Ecosystems

Do you know what an ecosystem is?
It is a place where nature has created a unique mixture of air, water, soil, and a variety of living organisms to interact and support each other. It is the living community of plants and animals of any area together with the nonliving components of the environment such as soil, air, and water. The living and the non-living interact with each other in such a manner that it results in the flow of energy between them. In a particular ecosystem the biotic community consists of the birds, reptiles, mammals, insects and other invertebrates, bacteria, plants, and other living organisms. An ecosystem includes not only the species inhabiting an area, but also all the features of the physical environment. Energy cannot be produced without the consumption of matter; the pyramid of life therefore has a wide base of vegetation, the smaller herbivores that feed on plants, and a much smaller number of carnivores. Ecosystem ecologists are interested in the exchange of energy, gases, water and minerals amongst the biotic (living) and the A biotic (nonliving) components of a particular ecosystem; therefore, they tend to study confined areas that are easier to control or monitor. Small and relatively self-contained ecosystems are called microcosms, because they represent miniature systems in which most of the ecological processes characteristic of larger ecosystems operate, but on a smaller scale. A small pond is an example of a little ecosystem. On the other hand, the largest and the only really complete ecosystem is the biosphere. An ecosystem can exist in any place where there are varied forms of life. Even the park near your home or a village pond can be an ecosystem as there are different forms of life here and they coexist. One of the most productive ecosystems is at the point where sea water meets freshwater.
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Conservationists have now realized that in order to save the natural world, ecosystems as a whole have to be saved. Unless the entire ecosystem is preserved, the individual species will not be able to survive for long. Human activities clearly demonstrate the interdependence of all ecosystems – acid rain that falls on forests is carried to pristine lakes far from the source of pollution. Deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels change the composition of the atmosphere and perhaps contribute to the alteration of the earth's climate. The most important lesson to be learned about life on earth is that most things on the earth are interdependent and interconnected – actions taken have a much larger impact than one can think of.

Definition of Ecosystem
Eugene P. Odum (1971) a famous ecologist describes an ecosystem as, “Any unit that includes all of the organisms I a given area interacting with the physical environment so that a flow of energy leads to clearly defined tropic structure, biotic diversity and material cycles within the system is an ecological system or ecosystem”

Structure of an Ecosystem
The structure of an ecosystem is the detailed outlines of the number of organisms present in a given area, their interaction with the other organisms, non-living components, variation in distribution of nutrients and altering climatic patterns. The interplay of all these components makes an ecosystem functional. Producers, Consumers and Decomposers Generally, the ecosystem consists of two components., i. The living component encompassing all living beings and ii. The non-living component comprising the physical and chemical factors.
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The biotic component may be divided into two categories based on the nourishment standpoint, as Autotrophs and Heterotrophs. An organism that can synthesize its own food by converting the sun’s energy into a form of chemical energy is called Autotroph. An organism that depends on other organisms, in particular on autotrophs either directly or indirectly, for its nourishments and energy requirements is called Heterotproph.

Ecosystem Processes

Energy Flow
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Refer to the arrows in the diagram to help you understand the way that energy moves through an ecosystem. Energy enters an ecosystem in the form of heat from the sun. This energy is absorbed by organisms such as plants, and is then converted to other forms of energy and stored. Once stored, energy is used for necessary life functions, such as growth, movement and reproduction. Plants, animals and microorganisms release energy in the form of heat, for example through breathing and sweating. Energy is also released from an ecosystem during a fire. Plants only capture about one percent of the energy that reaches the earth from the sun. In grasslands, that small amount of energy is used by the grasses and other plants, or producer. Some animals eat only these plants. Other animals eat both grasses and other plants, and animals, while yet other animals only eat animals. Animals are called consumers.

Ecological Succession
The plains, hills and wetlands have their recognizable biological communities. Nature takes irs own time to develop and occupy a particular landscape with complex, frown-up plant communities; each with its own associated organisms. Each biological community has its biological history, as we humans have in a landscape. Imagine that an individual, man/woman foes to a new area, identifies a piece of land, ploughs it, \sows seeds, irrigates it and builds a small house for the family to live in. In the same way, ecological succession can be defined as ’the process by which organisms occupy a site and gradually change environmental conditions by creating suitable soil, nutrients, shelter, shade and humanity’. This paves the way for pother advanced organisms to come in.
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Primary Ecology
In an unoccupied site, when organism begins to develop and further open up the site for other organisms, it is called Primary Succession. The primary development of a community could occur in islands, sand or silt beds, rocky area, a body of water or a new volcanic flow. A few organisms that can withstand tough environmental factors establish themselves on the substratum, creating opportunities for other organisms to come in. Organisms like microbes, mosses and lichens that grow on the surface of rocks create a tiny patch of organic matter in which small animals can live. The creeds and crevices in hard surfaces fill with organic debris. In due course, this provides a substratum in which further organisms grow and multiply. Secondary succession takes place when an existing community is disturbed and a new biological community takes over the site. It can be easily observed in abandoned farm fields or degraded sites. In a secondary succession, the annual plants rapidly colonize the bare soil and are followed by perennial plants later.

