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Bangladesh Biodiversity

Bangladesh Biodiversity

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Published by Shahriar Saad

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Published by: Shahriar Saad on Sep 06, 2011
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Category Total Number of Species
 Flora
Angiosperms
 
5000Gymnosperms 5Algae/seaweed
 
168
 Fauna
Sponges
 
3Corals
 
66(Marine + freshwater) Molluscs (336+26) 362Insects
 
2493Mites
 
19Shrimp/prawns
 
56(Marine + freshwater) Crabs
 
(11+4) 15Lobsters 3Echinoderms 4(Marine + freshwater) Fish (442+266) 708Amphibians
 
22(Marine + inland) Reptiles (17+109) 126Birds
 
628(Marine + inland) Mammals (3+110) 113
Table 3.4.1
Flora and Fauna Recorded in Bangladesh
Source: Khan, 1991; Ahmed and Ali, 1996; Alam 1967; IUCN, 2000
 
3.4.1 INTRODUCTION
“Biological Diversity” means the variability amongliving organisms from all sources including,
inter alia,
 terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems, andthe ecological complexes of which they are part; itincludes diversity within species between species, andof ecosystems (Article II, CBD, 1992). Literalmeaning of biodiversity is the diversity of all lifeforms on earth. This includes the various races andspecies of all microbes, plants, and animals that liveon earth, including their genetic differences, i.e., thegene pool of each species.Bangladesh is a transitional zone of flora and fauna,because of its geographical settings and climaticcharacteristics. As mentioned in the overview sectionof the report that there are many rivers and streamsexisting in the country covering a length of 22,155km. In addition to the regular inland waters,seasonally a large part of the country remainssubmerged for 3-4 months during monsoon.This country is rich in fish and aquatic resources, andother biodiversity (Table 3.4.1). Bangladesh’s inlandwater bodies are known to be the habitat of 266species of indigenous fish, 13 exotic fish, 56 prawns,about 26 freshwater molluscs, and 150 birds.The marine water bodies (200 nautical miles along thecoast) are also remarkable for being habitat of 442species of fish. There are at least 36 species of marineshrimps. About 336 species of molluscs, covering 151genera have been identified from the Bay of Bengal.In addition, several species of crabs, and 31 species of turtles and tortoises, of which 24 live in freshwater,are found in Bangladesh (Sarker and Sarker, 1988; andAli, 1997). Ahmed and Ali (1996) published a specieslist of 168 seaweeds, 3 sponges, 15 crabs, 3 lobsters,10 frogs, 3 crocodiles, 24 snakes, 3 otters, 1porcupine, 9 dolphins, and 3 species of whale found inBangladesh (Table 3.4.1).There are numerous invertebrates in the country thatare yet to be identified. Various authors have recordedabout 70 species of bees, and many species of wasps(Alam, 1967).In Bangladesh only about 8-10 per cent of the landarea is under good canopy cover. It supportsapproximately 5000 species of angiosperms, out of which about 300 species are being cultivated. The listof medicinal plants is currently being revised at theBangladesh National Herbarium (BNH), and isexpected to exceed 5000 species. Mia and Haque(1986) showed there are 224 species of timber-yielding plants found in Bangladesh. Khan and Mia(1984) described 130 species of indigenous fiberplants.The IUCN Bangladesh Red Data Book (2000) hasdescribed 266 species of inland fishes, 442 marinefishes, 22 amphibians, 109 inland reptiles, 17 marinereptiles, 388 resident birds, 240 migratory birds, 110inland mammals, as well as 3 species of marinemammals in Bangladesh.According to the Red List of IUCN, there are 54species of inland fishes, 8 amphibians, 58 reptiles, 41resident birds, and 40 mammals, which are threatenedthroughout the country. Among the marine andmigratory species of animals, 4 fishes, 5 reptiles, 6birds, and 3 mammals are threatened. So far, the RedData Book on plants, which is under preparation atBNH, lists 96 seed-bearing plant species that arethreatened.The depletion of biodiversity is the result of variouskinds of human development interventions andactivities, especially in the areas of agriculture,forestry, fisheries, urbanization, industries, chemicals,minerals, transport, tourism, and energy (Table 3.4.2).
BIODIVERSITY
 77
 
