Understanding the Biodiversity Crisis
Sun, April 18, 2021

Understanding the Biodiversity Crisis

Humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’ is nature and biodiversity. However, this safety net is now stretched almost to breaking point / Photo by: Richard Whitcombe via Shutterstock

 

Humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’ is nature and biodiversity. However, this safety net is now stretched almost to breaking point. The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reveals that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. The species extinction rate has increased by as much as three orders of magnitude. Moreover, the genetic ecosystem is at a steep decline with landscape converted to cropland systems. The unsustainable biodiversity loss is affecting human well being for both present and future generations. The world is in trouble if no action to protect nature will be undertaken. It is imperative to act now.

Why Biodiversity is Important

The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from terrestrial, marine, other aquatic ecosystems sources, and from the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” It is, in effect, everywhere: on Earth’s surface and in every drop of bodies of water. Simply put, biodiversity is the foundation of life on Earth.

Each species has a specific place, role, and task in an ecosystem. These roles include generating and storing energy, providing food, decomposing organic materials, cycling nutrients and water, controlling erosion and pests, and regulating climate. Throughout the food chain, species support biological production and regulation such as enhancing soil fertility, plant growth, pollination, predation, and waste decomposition. The more varied an ecosystem is, the more secure and productive it will likely be, and the better at surviving environmental stress. Biodiversity is essential for sustaining the natural ecosystems on which lives depend.

Each species has a specific place, role, and task in an ecosystem. These roles include generating and storing energy, providing food, decomposing organic materials, cycling nutrients and water, controlling erosion and pests, and regulating climate / Photo by: Ethan Daniels via Shutterstock

 

Ecosystem services, agriculture, forestry and fishery products, fertile soils, and a balanced climate rely on the protection of biodiversity. Food production depends on biodiversity for a variety of food plants, nutrient provision, pest control, disease prevention and control as well as medicinal plants and manufactured pharmaceuticals. A decline in biodiversity can lead to increased spread of diseases to humans and bigger healthcare costs.

Biodiversity is essential to development through water and energy security. It is a security issue as the loss of natural resources may lead to conflict. It is an ethical issue as the loss of biodiversity hurts the poorest people. It is equally important in regulating climate, water quality, pollution, pollination, flooding, and storm surges. It has a vital social value that provides comfort, safety, and health while passing through forests, green spaces, or rivers. It touches every aspect of living.

What to Do

A recent UN report on biodiversity approximates the global extinction rate of one million plants and animal species, estimated to be tens to hundreds of times greater than its average 10 million years ago. Not only are the species at risk, but also everything connected to them. The world is facing a monumental but not an insurmountable challenge. The course can still be altered to bring back a hopeful life.

Concerted efforts are necessary to address the causes of nature’s deterioration: poor authority and control, flawed economic systems, inequity, inadequate planning and motivation, and weak social values. Governing authorities should veer away from the restraining patterns of economic growth that highly rank GDP and instead recognize the social values of biodiversity and the social costs of environmental degradation.

Harmful agricultural, energy, and transportation subsidies and incentives should be eliminated. Existing policies need to be reviewed and strengthened particularly on the impact of increasing land and sea usage and exploitation of living creatures and climate change.

Policy actions and social initiatives should raise people’s awareness of the effects of using up nature, safeguarding local environments such as watersheds, enhancing sustainable local economies, and rebuilding degraded areas at various levels. Policies should be coupled with initiatives to expand current ecological networks. Likewise, sanctions should be introduced to deter harmful environmental degradations.

Concerted efforts are necessary to address the causes of nature’s deterioration: poor authority and control, flawed economic systems, inequity, inadequate planning and motivation, and weak social values / Photo by: seamind224 via Shutterstock

 

Specifically, the following sectors can scale up their actions to sustain biodiversity.

In agriculture, promising practices on agriculture, agroecology, multifunctional landscape planning, and integrated management should be promoted. Such practices can provide livelihood opportunities, food security, and sustenance of species and ecological functions. All players in the food system should be integrated and fully engaged in strategies empowering both consumers and producers in revitalizing local economies, reforming supply chains, and reducing food waste.

In marine sectors, ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management, spatial planning, and marine protected areas should be established. The major marine biodiversity areas should be well-managed to reduce pollution into oceans. Both producers and consumers should work hand in hand.

In freshwater sectors, policy options and actions may cover more inclusive water governance for joint water management and equity, better merging of water resource management and landscape planning, promoting and upgrading practices to reduce soil erosion, sedimentation and pollution, augmenting water storage; encouraging investment in water projects, and addressing the disintegrating freshwater policies.

In urban sectors, nature-based remedies can be promoted. Access to urban services can be increased to support a healthy urban environment for low-income communities. Likewise, access to green spaces and ecological connectivity should be launched and maintained. Sustainable production and consumption should also be set up.

In all the sectors, different value systems and diverse viewpoints and interests should be considered in the formulation of applicable policies and actions. Across key sector planning, biodiversity considerations should be prioritized and reforms and incentive structures instituted. Participation of all relevant players (government, private, civil society including indigenous and young people) in planning should be ensured to guarantee participative implementation.

Keep in mind what UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “the quality of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe all depend on keeping the natural world in good health.” The mitigating solutions to the biodiversity crisis are in the hands of man.