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Themes to be discussed

BioDiverse-2018

Themes


Microbial Diversity
Microbes are one of the dominant life forms in this universe existing in unicellular or multi-cellular or cellular cluster forms. They are widely distributed in air, water, soil, sea, mountains, hot springs and also in the bodies of other living organisms including human. Current evidence suggests that there exists perhaps 300,000 to 1 million species of prokaryotes on earth. Microbes include Bacteria, Archaea, Fungi, Protozoa, Algae, and Viruses. All these diverse types of microorganisms are essential for the functioning of life on earth. They are important sources of knowledge about the limits of life on this planet as well as in the whole universe. They are used for conservation and restoration biology of higher organisms. Moreover, they are also striking models for understanding biological interactions and evolutionary history. The untapped diversity of these organisms is a resource for new genes and organisms of value to biotechnology. They are also profoundly used in food and pharmaceutical industries. Thus, gathering knowledge about the microbes and their colossal diversity is of value on many grounds.


Silk Diversity
Silk diversity represents the vast array of variability among both domesticated and non-domesticated sericigenous fauna and their host plants. Sericulture, the oldest agro-based industry of the world involves the practice of rearing and breeding of silkworms for the production of raw silk. All known silk moths belong to the order Lepidoptera. The domesticated species belong to the family Bombycidae whereas semi and non-domesticated species belong to the family Saturniidae. Some Saturnid silkmoths are among the largest moths with a wingspan of 3-15cm. Four economically important species viz. Bombyx mori, Samia cynthia, Antheraea assamensis and A. mylitta are commercially exploited chiefly for textile applications. Among the above four species, B. mori and S. cynthia are purely domesticated, A. assamensis is semi-domesticated and A. mylitta is wild. Antheraea assamensis, also known as Muga silkworm is a part of the spectacular biodiversity of North East India and is endemic to the region. Antheraea proylei, A. roylei , A . firthi, Actias selene, Attacus atlas, Cricula trifenstrata etc. are some examples of wild silk moths. Silkworms are generally polyphagous i.e. they feed upon more than one host plant that can be divided as primary and secondary hosts. Morus alba, Machilus bombycina, Ricinus communis, Litsea citrata, L. salicifolia are among the host plants that are of prime importance to the sericulture industry. The physiographic, as well as the edaphic condition of Northeast India, have made it a focal point of seri biodiversity. Silk from this region has a profound impact in the global silk scenario. Besides textile application, seri bioresources hold tremendous scope for research and development of the rural economy. A robust experimental approach is still required for the identification and characterization of unexplored seri bioresources for their conservation and better application.


Aquatic Diversity
About 71% of earth’s surface is water. About 96.5% of all earth’s water is present in oceans and the remaining water is present in various forms from water vapors to ice caps. So our planet is rich in aquatic diversity. Aquatic diversity consists of ecosystems that make up the freshwater, tidal, and marine regions of the world and their interactions. It encompasses freshwater including lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers, streams, groundwater, and wetlands. It also consists of marine diversity including oceans, estuaries, salt marshes, seagrass beds, coral reefs, kelp beds and mangrove forests. Aquatic diversity can be broadly classified into two main types i.e., freshwater and marine. Freshwater is the naturally occurring water on earth’s surface which is only 2.5 to 2.75% and is present in various forms like ice sheets, glaciers, icebergs, ponds, lakes and streams and underground as groundwater in aquifers. Freshwater habitats are divided into lentic systems, which are the Stillwater including ponds, lakes, swamps and mires and running water systems; and groundwater. Freshwater is the water reserve that is clean to drink by most of the vertebrate species and used in many day-to-day activities like in agriculture, etc. On the other hand, marine water consists of the earth’s largest water source and it holds the vast number of organisms constituting one of the major ecosystems on earth. Marine water constitutes mainly salts like sodium chloride and it is not useable in a day today life of terrestrial animals. Marine water has two distinct zones i.e. pelagic, which represents the sea floor and the benthic zone which is deep down from the floor. One of the most diverse marine habitats is the coral reefs which supports almost 25% of all marine species. Altogether the aquatic diversity represents various life forms on earth and its conservation is urgently necessary.


Wild Animals
Jonas Salk, the discoverer of polio vaccine once said ‘If all the insects on earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on earth would disappear. If all humans disappeared within 50 years all species would flourish as never before.’ Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species but has come to include all plants, fungi, and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Wildlife biodiversity can be studied via genetics as well as ecological studies. There is an incredible range of wildlife ecosystems, from wildflowers in the west, red sand deserts in the center, tropical rainforests in the north and snow-capped mountains in the south. The array of species on earth is wondrous and it’s pertinent that this array remains the same for all of the generations that come after us. Habitat destruction, introduced and invasive species, overexploitation, hybridization, genetic pollution/erosion and food security, climate change, human overpopulation are the major threats to wildlife biodiversity. In modern times, concern for the natural environment has provoked activists to protest against the exploitation of wildlife for human benefit or entertainment. Wildlife conservation will ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy.


