Maintaining biodiversity

Biodiversity means the variety of life forms/organisms in an ecosystem, biome or entire planet. Globally, biodiversity is not evenly distributed. It generally increases from the poles towards the equator as around 50% of the world’s plants and animals live in tropical rainforests. This is because of the proximity to the equator causing a warmer, more moist, stable climate which means plants grow better and can support more species higher up in the food chain. Standard of living is the level of wealth, goods and services, which are available to a person or ground within a population.

For development and to improve people’s standard of living, it’s often necessary to make use of the world’s biodiversity. However, it has become clear that we must preserve the current level of biodiversity so that we can maintain the carbon sink that rainforests provide and so that we can continue researching and finding developments in certain medicines that rainforests can provide. Human beings have exploited the tropical rainforests for many years now for their abundance of resources and their biodiversity. The moist exploited is the Amazon rainforest which has already lost 20% of its area forever.

Deforestation is the single biggest threat to the rainforest; the prime cause of it is cattle ranching. This is when land is cleared to provide space for cattle ranchers to herd their livestock to help increase beef production. This activity accounts for 60% of deforestation in Brazil, which is having a major effect on the biodiversity of the ecosystem. The impacts of deforestation are wide. In the Amazon there have been problems with increased forest fires, soil erosion and decreased biodiversity, caused by habitat loss. Subsistence farming is another factor causing an increase in deforestation, being responsible for 25% in the Amazon.

People migrate into the rainforest, clear areas of land and farm on that area as after 5 years it’s legally theirs. However, due to more people searching for plots there is greater pressure on the amount of available land. The logging industry is responsible for a relatively small level of deforestation, accounting for 3% in Brazil. Consequently, all these activity contribute together to the rapid loss of what is left of the rainforest and a large proportion of the world’s biodiversity. All of the resources that the rainforest provides could be lost in the next 40 years.

The Grande Carajas mining project, Brazil as well as other individual projects have created a series of problems for the rainforests. The Grande Carajas project in particular is a large complex of open pit mines, which takes up more than 6miles of rainforest. Along with many other schemes of this nature, the Grande Carajas is contributing to the continued deforestation of the Amazon. In addition large areas were deforested to make way for the construction of The Trans-Amazonian Highway, which was meant to allow access in and out of several project schemes.

After the highway was built evidence of soil erosion could be seen as the ground was left exposed due to the lack of vegetation. Access roads like this have been known to encourage settlements for the transport links they offer, and people will often settle close to the road, which leads to deforestation in order to create space. The HEP Project; the Tucurui dam also had similar affects to the Amazon. The reservoir created by the dam has an area of over 2000km, making it 5X the size of the Isle of Wight.

This entire portion of the Brazilian rainforest has been drowned and the wildlife lost, there is also the possibility that unknown and endangered species were killed because of the creation therefore reducing biodiversity. Despite this, the scheme has been a key source for clean, renewable energy through the use of hydroelectric power; however the upset the project caused outweighs the benefits of the generated power. Sustainable development has been successful in many ways in minimising the loss of Biodiversity whilst creating economic development and wealth for countries with TRF biomes.

Despite the damage The Grande Carajas mining project caused it has also aimed to be quite eco-friendly. It has resulted in the demolition of trees on only 1. 6% of its total areas. This has been shown to not of inhibited the project from becoming one of the world’s largest mines or from them supplying to countries such as Japan and Germany. Therefore, it’s not necessary to destroy the forest in order to achieve increased levels of wealth. Rubber tapping is an alternative industry to logging. It’s a process where rubber and latex are extracted from rubber trees.

It’s an old tradition, which could be the reason for 63,000 families carrying it out on a daily basis. This type of sustainable development is successful, as it doesn’t involve cutting down or damaging trees so reserves can be established to allow rubber tappers to continue on the tradition allowing the culture to live on. This also provides jobs for future generations and gives them the opportunity to improve their standard of living. For centuries, tribal communities have extracted non-timber products such as fruits and nuts. One Acai palm tree produces 20kg of fruit annually which can be used to produce wine.

Because the extraction technique doesn’t involve damaging the tree, deforestation rates have noticeably dropped, in spite of this Brazilian GDP has continued to increase. In contrast not all interests are shared in relation to preserving biodiversity. In spite of laws and restrictions approximately 80% of logging in Brazil is illegal and violates government controls and just 1% of logging is done sustainably. By law farmers are limited to 3 hectares per year, however this is very difficult to monitor and enforce so the limit is commonly exceeded.

Ecotourism also aims to reduce the negative impacts caused by mass tourism. Whilst allowing people to visits places of natural beauty, tourists are encouraged to stay in self sustaining lodges/huts, use little electricity, dispose of waste safely and all income made from tourism goes to locals meaning the industry can be maininatined and improved for generations to come. For the Masai tribe, population pressure has meant overgrazing has left less and less space for their animals to graze even though their indigenous region is protected.

The poaching of endangered species in these areas is also common, directly violating government regulations showing how insignificant the laws are to the people. Its imperative for ecosystems to maintain a high level of biodiversity as having a range of species helps maintain the ecosystem, i. e. : insects pollinate plants and animals disperse seeds. If one species dies out the entire ecosystem is affected. Biodiversity helps ecosystems adapt to the changing physical conditions, e. g. : If the climate changes in an ecosystem

with low biodiversity all the species may die. When biodiversity is high, there’s a better chance that some of the species in an ecosystem will be able to adapt to the new conditions and survive. Reducing biodiversity threatens ecosystems and can be unsustainable. Humans rely on ecosystems to supply important natural resources such as food and fuel – when biodiversity is reduced; ecosystems are less able to produce these resources. This means that future generations won’t be able to make use of them to meet their needs.

Personally, I would suggest that it’s not impossible to maintain the current level of biodiversity whilst improving the standard of living. As countries like Brazil have provide the momentum to push towards this goal as they was able to slow the rate of deforestation whilst still maintaining a high GDP. Giving proof that the world’s wildlife can be preserved and maintained whilst improving the economy and the standard of living. The creation of conservation complex’s such as the Central Amazon Complex has protected the surrounding area form major developments that might have impacts on the CACC.

Ecotourism provides a source of income for locals and promotes conservation – in Mamiraua a low environmental impact ecotourism lodge has been built, which recycles waste and uses solar power. Reserves like this one are large and understaffed which makes it difficult to monitor and control illegal activities i. e. hunting. However initiatives that propose benefits for the local people may help deforestation rates etc to decrease as tax incentives as well as other benefits may give villages the tools needed to farm sustainably and help maintain biodiversity whilst achieving a reasonable standard of living which can only be built upon.

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