Our ecosystem involves complex interlocking of individual species which have evolved over millions of years. In this complex jig-saw puzzle kind of framework, the loss of any species has a significant impact on the remaining species. There is a danger of collapse of the ecosystem with some key pieces being lost.
Bio-diversity actually refers to the whole set of life forms that exist on this earth. Varieties exist at genetic as well as species level. Genetic meaning that there are genetic variations between individuals of same or different populations of the same species. Variety at the level of species means existence of different species that are inter-related by taxonomy. Ecosystem diversity or biodiversity is thus clearly not definable as there are not distinct boundaries between the ecosystems and they merge into each other. There are close to 1.4 million species known to exist on earth and certain ecosystems that are rarely discovered continue to be added to this count.
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Extinction is a law of nature and as a result some species have evolved while others have died ever since life originated on earth. But this extinction has come to an alarming rate due to human activities that affect the eco-system. As human population continues to grow and per capita consumptions has grown higher, Earth’s biological diversity is being exploited at an uncontrolled rate.
Wide scale deforestation and global climate change due to increased pollution levels are two prime factors that are linked with disturbed ecological balance. Tropical rain-forests have been destroyed and it has been counted as a matter of concern amongst the ecologists. If the exploitation of ecosystems due to unscrupulous activities like poaching, hunting, destruction of natural habitats for existence of flora and fauna continues at the present rate, the extinction of almost ¼ of the entire species on the earth is predicted in next 30 years. It may be that another 100 years would mark an end to the existence of life on earth.
Forests play a major role in conserving biodiversity. Climate of a place and the species inhabited by it are regulated by the forests. An increase of the amount of Carbon Monoxide is the most common consequence of forest depletion resulting both from cutting and burning of trees. It is this carbon dioxide which reaches the upper later of atmosphere and gives rise to the greenhouse effect resulting in global warming. Flooding and erosion of soil also result from deforestation as roots of trees assist in keeping the soil from being washed away.
Other indirect effects include the melting of snow and ice cover over the Polar Regions and as a result sea levels have risen by as much as 100-200mm in last 100 years. The disturbed weather conditions like drought, floods, acid rain, hurricanes causing havoc to human race as well as plants and animals species on the earth clearly indicate imbalance in ecological systems. Since climatic changes also affect the life forms that sustain, many species are under the threat of being lost with climatic changes taking a drastic shape.
It is important to control the economic activities that are highly inefficient and are threatening the ecological balance on earth. Resources like forests, wildlife must be conserved at a sustainable rate by taking various approaches to save them. We must be far-sighted in our efforts for conservation and management and keep clear objectives and have mechanisms for action to get any real results. Specialized solutions may have to be devised to prevent the loss of species. Only setting aside areas of reserves may not suffice as a solution to conserving bio-diversity.
Instead, it is important to understand the ecological processes like pollination, predation, seed dispersal etc which allow for interactions between various species of animals and plants and ensure them.
Protected area networks such as more national parks and wildlife sanctuaries provide habitats to the plants and the animal species and thus conserve ecosystems appropriate to their survival. Surveys must be done to collect adequate data on the species of plants and animals.
Based on results, priority issues must be addressed and research carried out focusing on these issues. Mapping of forest types and natural forests must be done to help preserve the biodiversity by determination of possible corridors and buffer zones. Protection of biodiversity lying outside the protected areas is important owing to the habitat fragmentation and losses suffered by various species.
A correct approach towards integration of protected and non-protected areas should be followed to check the isolated population structure of species that are moving towards extinction. Biodiversity conservation is important as human species is linked to the natural world and its survival is possible only if biodiversity is rightly conserved.
Ecosystems are essential to our well-being and prosperity as they provide us with food, clean air and fresh water. Ecosystems also represent an exceptional source of outdoor recreation opportunities. The functions performed by ecosystems that increase our well-being are called ecosystem services. The PEER Research on EcoSystem Services (PRESS) initiative describes how different EU policies can help to increase the services and benefits provided by ecosystems, and calls for the inclusion of the ecosystem services approach into European policy measures affecting the use or state of natural resources.
The results of this research initiative were presented in Brussels on 13 September to an international panel of experts which helps DG Environment of the European Commission with the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. The report prepared to describe these results outlines a strategy which aims to promote a better understanding of how ecosystems and biodiversity provide essential benefits to our society. Launched in 2010, the PRESS initiative demonstrated how European researchers, including social scientists, economists, and ecologists, can combine their expertise to map and assess the natural, social and economic values of ecosystems services.
The first phase of the study, which was concluded in September 2011 with the publication of a first PRESS report, demonstrated methodologies to map the role of ecosystems as providers of clean water and recreation and investigated how ecosystem services can be mainstreamed into agriculture, fisheries or forestry policies. The second and final phase of the study consisted of case studies carried out on pollination, recreation and water purification to explore how assessment methods to measure and map ecosystem services might be developed at multiple spatial scales.
A spatial assessment of ecosystem services in Europe: Methods, case studies and policy analysis -- phase 2. Synthesis report is intended to convey four main policy messages:
- The capacity of wetlands, rivers, streams and lakes to remove or immobilize pollutants is essential to the provision of clean water for multiple uses and decreases costs of wastewater treatment based on technological solutions only. New proposals of the European Commission to green the Common Agricultural Policy and to restore wetland ecosystems are predicted to have positive effects on water purification services, thereby improving water quality and increasing the economic benefits to society.
- Outdoor recreation services are one of the most immediate perceived benefits of ecosystems to people. The PRESS study presents evidence of high visitation rates to natural areas, in particular forests. Surveys show that citizens are willing to pay for continued access to forest ecosystems for recreation purposes. On a national scale, the value of forests for recreation may be in a range of billions of Euros. This value increases when we consider the avoided cost for health care due to the restorative and stress reduction capacity of recreational activities. Green urban areas such as city parks also have high recreational potential. The PRESS study report describes spatial methods to identify where investments in green urban areas reach their highest potential.
- Insects such as bees and bumblebees are key actors in providing pollination services to maintain Europe's crop production, in particular of fruit and vegetables. High resolution data of forests and riparian areas were used to map the ecosystems in which bees and bumblebees build nests and find nectar-carrying flowers. Such information is important to convince farmers to help manage and protect these habitats as they increase their agricultural output.
- The mapping, assessment and valuation of ecosystem services are necessary but not sufficient steps in achieving the ecosystem services targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. We need to develop a thorough understanding of how we determine the levels of the various ecosystem services and the impacts of current policies on ecosystems.
Sound and cost-effective management of ecosystems should also take into account those EU policies that directly and indirectly influence ecosystems and the services they provide, e.g. policies designed to bring about social and economic changes, such as those on international trade, agriculture, land use, and nature conservation.
Including the ecosystem services concept in all social and economic policies would allow for a systematic review of their impacts on services, beyond conventional environmental assessments. The PRESS initiative recommends that new policies should be flexible in design and continuously monitored in order to be able to react and adapt to new circumstances, and that baseline levels and goals should be quantified in order to be able to measure progress. It calls for the broad collaboration of stakeholders at all levels, including researchers, policy makers, and citizens.
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Cemagref. "Protecting ecosystems brings benefits to society." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917132148.htm>.
Cemagref. (2012, September 17). Protecting ecosystems brings benefits to society. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917132148.htm
Cemagref. "Protecting ecosystems brings benefits to society." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120917132148.htm (accessed March 13, 2018).