Farm Animals
Animal genetic resources are a component of biological diversity. Mankind can learn and make use of these special genetic resources to develop animal production for human needs. The science of the practice of rearing the animals and their population, which harbors a rich collection of mutation with phenotypic effects that have been purposefully enriched by breeding, leads to the diversity of farm animals. Planet earth possesses about 8.7 billion species animals, of which only a few species are used as domesticated farm animals. They includes mainly cattle, sheep, goat, buffalo, horse, ass, mule, camel, pig, chicken, duck, turkey, goose, ostrich, quail, pigeon, dog, cat, honeybee, silkworm, rabbit etc. Breeding farm animals is an economical process, and its main purpose is productivity and profitability. The objective of genotype breeding studies is to obtain the genotypes which will provide the most beneficial products in expected future conditions. The effective factors on the farm animal diversity are mainly the agricultural policy, human nutrition requirement, changing the environmental conditions, changing breeding systems, natural disasters and new disease threats.


Agro-biodiversity
Agrobiodiversity is the variety and variability of animals, plants, and microorganisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. It comprises the diversity of genetic resources and species used for food, fodder, fiber, fuel, and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil microorganisms, predators, pollinators), and those in the wider environment that support agroecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of the agroecosystems. Agrobiodiversity has enabled farming systems to evolve ever since agriculture was first developed some 10,000 years ago. It is the outcome of the interactions among genetic resources, environment, management systems and practices used by farmers, resulting from both natural selection and human inventive developed over millennia. Today's crop and livestock biodiversity are the results of many thousands of years of human intervention. Biodiversity is the origin of all species of crops and domesticated livestock and the variety within them. It is also the foundation of ecosystem services essential to sustain agriculture and human well-being. Biodiversity and agriculture are strongly interrelated because while biodiversity is critical for agriculture, agriculture can also contribute to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Indeed, sustainable agriculture both promotes and is enhanced by biodiversity. Maintenance of this biodiversity is essential for the sustainable production of food, other agricultural products, and the benefits these provide to humanity, including food security, nutrition, and livelihoods. However, agriculture is also a major driver of biodiversity loss as homogenization of agricultural production systems, mainly due to intensification of agricultural systems coupled with specialization by plant and animals breeders and the harmonizing effects of globalization, is one of the greatest causes of agricultural biodiversity loss, through genetic erosion and the increasing levels of genetic vulnerability of specialized crops and livestock.


De-Extinction and Conservation
e-extinction or resurrection of extinct species is an area of cutting edge science. Bringing back extinct species like woolly mammoth or recently extinct messenger pigeon is now being attempted. The passenger pigeon may be an extreme example of the fallacy of “de-extinction” because of its unique biology and population status. Human action is also a culprit in species extinction. A tremendous advancement in genome sequencing technology has been able to facilitate with thousands of genome from fossilized remnants. The natural extension of de- extinction is the reintroduction of the species to the wild. The species should be targeted for de-extinction only if the original causes of extinction are removed and the habitat requirements of the species are satisfied.Conservation of biodiversity is important as genetic diversity helps in speciation or evolution of new species, for the adaptation changes in environmental conditions and also for productivity and development. The richness of species diversity depends largely on climatic conditions. The diversity of ecosystems is very important due to the role of naturally selected dominant species and various related biotic interactions. Such a type of diversity can generate more productive and make ecosystems stable or capable of tolerating various types of stresses like drought and flood.


