Ecosystem diversity Just as genes of individuals are building blocks of a species, each species contributes towards the living system in which it lives. Nature has evolved as great diversity of ecological systems such as forest, grassland, desert, mountains, seacoasts on land. There are also complex aquatic ecosystems in both freshwater and in the sea. If an ecosystem is overused or misused a chain of extinctions follow ending in a deranged degraded ecosystem. WHAT IS SPECIAL MAHARASHTRA’S ECOSYSTEM DIVERSITY? Geographically Maharashtra is divided into four very specific zones based on geography climate and soil characteristics. This includes, the hill forests of Vidharbha; the Deccan plateau grassland and scrub country; the forested Sahyadhris which are exceptionally rich in biodiversity and the coastal ecosystems. The aquatic ecosystems include the marine ecosystem of shallow coastal waters and the deep sea. Lakes dot the landscape and the rivers traverse across the state, forming a large variety of freshwater aquatic habitats for flora anf fauna. Norhtern Maharashtra – Vidharbha The hilly tract of the Satpuda’s are covered by deciduous forests. These are dominated by Teak trees in which a wide range of herbivorous and carnivorous animals live. It is a seasonally changing dynamic ecosystem as its trees become leafless for nearly six months. Herbivorous animals have evolved to live in this highly varied seasonal system. Birds and insects breed when food is plentiful after it begins to rain in June. Traditionally this region was inhabitated by hunter gatherer and agro – pastoral farmers, who still depend on the forest ecosystem for their livelihood. The Deccan Plateau Grasslands This is the driest part of Maharashtra. It is covered by grassland and scrubland and is traversed by East flowing rivers. Traditional farmers grew rice in the flood plains of rivers and jawar and bajra in the black – cotton arid zone. But today the irrigated farmland is primarily high intensity sugarcane and horticulture. The grassland has been the traditional homeland of Dhangar shepherds who migrate seasonally from the central plateau to the coast in search of green grass along their migration routes across the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats-Sahyadri range The North-South aligned hilly tract is formed by an ancient upwelling of larva long before human beings had evolved. It is a high rainfall tract which is covered by evergreen, semievergreen and moist deciduous forest depending on the intensity and length of rainfall in the area. The forest ecosystem is extremely rich in both plant and animal species on which traditional communities depend for their livelihood. The ecosystem is highly fragile and human activities such as mining, urbanization, roads, dams, and new townships have disrupted it severely. The degraded ecosystem could take hundreds of years to recover. The coastal ecosystem This zone included the coastal plain and the seashore. It has patches of mangroves and brakish – water ecosystems. It is the home of paddy farmers, horticulturists and fishermen. It is a sensitive ecosystem that is easily destroyed by development processes, such as thermal power plants, hetties and industrial growth that cause serious levels of pollution. The marine ecosystem The shallow coastal shelf under the sea is rich in fish and marine invertebrates. Local people have used the rich marine bioresources for generations. However in the recent past fish stocks have declined due to overfishing. The trawlers in the deep sea deplete the stock of fish and all other forms of life. They damage the small patches of coral along the coast and the Angria bank a submerged coral bed off the coast of Maharashtra. These marine ecosystems are rich in species of fish and invertebrates, that provide a source of livelihood for fishing communities. Freshwater ecosystems Maharashtra’s fresh water aquatic ecosystems are of diverse type. Great rivers and their impoundments type are distributed across the length and breath of this ecosystem. They are the habitats of a wide range of aquatic plant life in which there are fish moluscs and crustacia. Most of these ecosystems are the preferred habitat for migrant water birds that come each winter from across the Himalayas.