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Biodiversity – Natural Environment Saves Livelihoods and Lives

Biodiversity – Natural Environment Saves Livelihoods and Lives

Biodiversity is in full swing these days. 2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity. The commitment to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010 was included in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (U.N.) in 2005.

Biodiversity refers to the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems that make up life on Earth. It provides the world with a variety of essential goods and services, including all basic material needs (food, wood, fiber and medicines), to basic ecosystem services such as flood and pest control, pollination and climate regulation.

Loss of biodiversity and environmental impact

Biodiversity is lost when animal and plant species disappear in certain areas or on the entire planet. The annual "Red List" of the World Conservation Union, the most comprehensive scientific assessment of animals and plants in the world, put the number of endangered species at 16,306 in 2007, pushing 52 species per category closer to extinction each year.

Up to half of all logging in the five major timber producing countries in 2009 concerned unsustainable, illegal logging. The strong global demand for seafood in the form of high seas predators such as tuna and salmon threatens the biodiversity of the oceans. In Zimbabwe, poaching in national parks and private wildlife sanctuaries by supporters of President Robert Mugabe is said to have cost the country more than half of its wildlife.

The negative effects of many natural disasters are compounded by the failure to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services. This is regularly reflected in the consequences of disasters around the world from Haiti to Indonesia. For example, deforestation makes many areas more susceptible to mudslides that wipe out homes, crops and lives.

Design the issue

The group of the world's top 8 industrial nations has launched the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) project to study the economic impact of ecosystem services and biodiversity change. The 2010 TEEB study estimates the annual value of global wetlands at $ 3.4 billion and the annual loss of natural capital from ecosystems such as forests at $ 2 to $ 4.5 trillion. Other recent estimates quantify the economic value of the benefits of conserving the biodiversity of natural ecosystems at 10 to 100 times their cost.

In most cases, people living in less developed countries are the brunt of the impact of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. These people rely directly on nature for food, shelter and income. They generally lack the resources or training to use the modern, artificial resources that are available to wealthier populations to offset the loss of nature's services.

Success stories for preserving biodiversity

Fortunately, we are able to restore and protect biodiversity and natural ecosystem services. There have been some remarkable success stories already.

An innovative Indonesian conservation law passed in 2007 has enabled the management of sustainable logging and ecosystem restoration.

In Costa Rica, a study found that coffee plantations near woodlands achieved 20 percent higher yields due to the economic benefits of pollinating organisms, resulting in an additional income of $ 60,000 per farmer.

The extinction of at least 16 species of birds was prevented between 1994 and 2004 by a number of environmental protection programs, including habitat management, the eradication of invasive species, captive breeding and the reintroduction of endangered species.

The benefits of biodiversity conservation and healthy ecosystems are prevalent in both developed and remote areas. New York City has restored the quality of its drinking water by restoring the local natural ecosystem. It avoided paying $ 8 billion for a water treatment plant that would otherwise have been required by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

International development and foreign aid

Wealthy donors such as the Eight have an important role to play in conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services in developing countries. Donor countries tend to look too closely at aid for humanitarian and physical infrastructure projects. Both are immensely important and valuable, but they often do not treat biodiversity as an important driver of economic livelihood and survival in much of the developing world. Effective aid packages should empower developing country institutions and provide incentives for local actors to actively participate in the conservation of their own natural ecosystems.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The global supply chains of multinational companies can have a huge impact on biodiversity and local ecosystems. Businesses need to make adopting and implementing sustainability practices a core part of their corporate social responsibility policies. Local governments could promote green corporate behaviors by linking incentives with the introduction of sustainable business practices to deliver a positive return on their investment in these incentives.

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