Concepts of Biosphere Reserve
The idea of Biosphere Reserves was mooted by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 1973 under its Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme for “building scientific and technical capacity for effective management and sustainable use of biodiversity” (UNESCO-MAB, 1973, http://www.fao.org/docrep /x0963e/x0963e08.htm# TopOf Page). Biosphere reserve (BR) is an international designation coined by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems. It consists of areas of terrestrial or marine ecosystems, which are internationally recognized within UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere programme for promoting and demonstrating a balanced relationship between people and nature (http://www.unesco.org.uk/uploads/biopshere% 20reserves%20faq.pdf). A biosphere reserve is a unique concept that includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that manage to combine both conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources. The purpose of formation of a biosphere reserve is to conserve in situ all forms of life, along with its support system, in its totality, so that it could serve as referral system for monitoring and evaluating changes in natural ecosystems. MAB was launched in 1971 to catalyse a greater understanding and provision of knowledge and skills to support sustainable relationship between people and their environment (http://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Man_and_the_ Biosphere_Programme). Biosphere reserve acts as a keystone of MAB by providing a global network of sites for cooperative research toward this end and demonstrates the sustainable use goals of the world conservation strategy. The first biosphere reserve of the world was established in 1979 (http://www2.wii.gov.in/ nwdc/biosphere.htm), since then the network of biosphere reserves has increased to 580 in 114 countries across the world (UNESCO, 2012; http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological–sciences biosphere -reserves/world-network-wnbr/wnbr/). India launched National Biosphere Reserve Programme in 1979 under Indian MAB (Anon, 1999; http://envfor.nic.in/ divisions/csurv/BR_Guidelines.pdf). The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India, is implementing this programme in the country. Currently, there are 18 biosphere reserves operating in India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Biosphere_reserves_of_India). Of these, “Achanakmar-Amarkanatak Biosphere Reserve” is located in the States of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, under the jurisdiction of Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur, a national Institute of Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) under Ministry of Environment,Forests and Climate Change, Government of India.
1. Objectives of the Biosphere Reserves of the country are as follows:
2. To conserve biodiversity of flora and fauna within natural ecosystem.
3. To safeguard genetic diversity of the species.
4. To ensure sustainable use of the natural resources.
5. To provide logistic support to the people, including scientists and academicians, to undertake research activities and share knowledge generated on conservation and exchange of information at national and global levels.
6. To educate and provide training to local inhabitants for their sustainable socioeconomic upliftment.
Lead Institute : Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur (M.P.)
Tropical Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur (M.P.) the proposed “Lead Institute”, is located nearly 300 km away from the Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve. It is one of the premiers Institute under the umbrella of Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (An Autonomous body under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India). The Institute has eight research divisions, viz. Silviculture and Joint Forest Management, Agroforestry, Forest Ecology and rehabilitation, Biodiversity and Sustainable Management, Genetics and Plant Propagation, Non wood Forest Produce, Forest Pathology and Forest Entomology. Each division has scientists with requisite expertise in respective field. Besides, the institute has well developed infrastructure for frequent visits to biosphere reserve, Computer and Information Technology Section, well equipped laboratories, herbarium, identified insects maintained as National repository, insectary and fungal reference collection and library. Thus, the Institute is very much suited for providing necessary help in providing effective coordination, management and development of Achanakmar-Amarkanatk biosphere reserve.
a) Collection, synthesis and dissemination of research based information in respect of biosphere reserve from all sources.
b) Interaction with regional research organizations for development of suitable research projects.
c) Undertake research and develop data bank.
d) Maintain regular interface with biosphere reserve managers to assess the research needs and crucial areas requiring research efforts and providing research inputs for inclusion in Management Action Plans.
e) Publication of a compendium of up to date information and bringing bi-annual publications aimed to educate stakeholders.
f) Preparation of project document for designation of new biosphere reserves in coordination with concerned State Government (s).
g) Formulation of project proposals for designation of Indian biosphere reserves on World Network of biosphere reserves recognized by UNESCO.
h) Any other assignment which may be entrusted by Central/State Govt. to achieve the larger objectives of the scheme.
Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve
Achanakmar-Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve is the first biosphere reserve of Chhattisgarh State and 14th biosphere reserve of the country, declared by Government of India during the year 2005 (vide No. 9/16/99 CS/BR dated 30th March 2005). It lies between latitude 220 15’ to 200 58’ N and longitude 810 25’N to 820 5’E and is spread from Maikal hill ranges to the junction of Vindhyan and Satpura hill ranges in a triangular shape. Its boundaries start from Kota and Lormi forest ranges of Bilaspur district in (Chhattisgarh) south to Rajendragram forest range of Anuppur district (Madhya Pradesh) in the north and Belgahana forest range of Chhattisgarh in the east to Dindori forest range of Dindori district in Madhya Pradesh. The total geographical area of biosphere reserve is 38,35.51 sq. km (Anon, 2007). It consists of three distinct zones, viz. core zone with an area of 551.55 sq. ha. in Chhattisgarh state, buffer zone with an area of 1,95,587.5 sq. ha. in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and outer most transition zone with an area of 132808.5 sq. ha. in both the states. The core zone has 22 villages with a population of 7,709 inhabitants whereas the buffer zone and transition zones have 396 revenue and forest villages in both States with a population of 4,17,571 inhabitants. In all, 27 communities, mostly tribal, scheduled castes and other backward classes, live in the biosphere reserve (Anon, 2012). The biosphere reserve has three distinct seasons, viz. monsoon, which begins from July and continues up to October; winter from November to February; and summer from March to June. The lowest temperature in winter is 2 o C, which rises up to a maximum of 46 o C in June. The humidity varies from 39 % to 90%.
Floral and faunal attributes
The forest area is about 63.19% and the vegetation of the Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve is tropical deciduous type. The biosphere reserve is very rich with high density of flora. It comprises of 1527 species of identified flora, 324 species of identified fauna (Anon, 2008, 2010) and many more undescribed floral and faunal taxa. Plant species like the lichen, Caloplaca amarkantakana, fern, Isoetes bilaspurensis and an angiosperm, Bothrichloa grahamii are endemic to this region (Upreti et al., 2005; Upreti and Satya, 2007; Shukla and Singh, 2011).
Twenty eight threatened species of flora (Ved, et al., 2003) and 55 threatened species of fauna (Chandra, 2006) belonging to various groups have been identified and grouped into different threat categories regionally as well as globally as per IUCN criteria ver. 2001. The pteridophytes, Ceratopteris thalictroides, Cheilanthes rufa, Dryoathyrium boryanum, Marginaria macrocarpa, Microsorium membranaceum, Polystichum auriculatum, Pteris quadriaurita were sampled in 1970 and thereafter some of the taxa recorded once or twice in 30 years whereas others could not be recorded and probably have been extinct from the wild (Saini, 2005; Singh and Dixit, 2005). Some species of ferns like Adiantum capillus veneris and Lygodium flexuosum are endangered. Among angiosperms, Rauvolfia serpentina is critically endangered in the biosphere reserve, whereas Clerodendrum serratum, Acorus calamus, and Eulophia herbacea are endangered locally as well as at regional level. Remaining 22 species are, however, found vulnerable (Ved et al., 2003).
Besides these, there are 518 floral species of food and medicinal values. Seven of them are pteridophytes whereas remaining 511 species are flowering plants of dicotyledons and monocotyledons (Anon, 2007). Inventory reports on 144 species of grasses belonging to 71 genera, including an endemic species, Bothriockloa grahamii (Haines) have been published recently (Anon, 2012). Many forest invasive species like Lantana, Parthenium, etc. are present in biosphere reserve and invading the forest areas. Recently, Shukla et al. (2009) have published a documentary list of invasive alien plant species of Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve.
Among fauna, there are two critically endangered species, viz. Philautus sanctisilvaticus (Amphibia : Hylidae), Gyps bengalensis (Aves : Accipitridae) and two endangered species, viz. Notopterus chitala (Pisces : Notopteridae), Panthera tigris (Mammalia : Felidae) (Anon, 2008), besides 51 low risk to vulnerable species as per IUCN categorization (Chandra, 2006). The area of the biosphere reserve has a known habitat for animals like tiger, bison, bear, spotted deer, barking deer, panther, wild cat, fox, wild dog, sambhar, four horned antelope, mouse deer, etc (Anon, 2008). It has rugged terrain as well as grasslands giving shelter to wildlife in all seasons. Rich dense forests dominated by sal and its associates give way to high precipitation further enhancing and promoting moist habitat and supported plant diversity.
Though a significant progress has been made towards the understanding of biodiversity of Achanakmar-Amarkantak biosphere reserve (Anon, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012), a lot of information still needs to be explored especially floral and faunal compositions including forest invasive species, without disturbing the overall activities of natural biome that serve as natural biological laboratories for the benefit of local peoples, scientists, government, decision makers and the world community.