E.P. Odum (1971) says ecological succession is an orderly process of community development, influence physical environment culminating in stabilized ecosystems. Food Chain
This movement of energy from producers to consumers is called a., Food Chain.

Are found in two parts of an ecosystem. The "grazing" food chain includes the producers and consumers that cycle energy
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from living plants. The "detritus" food chain cycles energy from nonliving remains of both plants and animals (also called detritus). The "grazing" food chain has a number of steps that start with the producers, or the plants, and flows through a series of levels of consumers. At each step only about 10% of the energy is passed up through the chain. The rest is passed back into the atmosphere as heat through breathing and decomposition. In the first step plants convert the sun’s energy to chemical energy through a process called photosynthesis. The chemical energy is stored both as food and as structural elements in the plant. The next step involves the primary consumers, animals that eat only plants. In a grassland ecosystem this includes animals such as California Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Elk, marmots, Pocket Gopher and mice. At step three are the secondary consumers, also called predators; these animals eat primary consumers. In a grassland ecosystem this includes a Coyote eating a mouse, a woodpecker eating an ant, or a frog eating an insect. At step four are the tertiary consumers that eat secondary consumers, and sometimes primary consumers as well. In a grassland ecosystem this includes a snake eating a frog. The "detritus" food chain is a system where the energy produced by the breakdown of dead plant and animal matter is cycled into the "grazing" food chain. Detritus is organic matter formed by decaying animal or plant tissue, or fecal matter. Detritus eaters (or detritivores) such as insects, worms and other small organisms feed on dead plants, waste products from animals and dead animals. Decomposers are fungal or bacterial organisms that work within the dead material to help break it down, activating decay and decomposition. This important part of the ecosystem takes the last of the energy that was originally absorbed by the plants and returns it to the soil. Carbon can be traced through the ecosystem in a cycle that is similar to the water cycle. Plants take in carbon in the form of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through respiration. Through a process called photosynthesis, the carbon dioxide combines with oxygen to form
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carbohydrates that range from simple sugars to the complex carbohydrate cellulose, which forms cell walls. When plants are eaten the carbon is transferred to the consumers. As plant material is broken down in the digestive system of an animal, carbon is absorbed as a nutrient for use by that animal. It is released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide through respiration and through the decomposition of dead animals and fecal matter. Grassland fires also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Water Cycling
All organisms require both water and nutrients (food) to survive. Where do the water and nutrients come from and how do they move around a grassland ecosystem? The water cycle is illustrated by the blue parts of the diagram. Water exists in three forms: solid (ice and snow), liquid and gas (water vapour). Water is the vital link between the ecosystem and the weather or climate. Water falls from clouds onto the grasslands as rain or snow. Rain runs off plants and rocks onto the ground, where some water is absorbed into the soil. The rest runs over the surface of the ground and collects in low areas to form into wetlands, lakes and rivers. Finally, some water that reachs the ground is evaporated back into the atmosphere. Snow, which is crystallized water droplets, may form a blanket over the grasslands during the winter. Snow undergoes similiar processes to rain when it reaches the ground. Some of it evaporates back into the
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atmosphere, and as snow melts, the water produced is absorbed into the soil, or runs over the ground into wetlands, lakes and rivers. Plants take up some of the water contained in the soil through their roots. Other water that permeates (soaks through) the soil flows into wetlands, lakes, and rivers. The rest becomes part of the water table. The water table is water that remains in the soil, filling the pores between rocks and soil particles. Water is returned to the atmosphere as water vapour through evaporation and transpiration. Transpiration is a process performed by plants whereby water molecules leave the plant's surface through evaporation. The water that reaches wetlands, lakes and rivers flows eventually to the ocean, with some of it evaporating along the way. Evaporation provides the moisture in clouds that condenses to form droplets of rain or snow. These droplets of water return to the earth as precipitation, and the cycle starts again. The portions of grassland ecosystems that occur in low elevations and especially on south-facing slopes suffer from a water deficit during the hottest and driest months of the year. The amount of water that is released into the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation is larger than the amount that falls as rain at this time of year. Grassland plants have adopted a variety of ways to survive under these difficult growing conditions. Bright yellow sagebrush buttercups are some of the earliest flowers to be seen in the grasslands early spring. They start to grow before all the snow has left the grasslands, their shallow roots take advantage of all the water stored in the thawed upper layers of the soil. By the end of May the available moisture is well below the reach of the roots of the plants, and little remainsof the sagebrush buttercup but some dried out leaves. Plants such as low pussytoes and silky lupine start growing a little later in the spring and bloom before the summer drought begins. They may grow again as soil moisture increases after fall showers. Some of the bunchgrasses have a similar early growth habit but become semi-dormant during the summer drought. They put on a significant amount of growth when fall rains arrive. Deeply-rooted shrubs such as big sagebrush and rabbitbrush start growing later in the year and are covered with yellow flowers in the fall.
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Ecology is the study of systems of living organisms and the interactions among organisms and between the organisms and their environment. Primary succession is one of two types of ecological succession of plant life, and occurs in an environment in which new substrate, devoid of vegetation and usually lacking soil, is deposited (for example a lava flow). (The other type of succession, secondary succession, occurs on substrate that previously supported vegetation before a disturbance destroyed the plant life.) In primary succession pioneer plants like mosses and lichen plus algae and fungus plus other abiotic factors like wind and water start to "normalize" the habitat, creating conditions nearer the optimum for vascular plant growth; pedogenesis or the formation of soil is the most important process. These pioneer plants are then dominated and often replaced by plants better adapted to less austere conditions, these plants include vascular plants like grasses and some shrubs that are able to live in thin soils that are often mineral based. A good example of primary succession takes place after a volcano has erupted. The barren land is first colonized by pioneer plants which pave the way for later, less hardy plants, such as hardwood trees, by facilitating pedogenesis, especially through biotic acceleration of weathering and the addition of organic debris to the surface regolith. Secondary succession is one of the two types of ecological succession of plant life. As opposed to primary succession, secondary succession is a process started by an event (e.g. forest fire, harvesting, hurricane) that reduces an already established ecosystem (e.g. a forest or a wheat field) to a smaller population of species, and as such secondary succession occurs on preexisting soil whereas primary succession usually occurs in a place lacking soil. A harvested forest going back from being a cleared forest to its original state, the "climax community" (a term to use cautiously), is an example of secondary succession. Each stage a community goes through on its way to the climax community in succession can be referred to as a seral community. Simply, secondary succession is the succession that occurs after the initial succession has been disrupted.
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Ecological succession, a fundamental concept in ecology, refers to more-or-less predictable and orderly changes in the composition or structure of an ecological community. Succession may be initiated either by formation of new, unoccupied habitat (e.g., a lava flow or a severe landslide) or by some form of disturbance (e.g. fire, severe windthrow, logging) of an existing community. The former case is often referred to as primary succession, the latter as secondary succession. The trajectory of ecological change can be influenced by site conditions, by the interactions of the species present, and by more stochastic factors such as availability of colonists or seeds, or weather conditions at the time of disturbance. Some of these factors contribute to predictability of successional dynamics; others add more probabilistic elements. In general, communities in early succession will be dominated by fast-growing, well-dispersed species (opportunist, fugitive, or r-selected life-histories). As succession proceeds, these species will tend to be replaced by more competitive (k-selected) species.

