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Biodiversity of Shivaliks Ecosystem in Punjab:

The ecosystem of the Shivalik range in the North West India extend across the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh in India. The Shivalik hill area of Punjab is spread over geographical area of 9448.97 km2 and lies in the north-eastern part of the state extending from north-west to south-east along the Himachal Pradesh border (SAPCC, 2014). It is spread across the eastern parts of the districts of Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Rupnagar. The area has been identified as one of the micro-endemic zones of the country and is also one of the most degraded rain fed agro-ecosystem of Punjab. It is one of the unique ecosystem of Punjab and is the only major area of the state harbouring natural vegetation.

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Wetland ecosystem of Punjab

Punjab has 12 natural wetlands and 9 manmade wetlands covering an area of 8.39 sq.km. and 147.39 sq.km, respectively. Harike, Kanjli and Ropar are three major wetlands and  recognized as wetlands of International significance under Ramsar Convention. Ranjit Sagar and Nangal Lake have been declared as National Wetlands. These wetlands are important aquatic ecosystems in nature and are the important habitats for waterfowl, fish and other flora and fauna.

The major biodiversity attributes of Ramsar site of Punjab are as under:

Harike Wetland

  • Area: 4,100 ha (Kapurthala, Tarn Taran and Ferozepore Distrcits).
  • Area under water: 2850 ha
  • Avifauna : 360 species (74 species of migratory birds)
  • Important Migratory Birds: Rudy Shelduck, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Pochards (Red Crested, Common and Tufted
  • 60 indigenous species of fishes, 7 species of turtle, 4 species of snakes, 6 taxa of amphibians, 189 taxa of invertebrates  reported
  • Threatened species
  • Schedule 1: 3 Species of turtle (Kachuga tecta, K. smithii, Trionyx gangeticus and Geoclemys hamiltonii )
  • IUCN Red List: Smooth Indian otter
  • Major Flora: Acacia, Dalbergia, Delonix, Salix, Syzgium, Zizyphus, Ipomoea, Cyprus, etc. and medicinal plants like Withania somnifera, Adhatoda vesica, Boerhavia diffusa, etc.
  • Major Threats: Weed growth(Eichhornia crassipes),, siltation, exploitation of water for irrigation during summer and encroachment
  • First sighting of dolphin reported from Harike wetland( Beas river) in December, 2007.
  • Important Bird Area s(IBA) site of  BNHS and Wildlife Sanctuary  (notified by  Govt. of Punjab)

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Kanjli Wetland

  • Area: 183 ha (Kapurthala District)
  • Area under water: 78 ha
  • 4 mammals, 90 species of birds and 35 species  reported
  • Important Migratory Birds: Great Crested Grebe, Brahminy, Pintail, Common Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Blue Winged Teal, Shoveller, Redcrested Pochard and Common Pochard
  • Immense socio -religious importance as it associated with Guru Nanak Dev ji (Kali Bein/ Holy Bein)
  • Major Flora: Acacia, Albezzia, Azadirachta, Dalbergia, Delonix, Salix, Zizyphus, etc.commonly and aquatic plants like Hydrilla, Vallisneria, Potemogeton, Phragmites and insectivorous plant Utricularia
  • Major Threats: Weed growth (Eichhornia crassipes), reduction in water flow, pollution load, deforestation, siltation and illegal fishing

Ropar Wetland

  • Area: 135 ha (Rupnagar District)
  • Area under water: 800 ha
  • 55 species of fish and 318 species of birds  reported
  • Important Migratory Birds: Rudy Shelduck, Northern Pintail, Common Teal, Mallard, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Pochards (Red Crested, Common and Tufted)
  •  Immense socio-religious importance as it  associated with Guru Nanak Dev ji (Kali Bein/ Holy Bein)
  • Major Flora: Acacia, Dalbergia, elonix, Salix, Syzgium, Zizyphus, Ipomoea, Cyprus, etc. and medicinal plants like Withania somnifera, Adhatoda vesica, Boerhavia diffusa, etc.
  • Schedule 1 species: Scaly anteater, Sambar and Hog deer
  • Major Threats: Weed infestation (Parthenium and Lantana in upland areas), water pollution, grazing in wetland zone and  siltation

Cropland ecosystem of Punjab

About 84% of the total land in the state is under agriculture (as compared to national average of (40.38%). The state was known to harbour great genetic variability; however, over the years this has reduced due to change in cropping pattern with major focus on wheat-paddy crop rotation and higher dependence on certain high yielding varieties of crops. The change of area under cultivation of various crops is discussed in detail in Chapter 6. Over the years the farmers have adopted a narrow range of High Yield Varieties(HYVs) in place of a broad range of traditional varieties which were naturally suited to the climatic and edaphic conditions of the state.  The area under input intensive HYVs of wheat has increased from 69% in 1970-71 to 100% in 2000-01 and remained the same thereafter. Similarly, area under HYVs of rice comprised 33% of total area under rice in 1970-71. It increased to 100% in 2005. This has resulted in the loss of domesticated floral biodiversity of the state. The increase in area under paddy has led to decline in area under other major kharif crops including like maize, bajra, jowar, sugarcane, groundnut, pulses, etc.  The increase in wheat cultivation has been at the expense of cutting down the area under other rabi season crops especially gram, barley, rapeseed, mustard and sunflower. Area under total pulses and oilseeds has reduced sharply. This includes many leguminous crops like groundnut, lentils and guar.

The reduced crop diversity  over the years due to monoculture of wheat and paddy has further resulted degradation of soil including nutrient imbalance, depletion of underground water table  abuse of pesticides and fertilizers leading to several environmental and health hazards, besides creating economic and social imbalances. It is also led to resurgence and development of resistance in pests and has also affected the population of natural enemies of pests.