The Economic Benefits Of Preserving Biodiversity Environmental Sciences
Biodiversity can be defined as the degree of variation of life form in a given species, ecosystem, biome etcâ€¦ It is additionally an indicator of the health of an area, indeed, the more biodiversity there is in a given area, the more the ecosystem is strong toward different hazards that it could encounter. But this biodiversity is also function of climate conditions, in fact, in tropical zones; this amount of life form will be huge while in North Pole or in Sahara desert, due to the extreme conditions,it will be low.
Species have long been studied alone without taking into account their behaviour toward other species and their environment. With the Darwin's evolution theory arouse ecology science, which is "the scientific study of the interaction that determines the distribution and abundance of organisms". Consequently, a species is now considered as "an integrated whole of interdependent parts that function as a unit", in one word, an ecosystem.
Every ecosystem has its own particularity of functioning, but it can be defined generally by the role of each part to keep the whole in balance. Several aspects are taken into account.
The food chain, for example, is one of these aspects, in fact, every living organisms is classified by its diet habit, leading to a scheme which shows the interaction between the diverse type of animals:
Every interaction between each part of the food chain is called a trophic level, indeed, primary producers will allow primary consumers to feed, leading them to live and reproduce. In the next trophic level, the primary consumers will allow secondary consumers to feed and reproduce, and so on to the upper trophic levels. This interaction, by the fact that every species have needs, is predominant for an ecosystem, a biome or a biosphere to be in balance.
In this example, the biodiversity is important to keep this balance between all species, because several species can have the same role, and if one goes extinct, it will allow another to expand, and become a dominant species towards its own role. But if there is only one species for a given role, depending on the importance of its role, it can destroy the whole balance, and then, the consequences can be important, leading to a weakening or even the death of an ecosystem, and since we rely on these natural resources to live, it also affects us.
The term "biodiversity" arouse about twenty five years ago, and by this, scientists signified that the goal was not only to conserve certain spaces or species, but to cope with a global rupture of our relations with nature, comparable to the crisis that leaded to the extinction, sixty five million years ago, of dinosaurs. The erosion of this biodiversity had never been as fast as the last fifty years, indeed, today, it is considered that about "the two third of the ecosystems are exploited over their carrying capacity".
But how can this erosion affect our modern economies and our way of life? And what are the direct benefits of preserving and improving the global planet's biodiversity?
It has been proven that "At least 40 per cent of the world's economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources." ( The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity web site.)
Additionally, the current rate of destruction of species -which is largely more important than the background extinction rate (which is natural extinction rate e.g. 50 bird species for a period of 100 years)-"is estimated to cost the world trillion of dollars every year", and if nothing is done, because of population growth, this amount will increase. Included in this cost, for example, the economic value of honey bee's pollination of crops is estimated at about one hundred and fifty three billion dollars, about ten percent of the world's food production.
A healthy biodiversity is consequently mandatory to have a healthy and reliable economy, and several positive aspects can be identified.
Firstly, it increases biological resources and, for example, in a food production point of view, a greater plant's diversity means a greater variety of crops leading to a more varied feeding stock for human, and in addition, a greater protection toward hazards such as diseases that can affect crops.
In fact, preserving biodiversity preserves local economies, and to illustrate this, we can use a comparison between polyculture and monoculture in a given area.
Let's take for example a rice crops area in India, farmer A will use diverse strains of rice coming from the local community and farmer B will use only one strain (also used in part by farmer A), considered as the most productive and efficient.
Along the years, and for the same area, farmer B will produce more than farmer A, but if a specific disease acts on the rice crops, and the strain of farmer B is particularly weak towards this disease, the whole production of farmer B will be lost, while only a small part of the production of farmer A will be lost. The local community will consequently keep food stock, while if it has only been monoculture, it would have been a huge cost to import food from another place.
Moreover, local agriculture is more sustainable than intensive agriculture. Indeed, in a short term aspect, intensive agriculture may give an increased production, but on a longer time scale, this production will fall because of the wearing away of the soils induced by the too intensive agriculture which does not take into account the nutrient cycle of the ground and artificially add nutrients to boost production, and this can lead to a situation where the soil is "not exploitable any more."
Additionally, increasing biological resources can also increase medicinal knowledge and pharmaceutical production, or sustainably increase for example wood production.
Secondly, preserving biodiversity brings social benefits, such as the promotion of local cultural values, leading to an improved understanding of the local surroundings, useful for research, education and monitoring.
Moreover, it can have for effect to improve tourism, leading to a development of local economies, or the reverse, if the biodiversity is not preserved, tourism can fall, and some local communities which rely mostly on this resource to live will fall with it.
Thirdly, preserving biodiversity give natural services such as the preservation of water resources, the stabilization and protection of soils, leading to a decreased risk of landslides and an increased efficiency in nutrient's cycle for crops (leading to an increased food productivity).
Additionally, it increases the pollution breakdown and absorption by natural spaces, which is important against the climate change that we encounter today due to greenhouse gases such as CO2, which amount can be decreased by forests or oceans absorption. And in the reverse way, the fact of preserving biodiversity implies to decrease all types of human pollutions, leading to a positive cycle of depollution and consequently a contribution to climate stability.
The maintenance of ecosystem's health and function also leads to an increased natural recovery from unpredictable events and, in some cases, also brings natural protections against those unpredictable events such as the mangroves protecting lands against floods or coral reefs protecting coasts against the effects of a tsunami or a typhoon. It consequently leads, on a financial aspect, to decrease the costs of the consequences of those natural and unpredictable events.
Moreover, the human induced landscape modification can create increased costs, as for example the transformation of forests in southern France due to boat construction during the 18th century. In fact, most of the forests were transformed from polyspecific forests with a majority of oaks to monospecific forests composed of Scots Pines. This is explained by the nature of the wood itself (Scots pines are more resistant to humidity) and the growing cycle of the trees (a cycle of 60 years for an oak to be exploited against a cycle of 30 years for a Scots Pine). Consequently nowadays, because of the high flammability of pine needles and the lack of great herbivorous - such as the European Bison, which feces contain natural bacteria decomposing acid pine needles- southern France Mountains are largely more subject to fires than before, leading to an increased cost to fight against them.
Finally, preserving biodiversity also increases Natural capital and, since industrial capital is function of natural capital, it leads to an increased amount of primary products, and then, an increased industrial capital leading to an increased production capacity (scheme Indus/Natural), and also, nowadays, if companies take into account the cost of their impact towards nature prior to produce, it is easier to limit it, and consequently the costs are decreased.
To conclude, we can say that preserving biodiversity brings several advantages to society's economy, it firstly limits economic costs, such as the human and financial costs of natural disasters (such as lack of food due to diseases), and brings economic advantages, such as the strengthen toward diseases of the gene's diversity, it also brings indirect benefits such as the increase of tourism, which develops the local community's economy. And after all, it begins to become mandatory.
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