Food Chains & Food Webs
Do you like to play games? If you do, you will need energy. Every time you run or jump, you are using up energy in your body. How do you get the energy to play? You get energy from the food you eat. Similarly, all living things get energy from their food so that they can move and grow. As food passes through the body, some of it is digested. This process of digestion releases energy. A food chain shows how each living thing gets its food. Some animals eat plants and some animals eat other animals. For example, a simple food chain links the trees & shrubs, the giraffes (that eat trees & shrubs), and the lions (that eat the giraffes). Each link in this chain is food for the next link. A food chain always starts with plant life and ends with an animal. 1. Plants are called producers because they are able to use light energy from the Sun to produce food (sugar) from carbon dioxide and water.
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Animals cannot make their own food so they must eat plants and/or other animals. They are called consumers. There are three groups of consumers. a. Animals that eat ONLY PLANTS are called herbivores (or primary consumers). b. Animals that eat OTHER ANIMALS are called carnivores.  carnivores that eat herbivores are called secondary consumers  carnivores that eat other carnivores are called tertiary consumers e.g., killer whales in an ocean food web ... phytoplankton → small fishes → seals → killer whales Animals and people who eat BOTH animals and plants are called omnivores. Then there are decomposers (bacteria and fungi) which feed on decaying matter. These decomposers speed up the decaying process that releases mineral salts back into the food chain for absorption by plants as nutrients.

