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13 Aug, 2020

23 Min Read

Forest loss threatens hornbills


Forest loss threatens hornbills

  • A study based on satellite data has flagged a high rate of deforestation in a major hornbill habitat in Arunachal Pradesh.


  • Using fine-scale satellite imagery, changes in forest cover of Papum Reserve Forest (RF) adjoining the Pakke Tiger Reserve as well as a part of Assam affected by illegal felling and ethnic conflict was assessed.
  • Papum RF is a nesting habitat of three species of the large, colourful fruit-eating hornbills:
    • Great Hornbill
    • Wreathed Hornbill
    • Oriental Pied Hornbill
  • Results show the loss and degradation of critical hornbill habitat in the biologically rich forests of the Indian Eastern Himalaya.
  • The data pointed to alarming deforestation rates in Papum RF with the forest cover having declined to 76% of the total RF area.
  • The ecologists assessed the habitat loss due to illegal logging. Illegal logging, has led to fewer tall trees where the birds nest.
  • Also, forests are often under pressure due to agricultural expansion, conversion to plantations mainly after the Forest Rights Act,2006.
  • According to the Global Forest Watch 2020 report, the State lost 1,110 sq.km. of primary forest from 2002-2019.


  • Hornbills used to be hunted for their casques – upper beak and feathers for headgear despite being cultural symbols of some ethnic communities in the northeast, specifically the Nyishi of Arunachal Pradesh.

Source: TH

Research on Abscisic acid


IISER Bhopal scientists’ study on seed germination


  • A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal, has conducted a study on seed germination that could have a major impact on agriculture in the long run by helping determine the optimum timing of seed germination and thus ensure high plant yields.
  • The study focused on the interplay between plant hormones like Abscisic acid (ABA) which inhibit the sprouting of the seed, environmental cues like light which promotes the sprouting process and


  • The mechanisms underlying germination inhibition by ABA protein have been the subject of intensive research.
  • There is scant knowledge about the mechanisms controlled by ABA for arresting the post-germination growth in response to environmental cues.

Abscisic acid (ABA)

  • Abscisic acid is a plant hormone. It modulates plant growth and development.
  • ABA functions in many plant developmental processes, including seed and bud dormancy, the control of organ size and stomatal closure.
  • It acts as a master regulator of the seed’s growth by controlling several aspects of plant development, including seed dormancy and germination, as well as controlling growth under adverse conditions such as drought or salinity.
  • ABA signals the seed not to germinate until there are favourable conditions for growth.
  • If the stress comes after the germination of a seed, ABA suppresses further growth of the seedling. This inhibition leads the seedling to invest its energies less in its growth and more in defence mechanisms designed to ensure its survival.

Significance of the research:

  • The research has proved that the inhibition of seedling growth by ABA is much stronger in darkness as compared to light conditions.
  • Understanding the complex factors that modulate ABA sensitivity is vital to developing economically important plant varieties that have better tolerance to stress conditions.

Source: TH

Poor access to abortion drugs


Poor access to abortion drugs


  • Findings of the study carried out by the Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRHSI) indicated a severe shortage of medical abortion (MA) drugs in five out of the six states surveyed.

Medical Abortion Drugs

  • Abortion pills are different from emergency contraceptive pills.
  • Abortion pills or MA drugs are abortafacients which terminate a pregnancy by expelling an embryo or foetus.
  • Abortion pills are approved for use only up to nine weeks, whereas an ultrasound can detect a foetus only at around 13-14 weeks.


  • The study found an overwhelming shortage of abortion pills or medical abortion drugs.
  • The study conducted among 1,500 chemists in six States found abysmal stocking in Madhya Pradesh (6.5%), Punjab (1%), Tamil Nadu (2%), Haryana (2%) and Delhi (34%).
  • The only State that seemed to be better was Assam (69.6%).

Reasons for shortage:

  • Over-regulation of drugs to curb gender-biased sex selection such as through government programmes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ has hindered access to safe, legal and cost-effective abortion.
  • Medical abortion drugs are over-regulated as compared to other prescription drugs.
  • Regulatory hurdles are due to a misunderstanding that easy availability of medical abortion drugs will be misused for sex selection.
  • State-wise regulatory and legal barriers are the key reasons why 79% of the chemists surveyed refrained from stocking these drugs.


