You are on page 1of 11

Ko 1

Jae Hyun Ko Professor Bain-Conkins Multimedia WR/Rhetoric 2013-04-30 The loss of biodiversity and our future Stressing the importance of biodiversity in our ecology with the definition of it is really important when the discussion about biodiversity arises. Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth and it benefits humans and other species. First, biodiversity, including functions of ecosystems, offers a large variety of goods and services that support human life. One could argue that there are actually many other more dialing ecological issues around the world and the biodiversity loss might not be the most important one to discuss. There are many other ecological issues such as habitat destruction, climate change, over-exploitation introduction of non-indigenous species, and more. However, among those issues, the most dialing issue is the loss of biodiversity in our ecosystem. This idea stems out from the fact that loss of biodiversity is the root cause of almost every ecological issue (Wood 14). So, it is easy to see that the impacts of the loss of biodiversity is immeasurable and therefore the loss of it is very alarming calamity to both us and our surroundings such as animals or plants. First, the impacts of the loss of biodiversity to terrestrial, marine, and human conditions will be analyzed. Then, the major culprits of the loss of biodiversity will be listed. Lastly, the recommendations on how to solve this dialing issue will be discussed. First, the impacts of biodiversity loss on ecological processes might be sufficiently large to rival the impacts of many other global drivers of environmental change or surpasses all the other global drivers of environmental change. Many scientists have researched the impacts of biodiversity loss and there is now unequivocal evidence that biodiversity loss reduces the efficiency by which ecological communities capture biologically essential

Ko 2

resources, produce biomass, decompose and recycle biologically essential nutrients (Cardinale 60). Theory and data both support greater temporal stability of a community property like total biomass at higher levels of diversity (Cardinale 60). Therefore, if we lose biodiversity in our ecosystem, many assets from having biodiverse ecosystem will be gone. Those advantages often result in higher productive yield of crops and animals because diverse communities contain key species that have a large influence of productivity (Cardinale 60). This is only the small part of the benefit we are going to lose as a result of biodiversity loss. More impacts can be seen through the ecological service provided within a diverse ecology. Since there are so many ecological services provided by the biodiverse ecosystem, it is impossible to lay out every profits of having it. There are several important services provided by the diversity that the data has shown through the research and all of those services benefit human (EEA 12-13). Intraspecific genetic diversity increases the yield of commercial crops (Cardinale 62). Also, tree species diversity enhances production of wood in plantations, and plant species diversity in grasslands enhances the production of fodder. These are provisioning services. Now there are regulating services too. First, increasing plant biodiversity increases resistance to invasion by exotic plants, thereby preventing further biodiversity loss by the intrusion of alien species (Cardinale 62). Second, plant pathogens are less prevalent in more diverse plant communities (Cardinale 62). This can prevent the human disease, but losing it will result in more of human disease by plant pathogens. Lastly, due to the increase in biomass by plant species diversity, there will be an increase in the aboveground carbon sequestration (Cardinale 62). Seeing all these benefits, we can easily see the impacts of biodiversity loss on our lives by just reversing all those benefits to harm. These are general consensus among scientists. More specific field of study on the impacts of biodiversity loss will be analyzed through the impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean

Ko 3

ecosystem services. Marine ecosystems are actually broader and more esoteric subject than terrestrial ecosystem and it provide a wide variety of goods and services. So, impacts of losing biodiversity on ocean will be serious subject. Most of the impacts overlap with the general impacts discussed above, but there are more to it. The regional biodiversity losses impaired three critical ecosystem services (Worm 788). First, number of viable fisheries declined (Worm 788). Second, there was decrease in nursery habitats such as oyster reefs and wetlands (Worm 788). Lastly, filtering and detoxification services provided by oyster reefs and wetlands also declined (Worm 788). Such losses led to declining water quality which led to the death of many marine organisms. Marine ecosystems supply vital food resources for millions of people (Worm 787). Humans are severely attacked by this loss of marine ecosystem diversity since it impairs the ability of marine ecosystems to feed a population. The impacts of biodiversity loss are enormous. We, humans, are driving such ecological problem and eventually are paying the costs of such actions (Alexander 43). The cost of biodiversity conservation measures taken throughout the wider landscape would cost around $317 billion annually (Alexander 49). Our food sources are decreasing when our population is growing in a fast rate. Not only that, but also our health is being threatened either directly or indirectly by the loss of biodiversity. Scientists had recognized such impacts a few decades ago, and there have been a many efforts and recommendations to halt the loss of biodiversity (Cardinale 66). However, still those efforts are sometimes proven to be fertile and end up not solving the entire issue. In order to make an effective plan, identifying and applying the root causes are important. The world is losing species and biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. The causes go deep and the losses are driven by the complex array of social, economic, political and biological factors at different levels. The root causes of biodiversity loss are socioeconomic