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There are more herbivores than carnivores why because… In a food chain, energy is passed from one link to another. When a herbivore eats, only a fraction of the energy (that it gets from the plant food) becomes new body mass; the rest of the energy is lost as waste or used up by the herbivore to carry out its life processes (e.g., movement, digestion, reproduction). Therefore, when the herbivore is eaten by a carnivore, it passes only a small amount of total energy (that it has received) to the carnivore. Of the energy transferred from the herbivore to the carnivore, some energy will be "wasted" or "used up" by the carnivore. The carnivore then has to eat many herbivores to get enough energy to grow.
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Because of the large amount of energy that is lost at each link, the amount of energy that is transferred gets lesser and lesser ... 1. The further along the food chain you go, the less food (and hence energy) remains available. The above energy pyramid shows many trees & shrubs providing food and energy to giraffes. Note that as we go up, there are fewer giraffes than trees & shrubs and even fewer lions than giraffes ... as we go further along a food chain, there are fewer and fewer consumers. In other words, a large mass of living things at the base is required to support a few at the top ... many herbivores are needed to support a few carnivores
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Most food chains have no more than four or five links. There cannot be too many links in a single food chain because the animals at the end of the chain would not get enough food (and hence energy) to stay alive. Most animals are part of more than one food chain and eat more than one kind of food in order to meet their food and energy requirements. These interconnected food chains form a food web.

AN ECOLOGICAL PYRAMID

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An ecological pyramid (or tropic pyramid) is a graphical representation designed to show the biomass or productivity at each trophic level in a given ecosystem. Biomass pyramids show the abundance or biomass of organisms at each trophic level, while productivity pyramids show the production or turn-over in biomass. Ecological pyramids begin with producers on the bottom and proceed through the various trophic levels, the highest of which is on top. • Pyramid of biomass An ecological pyramid of biomass shows the relationship between biomass and trophic level by quantifying the amount of biomass present at each trophic level. Typical units for a biomass pyramid could be grams per meter2, or calories per meter2. Biomass pyramids provide a single snapshot in time of an ecological community. One problem with biomass pyramids is that they can make a trophic level look like it contains more energy than it actually does. For example, all birds have beaks and skeletons, which despite taking up mass are not eaten by the next trophic level. In a pyramid of biomass the skeletons and beaks would still be quantified even though they do not contribute to the overall flow of energy into the next trophic level. Also, the pyramid of biomass may be 'inverted'. For example, in a pond ecosystem, the standing crop of phytoplankton, the major producers, at any given point will be lower than the mass of the heterotrophs, such as fish and insects. This is explained as the phytoplankton reproduce very quickly.

Pyramid of productivity
An ecological pyramid of productivity is often more useful, showing the production or turnover of biomass at each trophic level. Instead of showing a single snapshot in time, productivity pyramids show the flow of energy through the food chain. Typical units would be grams per meter2 per year or calories per meter2 per year. As with the others, this graph begins with producers at the bottom and places higher trophic levels on top. When an ecosystem is healthy, this graph generally looks like the standard ecological pyramid.
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This is because in order for the ecosystem to sustain itself, there must be more energy at lower trophic levels than there is at higher trophic levels. This allows for organisms on the lower levels to maintain a stable population, but to also feed the organisms on higher trophic levels, thus transferring energy up the pyramid. The exception to this generalization is when portions of a food web are supported by inputs of resources from outside of the local community. In small, forested streams, for example, many consumers feed on dead leaves which fall into the stream. The productivity at the second trophic level is therefore greater than could be supported by the local primary production. When energy is transferred to the next trophic level, typically only 10% of it is used to build new biomass, becoming stored energy (the rest going to metabolic processes). As such, in a pyramid of productivity each step will be 10% the size of the previous step (100, 10, 1, 0.1, 0.01, 0.001 etc.). The advantages of the pyramid of productivity: • It takes account of the rate of production over a period of time. • Two species of comparable biomass may have very different life spans. Therefore their relative biomasses is misleading, but their productivity is directly comparable. • The relative energy flow within an ecosystem can be compared using pyramids of energy; also different ecosystems can be compared. • There are no inverted pyramids. • The input of solar energy can be added. The disadvantages of the pyramid of productivity: • The rate of biomass production of an organism is required, which involves measuring growth and reproduction through time. • There is still the difficulty of assigning the organisms to a specific trophic level. As well as the organism in the food chains there is the problem of assigning the decomposers and detritivores to a particular trophic level. Nonetheless, productivity pyramids usually provide more insight into a ecological community when the necessary information is available. Economic Instruments for
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Managing Forest Ecosystem Services in India Background India, with a GDP of US $691 billion for the year 2004, has emerged as the tenth largest economy in the world. The economy has grown at an average rate of 6.7 percent since 1994. The vision 2020 of India targets an Economic growth rate of 9 per cent per year with a view to quadrupling per capita income and putting India as the fourth largest economy in the world. The effect of this high economic growth on natural resources, particularly the remaining forest ecosystems is a matter of concern. The nation shares just 2 per cent of the World s land mass but is home to more than a billion people. Being a mega biodiversity country, forests in India play critical role of providing several ecosystem services which are mostly unaccounted for in economic terms. The recorded forest area of the country is 76.52 million hectares which is classified into reserved, protected and unclassed forests. India is targeting to have 25% of area under forest/ tree cover by 2007 and 33 % by 2012 in order to fulfill the objectives of the National Forest Policy. The Forest Survey of India in its latest report (State of Forest Report -2003) estimated the forest cover in India as 67.8 million hectares (20.64% of geographical area). Of this, the share of very dense forests (i.e. canopy density over 70%) is just 1.5 percent. The nation has lost about 26,000 sq. km of dense forest (canopy density over 40 %) between assessment year 2001 and 2003 although there was a marginal increase in the total forest cover (FSI, 2005). India has introduced strong legal measures for forest conservation. Several innovative approaches such as Joint Forest Management (JFM)/ Participatory Forest Management are in place to ensure peoples participation in conservation. However, the available indicators on the progress of the implementation of these measures show that there are several gaps and weakness in the forest conservation and management. For example, it is pointed out that the efforts for compensatory forestation in India have not showing the results in the field due to several implementation problems including the lack of adequate funds.

