According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, “Biological diversity” means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

The term biological diversity was used first by wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond F. Dasmann in the 1968 lay book A Different Kind of Country advocating conservation. The term was widely adopted only after more than a decade, when in the 1980s it came into common usage in science and environmental policy. Thomas Lovejoy, in the foreword to the book Conservation Biology, introduced the term to the scientific community. Until then the term “natural diversity” was common, introduced by The Science Division of The Nature Conservancy in an important 1975 study, “The Preservation of Natural Diversity.” By the early 1980s TNC’s Science program and its head, Robert E. Jenkins, Lovejoy and other leading conservation scientists at the time in America advocated the use of the term “biological diversity”.

The term’s contracted form biodiversity may have been coined by W.G. Rosen in 1985 while planning the 1986 National Forum on Biological Diversity organized by the National Research Council (NRC). It first appeared in a publication in 1988 when sociobiologist E. O. Wilson used it as the title of the proceedings of that forum.

Since this period the term has achieved widespread use among biologists, environmentalists, political leaders, and concerned citizens.

South Asia’s Biological Diversity

Among eight countries in South Asia, five of them are maritime countries which bordered one side or more to Indian Ocean, Arabic Sea or Bay of Bengal. The Coastal and Marine environment of South Asia region can be categorized into two distinct geographical groups. While Maldives and Sri Lanka are island nations, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are situated on the Asian mainland. The region has some of the largest and biologically rich marine ecosystems such as the Gulf of Mannar, Atolls of Maldives and Mangroves of Sundarbans. The presence of perennial rivers such as the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Godavari, Indus, Kelani, Magna, etc. have contributed to large networks of backwaters, estuaries, salt marshes and mangroves.

It also provides habitats for endangered marine turtles, for example the green and olive ridley turtles. Some of the largest coastal lagoons of the world such as Chilka Lake in India and Puttalam lagoon in Sri Lanka are located within the region. The region has one of the world’s finest coral ecosystems with the atolls constituting the entire country of Maldives. The Lakshadweep and Nicobar group of islands of India and a few regions of Sri Lanka have fringing reefs.

About 18.6 percent of the total land area of the region is still under the forest cover and it account for 2.73 percent of the total forest area in the world. About 5 percent of the region’s land area is being under protection.

South Asia houses approximately 15.5 and 12 percent of the world’s flora and fauna respectively. The faunal diversity of the region comprises of 933 species of mammals, 4,494 birds, 923 reptiles, 332 amphibians and 342 freshwater fishes. The floral diversity accounts for 39,875 species of flowering plants, 66 conifers and cycads, 764 ferns and 6,652 higher plants..