Human Genetics and Linguistic Diversity
The origin of the relationship between genetic diversity and linguistic diversity of humans through the globe is quite controversial. Although the idea of a unified account of a human population history might seem substantial and structured, many researchers believe the relationship to be a tandem. Some have come to a conclusion of a relatedness between the two under special circumstances. Another theory suggests that linguistic and genetic lineage evolve separately but are conditioned by the same factors. Africa, the oldest source of population of mankind has been proposed to have the most genetic diversity. Founder effect has allegedly taken place with a decline in the genetic diversity proportional to the distance of the particular population from Africa. However, a different pattern is observed accounting for the linguistic diversity. Among many researchers, the genetic diversity and diffusion are maintained by random mutation and sexual reproduction, while the reason for linguistic diversity is mostly studied to be idiosyncratic thus making the relationship tandem. The revolutionary study of Cavalli-Sforza and colleagues (1988) had suggested the relationship between the human genetic and linguistic diversity be parallel. Since then, development of molecular genetics has taken place to a great extent. Human mitochondrial DNA and a portion of the Y chromosome is being studied to establish the gene flow. Subsequently, variable degrees of association between linguistic and genetic classifications have been found depending on various factors including the region and the type of diversity. Unlike detectable relatedness between the genetic and linguistic evolution in Europe and East & Central Asia, Southeast Asia couldn’t be surmised. Southeast Asia has been studied to have agricultural-based language diversity with no similar patterns of allele frequency. Efforts and controversial debates continue to establish a plausible relationship between the genetic and linguistic diversity.


Policy and Programs for Sustaining Biodiversity
There is an irrefutable threat to biodiversity across the world. The biodiversity hotspots which host large chunks of endemic species of flora and fauna are majorly under threat due to the amplitude of reasons including climate change, habitat degradation and loss, exploitation of resources and illegal trade. After five episodes of mass extinctions in the past, we are leading the world to the sixth mass extinction, and the first that could be anthropogenic. With time, a number of policies have been constructed to ensure biodiversity protection and sustenance.Among the first international agreements for conservation included CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna). CITES entered into force in 1975, and it ensures trade doesn’t threaten the survival of species. United Nations declared the time between 2011-2020 as the “decade on biodiversity” to garner support and create momentum for the urgent tasks of biodiversity conservation. These changes in combination with policies have facilitated recognition of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services.However, lot more needs to be done to protect biodiversity in all forms, across the world. Some of the acts under the Government of India central acts and rules having relevance to biodiversity conservation are Fisheries Act (1897), Indian Forest Act (1927), Wildlife Protection Act (1972), Forest Conservation Act (1980), Environmental Protection Act (1986) etc.


River and Wetland Ecosystem
River and wetland ecosystems are included in the freshwater ecosystem. River ecosystems are the prime example of lotic ecosystem i.e. flowing water. It covers only 0.01% of Earth’s total water content. The riverine ecosystem is very much important to wildlife, people, and places. They maintain natural rhythm of the global water cycle, supply coastal fisheries, deltas, and estuaries with wildlife habitat and resources. River ecosystems have- 1) Continuous water flow that is mostly unidirectional, 2) a state of continuous physical change, 3) changing microhabitats, 4) adaptations of the flora and fauna to the changing water flow. Wetlands are the areas that are saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are one of the most important environmental assets. It is also referred to as the kidney of nature as it helps cleaning and filtering out of the harmful content of water. Wetlands can be critical to groundwater recharge, carbon sequestration and reduction of storm and flooding damages. Wetlands also provide feeding habitat for many migratory bird species and play an important role in educating people. More than one-third of the federally listed species o the Endangered Species Act relies directly or indirectly on wetlands for their survival.


Climate change and its implications
Climate is usually defined as the “average weather” in a place. It includes a pattern of temperature, precipitation (rain or snow), humidity, wind and seasons. Climate patterns play an important role in shaping natural ecosystem, and the human economies and cultures that depend on them. But the climate we have come to expect is not what it used to be because it has constantly been changing. Climate change has been related to industrial pollution and global warming. The changing climate, rising level of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have warmed the earth and are causing wide-ranging impacts. It has affected many aspects of habitats, food production, health risk, water availability, the rise of sea level, extreme heat events, drought and storms with far reaching consequences. For example, a change in the usual timing of rain can affect when plants bloom and set fruit, when insects hatch or when streams are their fullest. Our state and societies around the globe need to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to avoid worsening climate and subdue the risk of creating changes beyond our ability to respond and adapt.


Biodiversity and Environment Management
Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part. This includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems. Biodiversity forms the foundation of the vast array of ecosystem services that critically contribute to human well-being. Biodiversity is globally recognized as a cornerstone of healthy ecosystems, and biodiversity conservation is increasingly becoming one of the important aims of environmental management. Biodiversity and environment management research focuses on the development of technologies for rehabilitation and sustainable management of natural forests and woodlands including water towers, wetland, and riparian ecosystems; mitigation and adaptation to climate change; biodiversity conservation; and improved livelihoods. Ecological indicators are scientific constructs that use quantitative data to measure aspects of biodiversity, ecosystem condition, services, or drivers of change, but no single ecological indicator captures all the dimensions of biodiversity. Changes in biotic interactions among species predation, parasitism, competition, and facilitation can lead to disproportionately large, irreversible, and often negative alterations of ecosystem processes.