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Forest Management in India has undergone several changes. It is realized that government through its command and control methods alone cannot manage the forest successfully and this calls for looking at strengthening alternate options, particularly economic instruments. Currently, forest management faces several constraints including a lack of adequate funds. The allocation to the Ministry of Environment and Forests is just 1 per cent of the total budget. It is possible that the introduction of suitable economic instruments for ecosystem services of forests would strengthen forest conservation and sustainable development in India. Economic Instruments are market based mechanisms. Any instrument that aims to induce a change in behaviour of economic agents by internalizing environmental or depletion cost through a change in the incentive structure that these agents face (rather than mandating a standard or a technology) qualifies as an economic instrument . Economic Instruments include ; (a) Price based incentives such as user charges, user fees, product charges, input taxes and subsidies for environmental technology/ research, import tariffs, soft loans and grants, deposit refund schemes, environmental performance bonds (b) Marketable permits, rights or quotas (c) Adjusting barriers to market entry such as liability insurance legislation, information programs, voluntary measures, ecolabelling and certification. Economic instruments have several advantages over the command and control standards and regulations. If suitably designed and implemented these instruments can make important contribution to achieving sustainable development.

Markets for Forest Ecosystem Services
Forests provide several ecosystem services for human well being. These include provision of services such as food, water and fiber; regulatory services such as climate, floods, disease, wastes and water quality; cultural services such as recreation, aesthetic enjoyment; supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling.
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Traditionally, these services have been considered as free services provided by nature and therefore, the economic values of these services are ignored or underestimated when forests are used for alternate options. As a result, the depletion and degradation of forests, particularly dense forests continue at an alarming rate. Creation of markets for ecosystem services can promote conservation and support local livelihoods since it rewards to the resource owners/ managers for their role as stewards in providing these services. Further, these markets can also increase the economic value of forest ecosystems. Market based approaches are increasingly applied to achieve conservation objectives all over the world. Compared to previous approaches to forest conservation, market based mechanisms promise increased efficiency and effectiveness at least in some situations. Around 300 such markets exist for ecosystem services across the world. Markets for forest ecosystem services are expected grow fast in both developing and developed countries.

Major Drivers
There are three major drivers to demand market forecosystem services. (i) A shift in environmental protection policies from command and control (C&C) to economic and market based instruments such as charges and user fees, eco-taxes; (ii) Improved capacity to value the goods and services provided by forest ecosystems; (iii) raising demand for ecosystem services by public authorities, private entities and consumers as a result of environmental obligations of these user agencies. Issues There are several issues associated with the introduction of economic instruments for forest conservation. These include the type of forest services, the ecological conditions, the consequences of losing those services and the management options; the economic value of services and its contribution to livelihood and human well being; rights and responsibilities for costs of services that were previously considered as free and associated negotiation and conflict resolution; identifying the potential
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buyers and sellers, the biophysical relationships related to service delivery; definition and measurement of services in quantitative terms; the support services and capacity building, institutional arrangements to facilitate payments, provide financing, manage risk and uncertainty, monitoring and evaluation, the benefits and costs and concerns of equity. The quality and quantity of long term supply of forest ecosystem services needs to be studied and such inputs are important while making any decisions on introduction of PES. This requires an interdisciplinary approach by involving economists, ecologists, social and physical scientists. Several market based instruments exist in India for forest conservation. This include entrance fees or charges; ecolabeling and certification schemes; Net Present Value (NPV); Ecological Value Tax. There are currently apprehensions about emerging economic instruments, particularly Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) ( also called Payment for Environmental Services) in India among various stakeholders in India partly due to limited understanding about their potential for contributing to conservation and human well being. Given the rapidly changing social and economic scenario in India, there is a need to explore innovative and emerging forest conservation approaches and assessing the role of economic instruments can help determine suitable alternatives. This project will assess the design and implementation of existing economic instruments and build awareness about and assess the potential for introducing Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES), particularly watershed protection payments. Arguably, for forest protection one of the key instruments is likely to be PES (payment for environmental services) and its logical corollary user fees (some already exist in India such as NPV). This study will therefore focus on these key instruments – their applicability and case studies that provide details on the mechanics of implementation (given governance constraints), the risks and advantages and a similar study on the (current) obstacles to implementing CAF.

