestration, hydrological and geo-chemical cycling of essential elements. Protected Areas, which are the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation and the natural habitats within them, can protect watersheds and regulate water flow, prevent soil erosion, influence rainfall regime, local climate and conserve genetic resources.

The state of Jharkhand is a part of biodiversity rich regions of India because of its diverse physiographic and climatic conditions. The forests for the most conform to the type – Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest, Moist Deciduous Forest, Dry Peninsular Forest and Dry Mixed Deciduous Forest. The Forests of the state form catchments of the three main rivers — Koel, Damodar and Subernekha. State is also rich in wildlife. The species found represent a wide range of taxa for both plants and animals. This can be attributed to a terrain, variety of terrain and land forms (including water bodies). Add to this, diversity of human influenced eco-systems. Various ethnic groups such as Munda, Ho, Oraon, Santhal, Paharia, Chero, Birjea, Asura and other have influenced their eco-systems in varying practices of agriculture and pasture.

The State of Jharkhand has notified forests covering 23605.47 sq.km, which is 29.6% of the total geographical area of the state, viz 79714 sq.km. The landscape of the state has a mix of wild, semi-wild and cultivated habitats. The bio-diversity of the state is under some threat due to a variety of adverse factors. These are mining, roads and, rails construction, Dams and irrigation schemes, construction of mineral based factories and industries, stone quarrying and unrestricted grazing by free range cattle etc.

The state is committed to conserve its biodiversity. The conservation efforts are reflected in budgetary and infrastructural support that the state government is extend to this cause. A brief information on forests related data mentioned below shall help understand the expanse of biodiversity in the state of Jharkhand:

So far, hardly 1.7 million species of plants, animals and microbes have been documented out of the estimated 5.3 millions. Tropical forests are the main depository of the global biodiversity. Although it covers only 7 % of the earth’s land surface yet harbor more than 70% of the total plant species and between 40- 50 % of the total animal species. India is one of the 12 mega diversity countries of the world. Jharkhand forms part of the Chotanagpur plateau province of the Deccan Peninsula Biogeography Zone and is very rich in natural resources. Nearly 50 % of the country’s minerals are located in the state — iron and coal being important among the main. About 30 % of its geographical area is covered with forests. Unfortunately the mineral map and the forests overlap for the major minerals.

The different environmental regimes support characteristic set of vegetation and animals. State of Jharkhand supports over 35 no. of tiger population and 700 of elephant population. The state has following matrix of large fauna :Tiger-34; Leopard-164; Elephant-772; Barking deer-3672; Cheetal-16384; Sambhar-3052; Chausingha-62; Common Langur-44920; Common Otter-98; Hare-2718; Hyena-613; Indian Bison-256; Indian Giant Squirrel-395; Jackal-559; Jungle Cat-11; Monkey-64685; Nilgai-1262; Pangolin-57; Porcupine-425; Sloth Bear-1808; Wild Boar-18550; Wild dog-537; Wolf-874; Dhanesh-56; Peafowl-5684; Jungle fowl-325. These figures give a good account of the faunal diversity of the state.

The floral diversity of the state has since long been explored. Scholars from Universities and BSI have carried out taxonomic and ethno botanical studies. But, the task is far from complete. A comprehensive floristic study of the state is yet to be done. Biodiversity is under constant pressure in all the major ecosystems of Jharkhand, i.e. in streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs, protected areas as well as forests outside protected areas, agro-ecosystems, and in urban ecosystems. This has been caused by four major factors, namely,

Un-sustainable harvests of living resources,
Habitat destruction and fragmentation,
Impacts of pollutants, and
Competition with colonizing, often exotic, invasive species.

Unsustainable harvests of natural resources have been a key factor for degradation of biodiversity. Vegetation in the forest areas have been under constant threat because of the unsustainable exploitation in the form of illicit felling, firewood and fodder collection etc. Unsustainable use of medicinal plants and non timber forest produces to some extent have affected the regeneration capacity of a few species such as Rouwolfia serpentina (Sarpagandha) and Gloriosa superba, Adhatoda versica, Achyrenthes aspera species. Enumeration of floral bounies of Santhal Pargana, Ranchi, Hazaribag, Singhbhum, Palamau are already on record. Compilation work of the studies are in the process and is expected to be complete, it might take sometime and resources. Oldham, Haines and Morris, Panigarahi, S.K. Verma, D.K. Sriwastava, T.K. Ghosh as well as scientists from BSI, works can be referred to get information on floristic composition of the area.

The largest component of harvest from forest is by way of removal of biomass in the form of fuel for domestic use by the adjoining villagers and fodder grazed and browsed by the cattle population of the villages. Increasing human and cattle population has put tremendous pressure on the forests, impacting their regenerative capacity. Legal harvests from the forests have been minimal owing to a number of conservative policy measures such as banning of clear felling of forest and felling of green trees, stopping of concessions to wood-based industries, etc. illegal harvest of timber, limited to Teak, Sal wood, and a few other hardwood species, is a matter of concern. However, owing to rigid conservation measures, there has been increase in number of wild animals.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation has plagued some of the major ecosystems in the state. It deprives natural development of ecosystem and succession changes.