How to assess the health of an eco-system?

Chilka
Chilka Lake, Odisha. Photo: Saurabh Chatterjee from Flickr.

Forests, wildlife sanctuaries, marine parks and other ecosystems provide services like outdoor recreation to humans. However, one can enjoy these services only when the ecosystem is well maintained and rich in biodiversity. For several years, scientists in Norway have been working on developing a new method for measuring the state of biodiversity of ecosystems. They have named it Nature Index. They are now training Indian scientists to develop Nature Index for Indian ecosystems.

The Nature Index is based on a large number of indicators representing different aspects of biodiversity. The Nature Index of a forest can for instance tell where conservation action is most urgently needed, and where we are already doing a good job. The Nature Index also gives an indication of which environmental pressures are driving change.

The Norwegian Environment Agency and National Biodiversity Authority of India are partners in the project to establish a Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law in India. The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) is a technical partner in the project. Scientists from India and NINA recently conducted a workshop on Nature Index in Manali, Himachal Pradesh. Two ecosystems have been selected for a pilot study to test the suitability of applying Nature Index concept in the Indian context.  The two sites are Chilka Lake in Odisha and the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh. The Indian scientists believes that the tool has the potential to be used at a protected area level and as a monitoring and planning tool. More workshops are planned for park managers as well to take this forward.