Objective
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Examine the scope of and opportunities for introducing suitable Economic Instruments, including Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), for forest conservation in India. Scope of Work and Tasks The work will follow an approach of combining field based case studies, policy research and stakeholder consultations. The activities and work plan are based on the following: (i) Assess the design and implementation of Existing economic instruments in selected Indian States and ecoregions where such mechanisms are already in place . (ii) Build awareness about and assess potential for PES for forest protection with special reference to watershed protection based on selected sites within the priority ecoregions. Results would be assessed and used to identify opportunities for broader application or replication at other sites to strengthen the motivation for improved management of protected areas or sustainable management of production forests.

Net Present Value (NPV) of Forest Land
NPV is the amount to be paid by the user agency before diversion of forest land in India for non-forest purposes to compensate the consequential loss of benefits accruing from the forests. These amounts made by the User Agencies can be utilized for getting back in long run the benefits which are lost by such diversion. NPV is in addition to the funds realized for compensatory a forestation from user agencies. The NPV is the present value (PV) of net cash flow from a project, discounted by the cost of capital. It is the method by which future expenditures (costs) and benefits are levelised in order to account for the time value of money.

Payment for Ecosystem Services
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Payment for Ecosystem Services, also called payments for environmental services (PES) is a generic term of variety of arrangements through which the beneficiaries of ecosystem services pay back the providers of those services. The ecosystem services in question can be watershed protection, forest conservation, biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, landscape beauty in support of ecotourism. Ecotourism services may be present at any scale, from local to national or international. Payment may be through a market type arrangement between willing buyers and willing sellers (e.g. tourist companies paying African communities for the protection of wildlife). It also may be a scheme intermediated by a large private or public entity (e.g., Part of New York household s water bill is used by the water company to buy watershed protection services from farmers in the vicinity of the water company s intake) . Or, payments can take the form of a government driven design, using public revenues to pay the providers of ecosystem services (Government of Costa Rica uses a fraction of the tax on energy to by forest conservation services from farmers). A simple definition describing PES principle is a voluntary, conditional transaction with at least one seller, one buyer and a well defined environmental service. Conditionality: only to pay if the service is actually delivered.

Grassland Ecosystems
Ecological Systems (ecosystems) consist of all the living organisms in an area and their physical environment (soil, water, air).
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Ecosystems are influenced over time by the local climate, the parent material under the plants, variations in the local landscape, disturbances such as fire and floods, and by the organisms that live in them. Grassland ecosystems in British Columbia generally occur in areas where the climate is hot and dry in summer and cool to cold and dry in winter. The parent material is often composed of fine sediments, and grasslands are most often in valley or plateau landscapes. The organisms that live in them include plants and animals that have adapted to the dry climatic conditions in a variety of ways. Differences in elevation, climate, soils, aspect, and their position in relation to mountain ranges have resulted in many variations in the grassland ecosystems of British Columbia. The mosaics of ecosystems found in our grasslands, including wetlands, riparian areas, aspen stands and rocky cliffs, allow for a rich diversity of species. Some grassland plants, such as grasses, have many long, fine roots to search for water at and just below the surface; others, such as big sagebrush, have long tap roots that penetrate deep below the surface to find water. Many animals migrate or dig burrows underground for protection and to avoid cold winter or hot summer temperatures. The biotic components of a grassland ecosystem are the living organisms that exist in the system. These organisms can be classified as producers, consumers or decomposers. Producers are able to capture the sun’s energy through photosynthesis and absorb nutrients from the soil, storing them for future use by themselves and by other organisms. Grasses, shrubs, trees, mosses, lichens, and cyanobacteria are some of the many producers found in a grassland ecosystem. When these plants die they provide energy for a host of insects, fungi and bacteria that live in and on the soil and feed on plant debris. Grasses are an important source of food for large grazing animals such as California Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer and Elk, and for much smaller animals such as marmots, Pocket Gophers and mice. Consumers are organisms that do not have the ability to capture the energy produced by the sun, but consume plant and/or animal material
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to gain their energy for growth and activity. Consumers are further divided into three types based on their ability to digest plant and animal material:

• •

Herbivores eat only plants, such as the elk that graze the grasslands of the Columbia valley, or an insect nibbling on the leaf of a sticky geranium. Omnivores eat both plants and animals, such as the black bear. Carnivores eat only animals, such as the red-tailed hawk or western rattlesnake.

