Essay on Taxonomic Research in India
Inventorying Indian biodiversity is virtually impossible by few specialists placed far and wide. A better cooperation and co-ordinations among researchers at a local, regional and national level is needed. Systematic schools remain divided on many issues.
Experience in Canada, demonstrate co-operations between a professional and amateur at a regional level under umbrella of society. This is highly desirable to carry out large scale inventories. Flora/fauna would be a multi-authored treatment, each specialist authoring revisions of specific taxa by studying collection from all over the country.
Number of lichen species recorded from British Isles outnumbers the lichenes described so far from Indian subcontinent, even a tropical climate and large extent of land with a diversity of ecosystems exist here.
In India, vast number of tribal youths, biology students, the State Forest Department (SFD) personnel and others along with available regional experts can from groups for inventorying biodiversity. Involvement of SFDs is essential in inventorying biological wealth. In these inventories, a detailed uniform data sheet/ coding descriptor must be used. Computer databases and species mapping must be integral components for these inventories (Hariharan and Balaji, 2002). Biology students have little or no contact with the life forms around them.
They learn some routine facts from books, cut up some dead plants and animals and pass some boring examinations by memorizing such matter (Gadgil and Rao, 1998). To overcome these problems and complete the task of compiling biodiversity inventories, well established models proved as fruitful in achieving the goals elsewhere are to be followed.
To increase the number of systematic researchers, publications of identification manuals, increase in funding, introduction of taxonomy in syllabus, conducting short-term training programmes, improving library facilities, publishing dedicated journals, establishing repositories and improving identifications services etc., were suggested by Narendran (2001).
Decline of biosystematics research may be attributed to:
(1) Confinement of such research to Botanical survey of India, Zoological survey of India and a few research groups in Universities and Colleges. Lack of future opportunities and avenues is also not stimulating for young scholars to continue with taxonomic studies. Inter- and intra-disciplinary co-ordinations involving taxonomists are negligible.
(2) Lack of net working and
(3) Lack of funding and suitable jobs (Hariharan and Balaji, 2002).
Striking imbalance in prioritizing research between the macro- and micro-organisms exists. Macroflora and fauna draws maximum attention.
Microbial diversity remains continuously neglected and even when addressed, only applied aspects draws major share. Molecular taxonomy has emerged for resolving specific taxonomic problems. Morpho-taxonomy alone cannot lead us to wise use of biological wealth and better conservations strategy.
Incorporating a large number of characters would have significance along with illustrative user friendly, people oriented research results. In Indian bio- systematic, nomenclature aspects are considered weak with lacunae like not referring to type, culture materials, correct author citations, etc. The aspect needs to be strengthened (Alfred et at., 1998).
Number of species generally varies in accordance to productivity, structural heterogeneity and stability of physical conditions of habitat (Gentry, 1988). It increases markedly with a few exceptions towards the equator (Stevens, 1992). According to Lawton et al., (1993), colonization in different parts of world over evolutionary time has been idiosyncratic. Ricklefs and Schluter (1993) argued that various processes might be important at different spatial scales in affecting community structure.
Adequate taxonomic, palentological and interdisciplinary research would have significance in this connection (Mandal et al., 2006). India is tenth among plant rich countries of world, fourth among Asian countries, eleventh in number of endemic higher vertebrate species and tenth in world in richness of mammals. The Himalayas have largest number of endemic plants with 3,169 dicotyledon and about 1,000 of monocotyledon species.
The peninsular India has about 2,045 endemic dicotyledons and about 500 endemic monocotyledons. Nearly 10 % of 2,000 flowering plant species of Andaman and Nicobar islands are endemic.
Jain and Mehrotra (1982) consider that out of known 3,525 species of monocotyledons, 1,275 are endemic to India amounting to about 36 % of endemism. India possesses rich endemic and economically important biological wealth. Many medicines have a biological origin.