Fermented food and diversity
Food fermentation is a very ancient popular artisan practice of cost effective and energy-efficient food processing technique. Fermented foods represent the ethnic diversities and cultural heritages of the human race. Around 3500 fermented foods and beverages grouped in 250 types have been reported in scientific literature while large numbers remained undocumented. Fermentation of food enhances the shelf-life, safety, taste, texture, flavor and aroma, appearance, nutritional value, digestibility of the raw food materials. Apart from these, the popularity of fermented food has increased in modern times due to its stimulant effect and significant medicinal properties. Microorganisms like fungi (yeast, mold etc.), bacteria (dominantly Lactic acid bacterium, Acetobacter, Bacillus etc.) convert complex constituents of food materials into simple compounds like alcohols, acetic acid, lactic acid, propionic acid and simple peptides and fatty acids etc. during fermentation. The diversities in the ingredients or food raw materials, microbial diversity, preparation methods, climatic conditions during traditional fermentation process have given rise to a diverse range of fermented foods commonly consumed worldwide. The biodiversity of a region plays a crucial role in choosing raw food material of plant or animal origin for fermentation. Apart from the local agricultural commodities, plants and animals obtained from wild sources have also been used in fermented food preparation by tribal ethnic groups. Microbial diversity has such a great importance that minute changes in microbial diversity or quantity will critically affect the overall quality of the food. Fermented foods have been explored for new probiotics or bioactive molecules of potential medicinal values, large numbers of organics acids, peptides, fatty acids and probiotic bacteria are recently been discovered with high nutraceutical value in fermented foods. Many scientifically unexplored fermented foods popular among the tribal groups of ethnically diverse regions like Africa and South-east Asia could be a harbor for new medicinal compounds and microbial strains.


Biobanking
Biobanking refers to the collection of body fluids and tissue samples for use in research in order to improve our understanding of health and diseases. A biobank supports many types of medical and contemporary research like genomics and personalized medicine. Biobanks help collect, store and disseminate specimens and related data. They are an important tool for elucidation of molecular mechanisms of various diseases including epigenetic modifications and interaction between genes and proteins. Biobanking hopes to provide novel insights into the genetic component of a disease ultimately leading to a more personalized approach to healthcare. Usually, cryogenic facilities are incorporated in a biobank for storing samples in order to prevent deterioration over time. The biobanks are classified by purpose or design, for example, disease-centric biobanks involve collection of samples for pathogenic studies and clinical trials, tissue biobanks harvest and store tissues for transplantation and research purposes while population biobanks store biomaterials as well as associated characteristics such as clinical and environmental data. Starting with small university-based repositories and gradually evolving into commercial and government supported biorepositories, the field of biobanking has changed over the past in response to the changing need of the researchers and projects as well as due to external and regulatory pressures. There are present virtual biobanks now which are electronic databases of biological specimens and other related information regardless of where the actual specimens are stored.


Plants Pathology
Plant Pathology is the study of the organisms and environmental conditions (such as winter damage or drought stress) that cause disease in plants, the mechanisms by which this occurs, the interactions between these causal agents and the plant (economic impacts, effects on plant growth, yield and quality) and the methods of managing or controlling plant disease. It also involves the study of pathogen identification, disease etiology, disease cycles, plant disease epidemiology, plant disease resistance, how plant diseases affect humans and animals and pathosystem genetics. It interfaces knowledge from other scientific fields such as mycology, microbiology, virology, biochemistry, bioinformatics, etc connecting the basic and applied sciences with the ultimate goal being the reduction of damage to the quantity and quality of food and fiber essential for human existence.
There are a wide variety of microorganisms such as fungi, oomycetes, bacteria, viruses, viroids, virus-like organisms, phytoplasmas, protozoa, nematodes and parasitic plants etc that cause these diseases. Eradication of these may be aimed at removing completely the causal agent, or the alternate host of the pathogen which is an essential part of the pathogen's lifestyle.
In the present day, plant pathology has been astoundingly successful in providing farmers with methods for managing plant diseases. This success is one of the reasons why famine in today’s world is a relatively rare and isolated event. Nevertheless, plant disease continues to exert a toll on crop and food production. Diseases cause several billions of dollars in lost production worldwide each year, reducing yields by over 500 million tons annually. These losses reduce profits to farmers and drive up prices of food purchased by consumers. In addition, current disease control measures are in some cases costly and inefficient. Hence, plant pathologists are working around the world to develop new, more efficient, and environmentally sustainable methods to manage plant diseases.