Ko 4

forces and circumstances that create incentives for activities that put pressure on biodiversity and create disincentives for more sustainable behavior. To summarize it, an anthropogenic cause is the major problem that triggers the destruction of our ecology by disturbing our biodiversity (Wood 13). Blinded publics tend to think only of proximate causes such as habitat loss and degradation as the causes of biodiversity loss. However, in order to find the accurate culprit, we need to understand what lies behind these proximate causes. Also, we need to take a broader look at factors beyond the local level that are driving environmental change when we analyze the economic, social, political and cultural causes of biodiversity loss. The relationship between specific socioeconomic factors and the environment provides important background to delve into find the root causes of biodiversity loss. There are five categories of socioeconomic factor; demographic change; poverty and inequality; public policies, markets, and politics; macroeconomic policies and structures, and social change and development. Addressing biodiversity loss requires an understanding of how all these factors are linked together and how they operate at different scales to drive biodiversity loss. One of five categories of socioeconomic factor is demographic change, and it has a close link with the degradation of land, which leads to the biodiversity loss. Population growth, whatever its source, generally leads to increased use of resources, particularly the expansion of agricultural land but also over-use of marine and forest resources, which directly affects habitat and species abundance. There are two types of population growth, natural population growth and migration. A natural population growth is caused by poverty, limited education, and poor access to reproductive health services (Wood 63). Latter of those two has more significant consequences. It occurs because of wars, civil unrest, lack of economic opportunity, population pressures on resources and deliberate government efforts to resettle people (Wood 64). A case study from a few regions around the world will give a better picture of how population growth poses a threat to biodiversity.

Ko 5

First region to look at is Mexico where the population growth is driving biodiversity loss. The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is one of the least populated regions of Mexico, so this place protects many species endangered elsewhere in Mexico (Wood 48). It plays a role as a refuge for many other species. However, a rapid immigration following an expanding agricultural frontier is threatening the conservation of biodiversity. The population in Calakmul is growing so rapidly that it will double within ten years (Wood 48). Also, the immigration to Calakmul happened due to social conflicts, poverty, landlessness and rapid population growth in other parts of rural Mexico (Wood 48). Not only Mexico is experiencing this population problem, but also three places in Vietnam are suffering from this. Not to mention the high natural population growth rates in these regions, but also government is subsidizing the immigrations thereby bringing nearly one million migrants from Red River (Wood 357-358). Increasing populations have led to increased land clearing for shifting agriculture and is driving biodiversity loss. Now, the second socioeconomic factor, inequality and poverty, will be addressed. Inequality of income and resource distribution has received much of the blame for environmental degradation which leads to biodiversity loss. Poverty in particular had been linked with poor management of resources. However, wealth is also closely linked with environmental degradation through high levels of consumption and short-term management of environmental resources (Wood 64-65). In China, for example, the lack of affordable alternatives for food and fuel leads to clearing for agriculture and over-harvesting of fuel wood (Wood 42). Same case happened in Mexico where shifting cultivation of staple crops is the only option for survival (Wood 48). The case of inequality is most popularly seen in Philippines where the poor people are driven to marginal lands which get rapidly degraded (Wood 53). Wealthy resource users tend to have a myopic view on future thereby using resources extensively without making investments in resource management. This leads to

