Bio-indicators in your Locality

Mumbai is the commercial capital of India and it is developing at a very fast rate. But at what cost does this development come?

Our city’s pollution problem is a well-known fact – we are the 10th most polluted city in the country! The pollution problem is currently a very serious one and it is detrimental to our health. In this blog post, we are not going to look at how we could tackle this problem; instead we will consider how to identify if our own residential area is pollution free or not? And we are going to do this with the help of ‘bio-indicators’.

Bio-indicators are basically flora and fauna that can be used to monitor the health of the environment. All plants and animals act as bio-indicators in one way or another. And here are some of the most common bio-indicators that we come across.

Lichens: Lichens are unusual and amazing organisms and they consist of fungus and algae living as one. They are found throughout the world; and in cities they can be seen growing on trees, walls, rocks and soil surfaces. The interesting fact about these organisms is that they get their food from sunlight (algae prepares food for the fungus with the help of photosynthesis, and in return fungus protects the algae). These organisms cannot tolerate living in an environment with polluted air. And so, with the presence or absence of lichens, you can find out that your locality is polluted or not!

Butterflies & Moths: A nice population of different types of butterflies and moths indicate a healthy environment. So if you find them in your locality, it means that the place is suitable for pollination which in turn indicates that there are a good number of plants and trees in your locality. Butterflies and moths also indicate that there is natural pest control in your locality.

Birds: That birds are good bio-indicators is a well-known fact. Birds depend on a varied diet that includes fruits, insects and other small organisms. And these insects/organisms depend on plants and trees for their existence. Plants/trees in turn depend on a healthy environment to grow. So basically if there is a good population of different types of birds in your locality, it indicates that you are living in a healthy environment.

Frogs: They are also known to be good bio-indicators. Frogs depend on healthy land and water habitats to survive and they cannot tolerate toxic chemicals in the environment. They are known to exist since 250 million years, but all of a sudden many species of frogs are on the verge of extinction. This indicates that there’s a problem with the environment we live in. Even you must have noticed that the number of frogs that you see these days is drastically less than what you could have seen 10 years back!

Over the next few days try to observe if these bio-indicators exist in your locality or not – that will give you a good idea of how environmentally healthy your area is!

- Aristo Mendis


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