Decomposers include the insects, fungi, algae and bacteria both on the ground and in the soil that help to break down the organic layer to provide nutrients for growing plants. There are many millions of these organisms in each square metre of grassland. Soil has many biotic functions in a grasslands ecosystem. It provides the material in which plants grow, holds moisture for plants to absorb, is the "recycling bin" for plant and animal matter, and provides an important habitat for soil organisms. Soil is a vital link between the biotic and abiotic parts of a graThe abiotic components of a grassland ecosystem are the non-living features of the ecosystem that the living organisms depend on. Each abiotic component influences the number and variety of plants that grow in an ecosystem, which in turn has an influence on the variety of animals that live there. The four major abiotic components are: Climate, Parent material and Soil, Topography, natural disturbances.

Climate
Climate includes the rainfall, temperature and wind patterns that occur in an area, and is the most important abiotic component of a grassland ecosystem. Temperature, in tandem with precipitation, determines whether grasslands, forests, or some combination of these two, form. The amount and distribution of the rainfall an area receives in a year influences the types and productivity of grassland plants.
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The climate in our grassland ecosystems is usually hot and dry in the spring and summer growing season, and cool or cold in winter dormant season. Precipitation in the winter falls mostly as snow rather than rain. During the hottest months of the year (the height of summer) more water evaporates from parts of the grasslands than falls as rain, creating a moisture deficit.

Parent Material and Soil
Parent material is the geological material that lies on top of the bedrock and is the foundation on which soil has developed. Much of the parent material underlying BC's grasslands was deposited as the last ice sheets melted away. The actual composition of the material at any specific location depends on how and where it was deposited in relation to the ice. In the Rocky Mountain Trench, for example, some material was deposited under a moving glacier, while on the Chilcotin plateau some was deposited under a stationary ice sheet; in many places throughout the grasslands material was carried and deposited by water on, in, or under the ice. The material dropped in place under the ice varies in thickness from a thin veneer to several metres, and contains all sizes of rocks and particles from boulders to silts. Rivers and streams that flowed on, under and beyond the ice left hummocky ridges of water-rounded materials of all sizes. Material deposited in ice-damned lakes formed layers of fine silts. Winds picked up fine particles and blew them across the newly ice-free land surface, depositing thick layers of the particles in some places. These windblown materials are called aeolian deposits. Soil develops in the upper portion of the parent material and is a mixture of abiotic and biotic components: minerals, organic matter, water and air. The type of parent material in a particular area influences the texture of the soil, how well water flows through it, and hence the chemistry and nutrients of the soil. This combination of texture, water flow and chemistry determines the vegetation that grows in the area. The fine silt soils found on the terraces of the Okanagan, Kootenay and Thompson valleys hold water near to the surface where it either
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evaporates or is soaked up by the dense fine roots of grasses; trees are not common in these areas. By contrast, in areas with gravelly soils water moves quickly down to depths below the grass roots to levels where tree roots grow. As such, more trees are likely to be found in these areas. Grasslands have a rich layer of organic matter that forms the top surface of the soil. This layer has developed largely as a result of the breakdown of plant roots. Roots form as much as half the volume of a grass plant and up to 50% are replaced every year.

Soil Profile
Grassland soils developed on the glacial till (C) deposited by the ice as it melted 12,000 to 10,000 years ago. These soils have a deep organic-rich layer (A) that results from the breakdown of the roots and plant material each year. The organic layer increases in depth with increases in elevation and moisture.

Topography
Topography is the variety of shapes found on the landscape determined by slopes, elevation and aspects. The topography of grassland ecosystems is a varied landscape of gently rolling hills and prairies, rock outcrops, cliffs, gullies, and low lying areas. Diverse topography is what gives incredible variety to grassland ecosystems. Aspect refers to the direction in which a piece of land is facing. Areas that face towards the south, or the sun, are hotter and drier than areas that face north, or away from the sun.

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The slope of an area is the angle at which the land lies. Slope is important in our grasslands as water may run downhill rather than soak into the ground where it is available for plants. An area that slopes with a southern aspect will be much drier and hotter than an area that slopes with a northern aspect. Elevation describes the height of land above sea level. Temperatures are generally cooler and rainfall is higher as elevation is gained.

Natural Disturbance
Natural Disturbances change grasslands in many ways, adding to the diversity of these ecosystems. Some types of disturbance, such as annual flooding of riparian areas along rivers and streams, can be predicted while others, such as a fire after a lightning storm, happen unexpectedly. Flooding occurs every spring in the riparian areas along the large rivers and lakes in the grassland areas of the province. The water comes from melting snow in the surrounding hills and mountains. The amount of water that flows down from the mountains and hills may rise very suddenly if: • the snow is deeper than normal • high temperatures cause the snow to melt very fast • there are heavy rainfalls on the snow The flooding waters can alter stream and river banks and move soil, broken trees and shrubs downstream. Lightning storms are a common sight on a dry summer evening in the grassland areas of the interior of BC. Trees struck by lightning can explode into flames, spreading fire to the trees around them and onto the surrounding grasslands. Small trees are usually killed, but shrubs, grasses and other plants are able to survive.

