"Governments must provide the framework to protect biodiversity"July 4th, 2011
The destruction of natural habitats is not only damaging for biodiversity, but also has a long-term impact on the socio-economic welfare of humans, reports 17-year-old Grant Duthie, a Commonwealth Correspondent from the Gold Coast of Australia.
Let’s cut to the chase: biodiversity is in a shocking state and global action to mitigate the erosion of habitats is dismal.
This fraying web of life that supports our continued existence is confronted with explosive demands for resources, mixed with unstoppable human population growth that shows no signs of slowing.
In the last century, over half of the world’s wetlands were lost. Logging has helped to shrink the world’s forests by half. Some 9 per cent of the world’s pristine tree species are currently at risk of extinction as tropical deforestation today exceeds 130,000 square kilometres per year.
Ecosystem clearing for agriculture, wetlands drainage and the spread of urbanisation are major factors in the change of vegetation patterns and the loss of habitat for native species of wildlife.
Humans have an enormous impact on the environment with large areas of natural vegetation modified or destroyed in order to make way for houses, roads, crops and livestock. Furthermore, changed fire regimes, salination from agriculture and waterway contamination (I think you get the drift) have all changed the biotic and abiotic composition of habitats, diminishing their ability to sustain the full range of indigenous species.
The adverse impacts of biodiversity decline on the long-term socio-economic welfare of people are likely to be profound. These may include loss of economic opportunities from the commercial use or harvesting of renewable resources, disruption or destruction of important ecological processes upon which critical life processes depend, and loss of aesthetic, spiritual or cultural experiences intrinsic to the quality of human life.
Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity and plays an important role in helping to support human life and long-term survival. The earth’s diverse ecosystems ensure the protection of water resources, soil formation and protection, nutrient storage and recycling, pollution breakdown, climate regulation and ecosystem maintenance.
It is largely the responsibility of governments to provide the institutional framework to ensure that ecological limits are properly integrated into decision-making. Proactive government policy to conserve biodiversity involves conservation through national parks and reserves, and improved educational awareness and understanding of the complex ecological relationships and the effects of human impacts.
It requires planning and managing for ecologically sustainable use of our natural resources and individual and community responsibility and co-operation in local initiatives. Threats to biodiversity such as invasive species also need to be minimised. It also involves finally becoming more globally proactive to ensure other nations are aware of their ability to make a valuable contribution to long-term sustainability of the earth’s fragile ecosystems.
Our interference in pristine ecosystems and environments has resulted in deplorable consequences. It is essential that we address the loss of biodiversity as with each extinction we create a world that is ecologically unbalanced and jeopardise our own long-term existence.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
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