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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 non-
living 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 (non-
living) 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 non-
living 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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2. 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

3. Animals and people who eat BOTH animals and plants are
called omnivores.
4. 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.

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

2. 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 wind-
blown 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
• 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.
Estuarine
• 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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