Integrated Habitat Development – Biodiversity

Integrated habitat development is a new (biodiversity conservation) concept in which ecosystem development is initiated using nature based measures and/or approaches; catering to multiple species from a sustainable, long term environmental perspective.

Integrated Habitat Development - Biodiversity

This is an approach where small ecological habitats are being developed on already existing degraded ecosystem by using simple, economically efficient, low maintenance natural methods and/or approaches in developing complex ecosystem that can grow into a natural environment for local pollinator insects, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, terrestrial and aquatic birds, small mammals and local wildlife over a period of time.

Such integrated habitat development could be initiated in unused farmlands, hard to access and unused areas of croplands and farming units, agronomically unsuitable areas, marginal or low quality agricultural lands, along the perimeter of agricultural and non-agriculturally suitable lands, orchards, gardens, lawns, forests, over exploited parts of local forests, woods and areas earmarked for social forestry.

Under afforestation or revegetation programs following land disturbances (like landslides, earthquakes, newly land filled areas, added areas belong to cities and towns etc), unused rural and urban areas, gardens and lawns belonging to different municipalities and corporations, unused areas or open spaces of local golf gardens, around water bodies (like dug outs, pools, ponds, irrigation canals, roadside ditches, swamps, bogs, artificial and/or natural lakes and waterfalls, streams, rivulets etc), city and rural parks and gardens, city boulevards, reclamation sites, abandoned industrial and mining sites, power plants etc to mention only a handful.

A new model for multi-species conservation

Hence one could see that the potential of the integrated habitat development is huge and the opportunities with sky as the limit. For example, it is important to conserve freshwater aquatic habitats to preserve the rich local biodiversity and thereby conserve natural ecosystem and environments associated with it.

Such an endeavor is not technologically complex or is either a huge drain on economy and resources if planned and executed judiciously. Simple innovative, nature based approach without sophisticated technological expertise, labor, funding and creative awareness and love and passion for environment can be easily achieved by using a comprehensive multi-tier conservation project such as Multiple Tier Conservation Model (MTCM).

A comprehensive but simply nature based integrated aquatic habitat development program can thus be successfully achieved under Multiple Tier Conservation Model (MTCM) that can provide a dynamic conservation program including bees, birds and fishes like Integrated Ecological Habitat Development for Bees, Birds and Fishes (IEHD-BBF).

Such a dynamic and innovative model can provide an effective conservation umbrella to  number of species (bees, birds and fishes) by transforming natural and/or artificial water body with simplistic nature based alternative by protecting multiple tropic levels within a freshwater ecosystem (both natural or artificial).

Pollinator Mixes and their role in habitat creation

Developing suitable Pollinator Mixes could be an effective and environment based, cost friendly approach in establishing such ecological units like Pollinator or Bee Sanctuaries. This could be achieved by developing suitable mixes comprising of native wildflowers and wild grasses, annual and/or perennial legumes, Brassica members, warm season and cool season forage grasses, salt or acidity tolerant grass species etc.

For different agro-climatic or ecological regions based on parameters like their adaptability to specific regions, germination and viability, rapid emergence, quick and successful establishment, competition with local weeds, ability to regenerate, reproduce and continue flowering across different seasons to attract pollinator insects; and other farmer friendly insects to such newly established Bee or Pollinator Sanctuaries.

The use of multiple species of plants representing a wide diversity of plant families could contribute towards positive soil health and help in preventing soil erosion, increase the biodiversity of soil flora and fauna, enhance soil nutrient level, help in better aeration and hydration of the soil by active root biomass and also help in soil remediation by removing toxic chemicals from the soil and produce a rich, organic layer sustaining plant growth and the habitat over the years.

Establishment of Pollinator sanctuaries

Most cross pollinating plants (food and industrial crops, ornamental plants, forest trees, wildflowers) that biological agents (different insects, birds, mammals etc) for their successful pollination have undergone evolution and developed unique structural adaptations to facilitate cross pollination mediated through animal species. Such adaptations may include bright colors, strong odor or fragrance, complex morphology, specific phenology etc to attract specific animal pollinators.

Pollination friendly species suggests those animal species such as farmer friendly insects (like native bees, honey bees, moths and butterflies, certain species of beetles, flies, wasps, ants etc), molluscs  (certain species of snails and slugs), birds (humming birds, parakeets etc), mammals (bats, specific species of primates etc) that contribute a valuable ecological service by helping in the process of natural cross pollination in a wide diversity of plants and crops securing the future of agriculture, horticulture, forestry and apiculture.

Plants through their evolution have developed unique adaptations for attracting different bee species. Such plants or vegetation is technically termed as melliferous flora or melliferous vegetation. Such natural vegetation or artificially planted species attracting bees and other insect pollinators are absolutely important for commercial bee keeping (apiculture) and could be important constituents in establishing Pollinator Sanctuaries.

Plants may have one or more pollinators depending on their need and adaptations. Some could serve as primary pollinators such as insects like bees; and others like snails, slugs or even other insect species can act as secondary pollinators to achieve optimal success in the process of cross pollination.

Potential role in biodiversity conservation

When integrated with freshwater aquatic ecosystem development, local or indigenous fish species could be introduced in accompanying water bodies to further enhance and expand natural ecosystems and environments.

Pollinator Sanctuaries established adjacent or around water body thus could slowly integrate over years and develop into a complex ecosystem that will attract pollinator insects (honey bees, indigenous or native bees, moths, butterflies, beetles, flies), non-pollinator insects as well as small birds feeding on such insects and terrestrial birds enjoying nesting, foraging and breeding in such naturally protected integrated habitats.

Over time such aquatic habitats rich with both terrestrial and aquatic plants, algae and fungi, aquatic insects, crustaceans, insect and amphibian larvae as well as fishes will also attract aquatic and semi-aquatic birds to such ecological niches rich in biodiversity. In due course of time such land-water integrated artificial or natural habitats will also attract local amphibians and reptiles as well as smaller mammals further providing protection to the local biodiversity.

This could successfully transform into multi-layered food chains and complex food webs for the multitude of species surviving in these new ecosystems over and above bees, birds and fishes via the Integrated Ecological Habitat Development for Bees, Birds and Fishes (IEHD-BBF) program.

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