Tag Archives: Importance of Biodiversity

Why Biodiversity Matters?

I read this interesting article in the Financial Times by Fiona Harvey titled “Bad for Biodiversity is Bad for Business”. It gave an interesting perspective to the argument in favor of development at any cost. United Nations has set aside this year as the International year for Biodiversity. The article says biodiversity is not an animal or plant issue, it is a human survival issue. Businesses in general tend to overlook the value of nature apart from Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals and food.

The article talk about 3 species which would not even capture our eye in any positive way.

The first one is the Gribble – teeny water dwelling wood boring insect, which was the scourge of many a sailor in his wooden ships of yore. No w scientists are hoping this insect could save the world! Wondering how? Enzymes from the gribble which help to digest wood are being investigated as a source for producing biofuels. If replicated scientists believe they can convert waste into biofuel!

The second one in the list is the Rosy periwinkle found only on the island of Madagascar. Locals believe it can cure diabetes, but scientists have found that it has substances which can help in fighting cancers, including childhood leukemia! Sad reality is that the plant is endangered in the wild though wildly cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

The third one is Pyrethrum, from the family of the common daisies. Pyrethrum native to the Balkans and surrounding areas have been found to possess the extraordinary quality of being toxic to mosquitoes and other insects! Now it is being grown commercially to make insect repellants.

The writer says these insects and plants are just a very small bit of what nature holds as answers to many of humankinds pressing problems. “They are living examples of the worth of biodiversity” says Peter Seligmann, Chief executive of Conservation International. He says “If nature gets cooked, we get cooked”.

The TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity) study conducted in India by led by the Deutsche Bank’s global market business to estimate the cost of degradation and neglect of natural environments found that preserving biodiversity in some areas most at risk of species loss would yield about $4000 Billion to $5000 Billion a year in benefits!

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study is a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward.

Nature’s benefits often provide the most sustainable, cost-effective solutions to meet human needs. Considering ecosystem services in policy making can save on future municipal costs, boost local economies, enhance quality of life and secure livelihoods. This approach also helps tackle poverty by revealing the distribution of scarce and essential resources and services.

In 2006 the 61st UN General assembly had taken a pledge to do everything possible to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and they have fallen behind. In this year’s meeting they will have to reset the goal and amp up the actions to make sure biodiversity loss is curtailed.

Some facts and thoughts on biodiversity and its importance:

  • For the first time since the Dinosaurs disappeared Humans are driving species to extinction faster than they can evolve say experts.
  • Just last year in the forests of Papau New Guinea the researchers from Conservation International identified 100 new species!
  • We took 10,000 years to turn from hunter gathers to farmers on land, now we wont need 10 years to do the same in the sea.
  • We cannot manage what we do not measure.
  • Humankind has still a lot to learn about the nature of value, and the Value of Nature.
  • Biodiversity is not just a luxury of the rich: but a necessity for the poor.
  • Investment in a functioning environment is often considered a luxury rather than life insurance. Why is it so?
  • The insights provided by a careful examination of the benefits of ecosystem services can significantly contribute to improved management in the realms of forestry, fisheries, agriculture, nature tourism and protection against natural hazards.

I am reminded of the John Muir quote “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” To me that is how the world is, all interconnected by invisible threads- we never understand the depth of impact when one thread is broken until it is too late.

Species on the brink of being declared extinct

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 208 species as “possibly extinct”, more than half of which are amphibians. They are defined as species which are “on the balance of evidence likely to be extinct, but for which there is a small chance that they may still be extant”.

Kouprey (or Grey ox; Bos sauveli)

What: Wild cattle with horns that live in small herds

Domain: Mostly Cambodia; also Laos, Vietnam, Thailand

Population: No first-hand sightings since 1969

Main threats: hunting for meat and trade, livestock diseases and habitat destruction

Webbed-footed coqui (or stream coqui; Eleutherodactylus karlschmidti)

What: Large black frog living in mountain streams

Domain: East and west Puerto Rico

Population: Not seen since 1976

Main threats: Disease (chytridiomycosis), climate change and invasive predators

Golden coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus jasperi)

What: Small orange frog living in forest or open rocky areas

Domain: Sierra de Cayey, Puerto Rico

Population: No sightings since 1981

Main threats: Unknown but suspected habitat destruction, climate change, disease (chytridiomycosis) and invasive predators

Spix’s macaw (or little blue macaw; Cyanopsitta spixii)

What: Bright blue birds with long tails and grey/white heads

Domain: Brazil

Population: The last known wild bird disappeared in 2000; there are 78 in captivity

Main threats: Destruction of the birds’ favoured Tabebuia caraiba trees for nesting, and trapping

Café marron (Ramosmania rodriguesii)

What: White flowering shrub related to the coffee plant family

Domain: Island of Rodrigues, Republic of Mauritius

Population: A single wild plant is known

Main threats: Habitat loss, introduced grazing animals and alien plants

Source: IUCN and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. To mark the International Year of Biodiversity, the IUCN is running a daily profile of a threatened species throughout 2010. See iucn.org.

Will do a detailed write up on TEEB tomorrow.

Sources –

Financial Times

TEEB

UN Convention on Biological Diversity

UN International Year of Biodiversity