  • The regulatory crackdown has resulted in abortion services becoming inaccessible, especially those during the second trimester.
  • The shortage forces many women to seek a surgical abortion from a facility, reducing her choice.
  • It will also reduce access to safe abortion and force them to seek services from unsafe providers.
  • There are only 16,296 approved abortion facilities in the private sector in the country.
  • Whereas, MA drugs can be provided by an obstetrician or a gynaecologist, who are estimated to number about 60,000-70,000.
  • The cost of first trimester surgical abortion is much higher than the cost of abortion pills plus the consultation fee.

Way forward

  • Abortions are allowed under the Medical Termination Act.
  • MA drugs are also cost-effective.

Source: TH

Environmental Performance Index 2020


Environmental Performance Index:

  • The global Environmental Performance Index report has consistently put India at the bottom of its rankings.
  • India ranked 168th in the 12th edition of the Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2020.
  • It was ranked 177th out of 180 countries in 2018.
  • EPI is a biennial index prepared by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
  • The index considers 32 indicators of environmental performance and includes 10-year trends in environmental performance at the national and global levels.
  • The major indicators include environmental health policy, biodiversity and habitat, air and water pollution and climate change.

Deaths due to air pollution:

  • According to a study in the British journal, The Lancet, 12.4 lakh deaths i.e. 5% of all deaths in India in 2017, could be attributed to air pollution.

Source: TH

Global Forest Watch


Global Forest Watch

  • The Global Forest Watch (GFW) is released by World Resources Institute (WRI)
  • Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an online platform that provides near-real-time data and tools for monitoring forests.
  • The GFW map utilizes cutting-edge satellite and remote sensing technology to show near real-time data on tree cover loss.
  • Tree cover data is accompanied by land use and conservation data to contextualize forest change.
  • The GFW platform allows users to subscribe to alerts, conduct custom analyses and investigate forests on a country-by-country basis. GFW provides maps that showcase climate and active fire data.
  • The GFW suite of tools allows anyone to access near-real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world.
  • The Global Forest Watch uses a dataset collated by the University of Maryland, Google, US Geological Survey, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), besides satellite images, to map tree cover (at 30 metres resolution) globally for the years 2000 and 2010.

World Resources Institute

  • WRI is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries and focuses on six critical issues at the intersection of environment and development: climate, energy, food, forests, water, and cities and transport.
  • It was established in 1982. Headquartered in Washington, US.

Source: TH

Mega labs to boost COVID-19 testing


‘Mega labs’ to boost COVID-19 testing


  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is working on developing mega labs to ramp up testing for COVID-19 as well as improve the accuracy rate.
  • The labs will be repurposing large machines, called Next Generation Sequencing machines (NGS).


  • The mega labs will sequence 1,500 to 3,000 viral genomes at a go to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Used optimally and with appropriate modifications, these machines can substantially detect the presence of the virus even in several instances where the traditional RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests fail.
  • The genome method can read a bigger chunk of virus genome and provide more certainty that the virus in question is indeed the particular coronavirus of interest.
  • It can also trace the evolutionary history of the virus and track mutations more reliably.
  • While RT-PCR needs primers and probes (a key hurdle in operationalizing such tests on a mass scale early on in the pandemic), the NGS only needs custom reagents.

What is Next Generation Sequencing ?

  • NGS – massively parallel or deep sequencing are related terms that describe a DNA sequencing technology which has revolutionised genomic research.
  • NGS are normally used for sequencing human genomes.
  • Using NGS an entire human genome can be sequenced within a single day.

Source: TH

Abscisic Acid (ABA)

GS-III : S&T Bio technology

Abscisic Acid (ABA)

What is Abscisic Acid?

  • Glands are organs that secrete hormones at different times to stimulate body processes such as growth, development, and the breaking down of sugars.
  • Abscisic acid is a plant hormone involved in many developmental plant processes, such as dormancy and environmental stress response.

The function of Abscisic Acid

  • Plants have openings on the bottom side of their leaves, known as stomata.
  • Stomata take in carbon dioxide and regulate water content.
  • Abscisic acid has been found to function in the closing of these stomata during times when the plant does not require as much carbon dioxide or during times of drought when the plant cannot afford to lose much water through transpiration.
  • ABA functions in many plant developmental processes, including seed and bud dormancy, the control of organ size and stomatal closure.
  • It is important for plants in the response to environmental stresses, including drought, soil salinity, cold tolerance, freezing tolerance, heat stress and heavy metal ion tolerance.

Source: ANI

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