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Most grassland grasses are in a dormant state before the heat of the summer when most lightning fires start. Grasses such as bluebunch wheatgrass, fescues, and needlegrasses start to regrow from the base and from underground parts as soil moisture increases in the fall. Many forbs, such as sagebrush mariposa lily, have underground bulbs that will sprout again the following spring. Shrubs may grow new shoots from unburned stems or underground parts. Mobile animals, such as California Bighorn Sheep, and animals in the soil usually survive, but those unable to flee or find cover may be killed. The seeds of some plants actually need fire to grow. The thick bark of big ponderosa pine trees protects it from fire in two ways: by insulating the living part of the tree from the heat of the fire and by popping off pieces of bark as they catch on fire. Fires are important for returning nutrients to the soil. Since grassland plants burn readily, fire spreads very quickly, and is thought to have been an important factor in maintaining the grasslands ecosystem.

Organisms found in aquatic ecosystems
Aquatic ecosystems usually contain a wide variety of life forms including bacteria, fungi, and protozoans; bottom-dwelling organisms such as insect larvae, snails, and worms; free-floating microscopic plants and animals known as plankton; large plants such as cattails, bulrushes, grasses, and reeds; and also fish, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Viruses are also a significant part of the microbial ecology in natural waters and have recently been shown to play an important role in the nutrient and energy cycles. The assemblages of these organisms vary from one ecosystem to another because the habitat conditions unique to each type of ecosystem tend to affect species distributions. For example, many rivers are relatively oxygen-rich and fast-flowing compared to lakes. The species adapted to these particular river conditions are rare or absent in the still waters of lakes and ponds.

The Wetlands
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Wetlands are areas lying along the banks of rivers and lakes and the coastal regions. They are life-supporting systems providing fish, forest products, water, flood control, erosion buffering, a plant gene pool, and wildlife, recreation, and tourism areas. Though they are endowed with a rich biodiversity, yet of late they are being greatly exploited. Many wetland species have become threatened and endangered because of their dependence on a particular type of wetland ecosystem, which has become seriously degraded or destroyed. Such is the case with the swampy grasslands and the flood plain wetlands of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra river valleys. Large areas here have been converted to agricultural land or there has been widespread overgrazing. Removal of sand, gravel, and other material from the beds of rivers and lakes has not only caused destruction to the wetlands but has led to sedimentation, which has affected other areas.

EXOTIC PLANTS
The introduction of exotic plants has had an adverse effect on these areas. The water hyacinth, a native of South America, is now a major pest in many areas forming a vast floating shield over the surface of the water and clogging up rivers and canals. A number of factors have been responsible for the depletion of wetland areas mainly the mangrove forests, along the coasts of India. Intensive aquacultural development, deforestation, pollution from tankers, domestic waste, agricultural run off and industrial effluents are some of the factors. Most of the surviving mangroves are now confined to West Bengal and the islands in the Bay of Bengal. The Ramsar Convention for the preservation of wetlands of international importance especially as Waterfowl habitat, was held in Iran in 1971. An Asian Ramsar group was thereafter formed in 1990 consisting of members who were a part of the Ramsar Convention.
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In 1981, Chilika Lake, India’s largest brackish water lagoon, was designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. But its fragile ecosystem has of late come under threat due to both anthropogenic and natural factors. It provides refuge to thousands of migratory birds and the balance in the ecosystem has to be maintained to ensure safe habitat for the birds.

Classification of Wetlands
Salt Water
Marine

Estuarine

• • • • •

Sea bays, straits. Kelp beds, sea grasses and tropical marine meadows. Coral reefs Rocky marine shores, including cliffs and rocky shores Salt marshes and mangroves sheltered coasts. Estuaries and estuarine system of deltas Mud, sand or salt flats, with limited vegetation Marshes Mangrove swamp

• • • •

Lagoonar

• Brackish, saline lagoons with narrow connections with the sea.
Salt lake

• Brackish, saline or alkaline lakes, flats and marshes.

Freshwater
Riverine

• Perennial rivers and streams, including waterfalls • Inland deltas
Temporary
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• Seasonal and irregular rivers and streams • Riverine floodplains There are also man-made wetlands such as artificial lakes, ponds and tanks. There are 58.2 million ha. (IUCN, 1989) of wetlands available in our country, whereas the Ministry of Environment and Foreign Government of India (1990) estimate states that India possesses 41 million hectares of wetlands. In the total wetlands, 1.5 million hectares are natural and 2.6 million hectrares are man-made.

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