Ko 6

land degradation also. Land degradations lead up to the habitat loss which triggers biodiversity loss. Next factor is public policies, markets, and politics. One would get surprised if the government is actually compelling people to cause the biodiversity loss. National laws, economic and political institutions and government policies are central to many recent explanations of biodiversity loss. Those are the explanation because of the policy failures. There are two types of failures. The first are perverse government policies that provide incentives for environmental degradation (Wood 16). The second are government policies that fail to take environmental values into decision-making (Wood 16). First type of failure usually occurs due to the development goals, such as industrialization, export expansion, increased food production and poverty relief (Wood 16). Such development goals are the problem because natural resources provide a cheap way to support economic growth and to meet development goals. The Vietnam case illustrates some of the environmental problems that arise from government policies. The government has supported colonization in protected areas which increased populations that led to the shifting agriculture as well as increased hunting and use of timber and other forest products (Wood 17). These policies that promote resource use are also response to a variety of domestic pressures, notably population and poverty mentioned above. In Cameroon, the extension of road entails increased hunting and logging which incurs serious impacts on some species (Wood 40). Therefore, public policies and markets directly and indirectly promote expansion of resource use to meet variety of goals, especially to respond to domestic pressures and for the development. Next factor that is very closely linked to the public policies, markets, and politics is macroeconomic policies and structures. Biodiversity is affected by the structure and behavior of international and national markets and related government policies that shape local resource-use decisions. International economic and political forces alter the way resources are used at the local level.

Ko 7

Macroeconomic factors are significant among these. Demand for foreign exchange needed to support imports and debt repayments and the lack of other market opportunities provide impetus to developing countries to mine their natural resources to the end which eventually cause the depletion of it. This case can be seen in Pakistan. The case of Pakistan illustrates the wide-range impacts of macroeconomic policies. The mangrove forests of the Indus Delta have been harvested excessively to improve its balance of payments (Wood 17). Also, in order to improve the balance of payments, the government subsidized the agriculture by making a dam to provide a cheap water source; however, this dam caused the reduction in fresh water flows to the delta which is viewed as the greatest threat to the mangroves (Wood 50). The last block that completes the complex array of social, economic, political and biological factors is social change and development biases. A social change and development bias is basically the root cause of all these root causes. A development is widely considered synonymous with the increase in consumption and the transformation of natural resources. The people who had adopted the cultures that are less destructive of environmental resources are affected by the expansion of Western culture (Wood 18). This generated the bias. The bias of many developing county governments in favor of urban over rural areas and in favor of industry over agriculture reflects this understanding of development affected by the Western culture. Also, the modernization of traditional societies is blinding the people regarding the sustainability of resources. Since new technologies improved access to markets, blinded people tend to manage resource in a ruthless manner which leads to resource degradation and species loss. This case is prevalent among developing countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, and most clearly in Cameroon. In Cameroon, the influx of migrants to previously isolated areas has brought many serious consequences to the biodiversity (Wood 40). The influx of people is caused by the bias of thought that the isolated area needs to be developed when it can be otherwise enjoyed as

Ko 8

beautiful scenery or used as a tourist attraction. Since all five factors are explicitly laid out with a few examples, it is important to recognize that understanding these root causes in a detail is very crucial in formulating the solutions to biodiversity loss. However, rather than giving an explicit plan of solutions to this dialing issue, it is important to make a recommendation on how to formulate the solutions. The paper will present the recommendations that are intended to suggest an operational approach to address the loss of biodiversity. The recommendation one is that the activities that seek to ensure the immediate conservation of biodiversity, and that focuses on local dynamic that is causing that loss, need to be identified and supported. It might sound very simple and easy, but humans are not following this recommendation. This effort should be made in a global level. For example, economic alternatives to unsustainable resource use, especially in poor and developing countries, should be identified and supported. Calakmul in Mexico does not have any economic alternatives which eventually lead to the overexploitation (Wood 48). In this case, other wealthy countries like US can support in order to halt the loss of biodiversity. Also, conservation activities need continued support to ensure the protection for the important biological resources under severe threat. To spot it, there activities should account for an understanding of the human, social and biological background to the trends that affect those resources (Wood 83). The second recommendation is stirring up the civil society in promoting and implementing the protection of biodiversity. Organizations interested in matters related to biodiversity should focus their activities on measures that seek to understand root causes of biodiversity loss. WWF’s Eco-Region Based Conservation is currently implementing the new approaches that increase the scope of conservation activities (Wood 84). The role of civil society is well-equipped to support the difficult political choices regarding biodiversity. An