Plant diversity
The diversity of plant life exist for many reasons- a key factor being adaptive changes which allow different species to thrive in the many varied environments of the world. It is estimated that there are as many as 3-5 lakh species of higher plants( i.e. flowering and cone bearing plants) of which approximately 2 lakh have been identified or described. Plants are multicellular and mostly photosynthetic, which are found essentially everywhere including land and water. The aquatic plants include red, brown and green algae while the terrestrial plants include mosses, ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. The angiosperms or flowering plants have dominated the earth for last 70 million years. Plants have developed adaptations for different soil types, methods of pollination, daylight hours, temperature, altitude, competition and other plants. Two plants of the same species separated by the geography have different genetic makeup. Diversity within any population is vital for that population's survival. As humans, we rely on plants and their diversities for all sorts of functions. Some plants have medicinal properties, some are strong and straight making them ideal construction materials, some taste good and provide us with energy and vitamins. About 30,000 plants are edible and about 7000 plants are been cultivated or collected by humans for consumption. Wild plants in many areas are also extremely important as famine foods when crops fail, or may provide important dietary supplements and use of fuelwood and charcoal from wild sources is almost universal in the developing world. Few medicinal species are cultivated and many wild populations are now at risk from over exploitation. Botanical gardens are well placed to play an important role in combating biodiversity loss. Not only can they cultivate plants which may be endangered in their natural habitats, but they can highlight the importance of plant diversity and need for conservation to the more than 200 million visitors they are receiving globally each year.



High Altitude Ecosystem
High altitude ecosystem refers to the ecosystem found in the mountain region. These ecosystems are strongly affected by climate, which gets colder as elevation increases. They are stratified according to elevation. As the elevation increases, the climate becomes harsher, and the plant community transitions to grasslands or tundra. Since the habitat of alpine vegetation is subjected to intense radiation, the wind, cold, snow, and ice it grows close to the ground and consists mainly of flora like Perennial grasses, sedges, and Forbs, and fauna like Kea, Marmot, mountain goat, Himalayan tahr, yak, pika. Mountain species with narrow habitat tolerance, particularly higher elevation forms and those with low dispersal capacity, are at high risk from the environmental effects of climate change. Slope dynamics and livestock grazing are significant drivers of diversity in alpine regions. Flower rich alpine meadows are an important cultural heritage that is increasingly threatened as traditional grazing practices decline.

Chemical Ecology
The biological interaction of semiochemicals within and between organisms and to their environment, which aids in the understanding of functions, significance, and origin of such chemicals is termed as chemical ecology. These chemicals basically serve as signals to initiate, modulate, or terminate a variety of biological processes. Based upon the interactions, these chemicals are broadly classified into hormones, pheromones, allomones, kairomones, attractants, and repellents. Each of these classes of chemicals performs a specific function within the organism or species, or interspecies interaction and is classified and characterized. Such interactions are the oldest form of the communication system and yet have not been entirely understood. This field is explored by collaborative interdisciplinary association developed between chemists and biologists.

Biomanufacturing and Diversity
Biomanufacturing is the application of biotechnology in industries for the commercial production of biomaterials and biomolecules using biological systems. Such systems may consist of a diverse range of reactants depending upon the requirement of the product. These reactants are essentially microorganisms, animal cells, or plant cells. Researchers are carried out to genetically modify the microbes or cells to get maximum yield and low byproducts. There are thousands of biomanufacturing products available in the market that has wide range of application: medicines such as vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, amino acids, growth factors, etc., food and beverages processing such as enzymes, protein supplements, alcohol, etc., and some have industrial application such as biocementation, bioremediation, detergents, etc.



Biomaterials in Engineering Applications
Taking the next step in the advancement of science and technology, biomaterials encompasses the principles of engineering and biology. Biomaterials used in tissue engineering are generally synthetic polymers, and relatively hydrophobic. From being thought to be inert to being recognized to have bio-inductive properties, biomaterials have great potential in the field of tissue engineering. Biomaterial engineering has popularized in various medical applications including drug delivery, gene therapy, tissue and scaffold regeneration, replacement of body parts, and biomedical and surgical devices. Sophistication employing drug delivery functionality, micropatterning, microfluidics, polymeric biomaterials, 3D matrices have been developed through the years. Being a highly interdisciplinary subject, advancements in the field of biomaterial engineering require understanding interactions of materials with the biological environment. With this purpose, the symposium is an opportunity to encapsulate the developments in the area, thus being able to further develop biomaterial engineering.


Address

Center for the Environment
IIT Guwahati, Assam-781039
INDIA

Contacts

biodiverse2018@gmail.com
Phone: 0361-2583204