Silchar, Oct. 2: Sone Beel, Assam's largest wetland, has been found to be a habitat of a good number of migratory and local bird species.
A study conducted from September 2012 to February 2015 in Sone Beel in Karimganj district recorded a total of 89 species of birds belonging to 32 different families.
Of these, 39 were water birds, 13 water dependent birds, while 37 species were terrestrial birds. Two species - the black headed ibis and red breasted parakeet - were listed as near-threatened.
During the study, 60 resident species, 27 winter visitors, one species of black headed ibis (local migrant) and one species of the Indian plaintive cuckoo (summer migrant) were recorded. Two vulnerable species, lesser adjutant and pallas's fish eagle, were also seen.
The study, which was published in the Asian Journal of Advanced Basic Sciences on July 30 this year, was conducted by Himabrata Chakravarty and B.K. Dutta of the department of ecology and environmental science of Assam University, Silchar, and Hilloljyoti Singha of the university's Centre for Biodiversity and Natural Resource Conservation.
Singha told The Telegraph that the study was the first of its kind, illustrating not only water birds but also terrestrial ones in and around Sone Beel. He said birds are good bio-indicators and useful models for studying a variety of environmental problems.
The highest number of birds are observed in Sone Beel from mid-November to January every year.
The study, however, expresses its concern over the threats faced by the wetland.
"Sone Beel is threatened by increased human interference, direct and indirect, resulting in habitat destruction and fragmentation. Many factors which threatened the wetland ecosystem and the bird population are over exploitation of the beel resources, extensive fishing, and fragmentation of the beel area for agriculture and land lease compounded with poaching of birds," the study says.
There is an ever-increasing threat of pollution from agricultural run-off. The study says there has been a substantial increase in the number of motorised boats using hydrocarbon fuel, which adds to the peril of the already threatened ecosystem of the wetland. The study suggests that proper awareness about the importance of birds and their vital role in ecology should be explained to the local people by organising programmes so that they help to conserve the birds. Sone Beel being one of the main wetland habitats for birds in south Assam, the study underscores the importance of declaring it a protected area.