Ko 9

advocacy campaign based on appropriate knowledge can ensure government to examine the trade-off between economic growth and biodiversity conservation. Lastly, civil society will have a critical role in monitoring whether those conservation projects remain accountable for the conservation of biodiversity. The third recommendation is that the private sector should take a more active role in promoting a management practices and business models that seek to integrate sustainability into their activities. A famous example of this is the innovation that Interface Carpet has made to go green. The waste produced by Interface Carpet was so great, and the company was running it in an unsustainable manner. However, Interface Carpet gambled its profit by making an innovation which turned out to be a successful project (Houtman 89). If one pioneer makes a path for the others to follow, it is easy for the other companies to follow the same routine as Interface Carpet did. There must be the development of corporate responsibility strategies and the sharing of best practices in industry and sector group to which companies belong. The consumers who are concerned about environmental issues will then support those companies and give incentives to the companies to keep their work going. The fourth recommendation is that the national government which bears the major responsibility for addressing the root causes of biodiversity needs to recognize the conflict between economic development and the preservation of biodiversity (Wood 86). After recognizing such conflict, they need to resolve it. The national government made a many contradictory policies. A government is often taking a dual role of natural resource manager and natural resource user. This illustrated the difficulty inherent in choices government make. For example, in China, local and provincial government extracted huge revenue by degrading the forests while central government did not have a control over such exercises (Wood 42). Also, development policies with lack of adequate information can have a direct impact on biodiversity. So, basically, a government needs to evaluate all the root causes and take them

Ko 10

into the account. Last but most important recommendation is that all the communities need to work together to make this effort come true. The international community has to ensure that the context in which countries are being asked to make tough choices about their development is properly supportive of the objectives of sustainable development. If those countries lack the support of other developed countries, there is no other alternative way for them to choose but only exploit more until the depletion of such resource which will eventually affect biodiversity in a serious manner. This effort can be made by setting international laws to govern the use of biological resources. Also, most prevalent method is giving a financial support to those countries. Global Environment Facility has allocated around $2.75 billion over four years to support those countries under the pressure of biodiversity loss especially due to their economic dependence of natural resources (Wood 90). Only by engaging in such a global enterprise will we make headway in ensuring the adequate supply of natural resources and existence of biodiversity. We can come up with several broad conclusions from this analysis. First, it is clear that understanding biodiversity loss requires looking well beyond what is happening at local sites if we are to understand and to address the underlying root causes of this loss. Second, the underlying socioeconomic causes revealed in all those examples are two-fold: the heavy reliance on natural resources to address domestic and external pressures, and the common acceptance of a development model in which this use of resource is promoted. Third, the way to approach the solutions needs a holistic approach. In the face of the wide variety of factors that are working simultaneously, a more comprehensive approach to conservations needs to be developed. Lastly, biodiversity is important in our ecosystem and it is more valuable than what people might tend to think; most important in which is that humans are directly affected by loss of biodiversity. So, we need to take this issue with a serious manner.

Ko 11

Works Cited Cardinale, Bradley J. "Biodiversity Loss and Its Impact on Humanity." Review 486 (2012): 59-67. Nature. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <http://www.nature.com.proxy.library.nd.edu/nature/journal/v486/n7401/full/nature1 1148.html>. "Chapter 1." Progress towards Halting the Loss of Biodiversity by 2010. Copenhagen, Denmark: European Environment Agency, 2006. N. pag. Print. Houtman, Anne Michelle, Susan Karr, Jeneen Interlandi, and Teri Balser. "Chapter 5." Environmental Science: For a Changing World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print. James, Alexander, Kevin J. Gaston, and Andrew Balmford. "Can We Afford to Conserve Biodiversity?" BioScience 51.1 (2001): 43. Print. Quaas, Martin F., and Stefan Baumgärtner. "Natural vs. Financial Insurance in the Management of Public-good Ecosystems." Ecological Economics 65.2 (2008): 397406. Print. Salles, Jean-Mitchel. "Valuing Biodiverstiy and Ecosystem Services: Why Put Economic Values on Nature?" Comptes Rendus Biologies 334 (2011): 469-82. Print. Wood, Alexander, Pamela Stedman-Edwards, and Johanna Mang. The Root Causes of Biodiversity Loss. London: Earthscan, 2000. Print. Worm, B. "Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services." Science 314.5800 (2006): 787-90. Print.