3.4.2 PRESSURES ON BIOTA
Both flora and fauna are threatened by the loss of habitat resulting from increasing humanpopulations, and unwise bio-resource utilization(Table 3.4.2). Increasing demand for timber andfuel-wood, encroachment for other purposes, and
 Jhum
(shifting) cultivation in the hilly districts,might be the aggravating factors in the annual rateof deforestation and degradation. The unplannedrapid urbanization and industrialization are leadingto waste and pollution problems that affect naturalecosystems. As the land and water-basedecosystems are environmentally compromised, theflora and fauna populations are being seriouslyaffected.This biodiversity section described mostly ondestruction of habitat, overexploitation of flora andfauna, and illegal trades. Other issues such as waterpollution section of the report deals with industrialinland fisheries. But the availability of many speciesthat were very popular locally has been drasticallydecreased, and some are no longer found in thecountry. On the migration journey to the floodplains,and the return to safe sanctuaries, populations of fishnow face many obstacles and hazards, which seriouslydisturb reproduction in the open water and ponds.The physical loss, shrinkage, and modification of aquatic habitats for fish, prawn, turtle and otheraquatic organisms are said to be the major factorsinvolved in depleting fish varieties. Such loss orshrinkage of aquatic habitats has been the result of thousands of physical structures, dikes, and drainagesystems that have been constructed in Bangladesh inan effort to control floods, cyclones, and othernatural calamities. These structures have disruptedthe natural flow of waters in closed rivers, divertedrivers, and have dried up water bodies. Such physicalconstructions have also changed or damaged thelocal ecosystems and hydrological features, resultingin irreparable damages to fisheries resources. Studiesdone under the Flood Action Plan (FAP) declaredthat all Flood Control Drainage (FCD) and FloodControl Drainage and Irrigation (FCDI) projectscontributed to the decline of fish stocks and fisheriesby creating obstacles in the fish migration routes. Asa consequence, fish production have declined. Landreclamation required for the implementation of theseprojects has also reduced the permanent waterbodies.The extensive irrigation schemes for agriculturalfields, and indiscriminate use of agrochemicals arechanging the feeding and breeding grounds of 
Destruction of habitat
Overexploitation of flora and fauna
Indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals
Industrial waste disposal.
Oil spills
Encroachment into the natural forests
Change in land use pattern and land use conflict
Table 3.4.2
Major Threats to Biodiversity
pollution and oil spillage, and land degradation sectiondeals with agrochemicals, encroachment in the naturalforest and changes of land use pattern.Several wildlife species have become extinct inBangladesh, and many more are threatened. Most of the economically important local plants, medicinalplants, etc., are also under equally great pressure, andare likely to be lost due to habitat destruction, andunsustainable harvesting.
3.4.2.1 Habitat Depletion and Over Exploitation
Fish
The people of Bangladesh largely depend on fish tomeet their protein needs, especially the poor in ruralareas. Several decades ago there was an abundance of fish in this country. But recently, capture fishproduction has declined to about 50 per cent, with anegative trend of 1.24 per cent per year (Ahmed,1995b). Despite the constant depletion of the river,canal, and flood plain habitats for years, Bangladeshstill
 
holds the world’s most diverse and abundant
 A view of mono culture, destroying habitat
BANGLADESH : STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT 2001
78
 
many indigenous fish species. Discharge of pollutants into water bodies (rivers, canals, ponds,etc.) from industries, and over-fishing (especiallyof juvenile and brood fishes) are highly responsiblefor the destruction of fish species throughout thecountry. Short term leasing of 
haors
and
baors
toindividuals for commercial exploitation has led tomany species becoming locally extinct. This can beattributed to the practice of almost total intake of fish stocks by dewatering the water bodies whileharvesting fish. Moreover, there has been areduction of sanctuaries for natural replenishmentof fish species throughout the country, which isanother factor leading to shrinkage and destructionof aquatic habitats.
 Amphibians
In Bangladesh, 22 species of Amphibians have beenrecorded (Table 3.4.1). Some of these areeconomically important and thus are being exploitedcommercially. Until the early
 
eighties many traders inthe country were exporting frog legs in largequantities. Most of the frogs were collected from thewild, and exported as a frozen food item. This practicealso causes insect and predator populations to beaffected.
 Reptiles
The depletion of reptilian fauna in the country isnoteworthy. Reptiles are environment friendly as theyeat many agricultural pests, and help control theirnumbers. However, turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards,and crocodiles are exploited economically because of a tradition of making useful commodities from theirbody parts, e.g., bones, skins, etc. Therefore, most of them are in high demand by traders in these items, andare over-exploited.
 Birds
The conversion of wetlands into agricultural lands,large-scale deforestation, and human overpopulationare considered to be the major factors causing manyspecies of birds in Bangladesh to be threatened. Thereis an illegal trade in birds that is prevalent.
 Mammals and Other Wildlife
The mammalian fauna of Bangladesh is the mosthighly affected from their habitat destruction andover exploitation. Very exceptionally people inBangladesh use some wildlife species. Most of them are used either as food (e.g. birds, deers, wildboars, etc.), or as commodity (e.g. medicine,handicrafts, etc.), or as pet (e.g. turtles, lizards,snakes, parakeets and hill Mayna, etc.). However,the country is yet to formulate appropriate policiesand guidelines to manage the utilization of thesebiological resources in asustainable manner. Mostof them are exploited in an unsustainable way, andhence, a number of wildlife species have becomethreatened.
Flora
Natural forests throughout the country are increasinglybeing depleted. Various types of development activity,such as dikes, highway, road construction, and otherinfrastructure development have further intensifieddeforestation, and destruction of natural forests inBangladesh. Briefly, the other causes of deforestationare listed below. The degradation of forestland isdescribed in detail in the Land Degradation section of this report.
Shifting cultivation (
 Jhum
), and inappropriateutilization of forest resources.
Overgrazing, illegal felling, and fuel woodcollection.
Uncontrolled and wasteful commercialexploitation of forest resources.
Monoculture and commercial plantation.
High population pressure on forestlands.
Conversion of forests and wetlands foragricultural use.
Poverty and unemployment in the rural areas.
Encroachment into forestland.
3.4.3 STATE AND IMPACTS
Unfortunately, the degradation and loss of naturalresources in Bangladesh started a long time ago, andnow they are all equally depleted, includingbiodiversity. Various land use and water policies havehad significant impacts on natural ecosystems andhave changed their character and ability to supportbiological resources.The list of extinct animals of Bangladesh has beenprepared based on earlier published informationregarding fauna (Pocock, 1939; Mountfort, 1969;Prater, 1971; Husain, 1974; Hendrichs, 1975; Green,1978; Khan, 1982a, 1985). According to further fieldstudies and the compiled Red List of IUCN (2000), 64species of vertebrates have been recorded as criticallyendangered, 86 as endangered, and 51 as vulnerablespecies. The Bangladesh National Herbarium ispreparing a similar type of list for flora.
BIODIVERSITY
 79

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