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  1. 1. Biodiversity: What is it, where is it, and why is it important? Biodiversity reflects the number, variety and variability of living organisms. It includes diversity within species, between species, and among ecosystems. The concept also covers how this diversity changes from one location to another and over time. Indicators such as the number of species in a given area can help in monitoring certain aspects of biodiversity Biodiversity is everywhere, both on land and in water. It includes all organisms, from microscopic bacteria to more complex plants and animals.
  2. 2. Why is biodiversity loss a concern? Biodiversity loss has negative effects on several aspects of human well-being, such as food security, vulnerability to natural disasters, energy security, and access to clean water and raw materials. It also affects human health, social relations, and freedom of choice. Society tends to have various competing goals, many of which depend on biodiversity. When humans modify an ecosystem to improve a service it provides, this generally also results in changes to other ecosystem services. For example, actions to increase food production can lead to reduced water availability for other uses. As a result of such trade-offs, many services have been degraded, for instance fisheries, water supply, and protection against natural hazards. In the long term, the value of services lost may greatly exceed the short-term economic benefits that are gained from transforming ecosystems.
  3. 3. Unlike goods bought and sold in markets, many ecosystem services are not traded in markets for readily observable prices. This means that the importance of biodiversity and natural processes in providing benefits to humans is ignored by financial markets. New methods are being used to assign monetary values to benefits such as recreation or clean drinking water. Degradation of ecosystem services could be significantly slowed down or reversed if the full economic value of these services were taken into account in decision-making. Over the last century, some people have benefited from the conversion of natural ecosystems and an increase in international trade, but other people have suffered from the consequences of biodiversity losses and from restricted access to resources they depend upon. Changes in ecosystems are harming many of the world's poorest people, who are the least able to adjust to these changes.
  4. 4. What are the current trends in biodiversity? Virtually all of Earth’s ecosystems have been dramatically transformed through human actions and ecosystems continue to be converted for agricultural and other uses. The current loss of biodiversity and the related changes in the environment are now faster than ever before in human history and there is no sign of this process slowing down. Many animal and plant populations have declined in numbers, geographical spread, or both. Species extinction is a natural part of Earth’s history. Human activity has increased the extinction rate by at least 100 times compared to the natural rate. Virtually all of Earth's ecosystems have been dramatically transformed through human actions, for example, 35% of mangrove and 20% of coral reef areas have been lost.
  5. 5. Land areas where the changes have been particularly quick over the past two decades include: •the Amazon basin and Southeast Asia (deforestation and expansion of croplands); •Asia (land degradation in drylands); and •Bangladesh, Indus Valley, parts of Middle East and Central Asia, and the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa. Since 1960, intensification of agricultural systems coupled with specialization by plant breeders and the harmonizing effects of globalization have led to a substantial reduction in the genetic diversity of domesticated plants and animals. Today a third of the 6 500 breeds of domestic species are threatened with extinction.
  6. 6. Comparing different types of measurements of biodiversity loss is not simple. The rate of change in one aspect of biodiversity, such as loss of species richness, does not necessarily reflect the change in another, such as habitat loss. Furthermore, the fact that the distribution of species on Earth is becoming more homogeneous as a result of human activities represents a loss of biodiversity that is often missed when only considering changes in terms of total numbers of species.
  7. 7. What factors lead to biodiversity loss?
  8. 8. The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world’s ecosystem, In fact human beings have deeply altered the environment, and have modified the territory, exploiting the species directly, for example by fishing and hunting, changing the biogeochemical cycles and transferring species from one area to another of the Planet. The threats to biodiversity can be summarized in the following main points:
  9. 9. •Alteration and loss of the habitats: the transformation of the natural areas determines not only the loss of the vegetable species, but also a decrease in the animal species associated to them. Refer to “Alteration and loss of the habitats”. •Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms: species originating from a particular area, introduced into new natural environments can lead to different forms of imbalance in the ecological equilibrium. Refer to, “Introduction of exotic species and genetically modified organisms”.
  10. 10. •Climate change: for example, heating of the Earth’s surface affects biodiversity because it endangers all the species that adapted to the cold due to the latitude (the Polar species) or the altitude (mountain species). •Pollution: human activity influences the natural environment producing negative, direct or indirect, effects that alter the flow of energy, the chemical and physical constitution of the environment and abundance of the species; •Overexploitation of resources: when the activities connected with capturing and harvesting (hunting, fishing, farming) a renewable natural resource in a particular area is excessively intense, the resource itself may become exhausted, as for example, is the case of sardines, herrings, cod, tuna and many other species that man captures without leaving enough time for the organisms to reproduce.
  11. 11. How might biodiversity change in the future under various plausible scenarios? The four plausible scenarios explored in this assessment consider two possible paths of world development: increasing globalization or increasing regionalization. The four scenarios are: Global Orchestration - This scenario depicts a globally-connected society that focuses on global trade and economic liberalization and takes a reactive approach to ecosystem problems. Under this scenario, poverty is reduced, but a number of ecosystem services are deteriorated. While progress is made on global environmental problems, such as greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of marine fish stocks, some local and regional problems are exacerbated. Order from Strength - This scenario represents a regionalized and fragmented world, concerned with security and protection, that and takes a reactive approach to ecosystem problems. The rich protect their borders, attempting to confine poverty, conflict, environmental degradation, and deterioration of ecosystem services to areas outside their borders.
  12. 12. •Adapting Mosaic - In this scenario, regional ecosystems are the focus of political and economic activity. Societies develop a local strongly proactive approach to the management of ecosystems. Some regions are successful, others learn from them, but some ecosystems still suffer long-lasting degradation. •TechnoGarden - This scenario depicts a globally- connected world relying strongly on technology to provide or improve the provision of ecosystem services. Under this scenario, environmental problems are dealt with proactively in an effort to avoid problems. People push ecosystems to produce as much as possible, but this often undermines the ability of ecosystems to support themselves, which in turn can have serious consequences for human well-being.
  13. 13. Overall, in all four scenarios, agricultural land will expand and forest cover will shrink, particularly in developing countries. This will lead to a continuing decline in local and global biodiversity, mainly as a result of habitat loss. More proactive approaches to the environment will be more successful in slowing these trends. Aquatic biodiversity and specific fish populations are expected to decline due to factors such as excessive levels of nutrients, overharvesting, invasion by alien species, and pollution.
  14. 14. Human well-being will be affected by biodiversity loss both directly and indirectly. Direct effects include an increased risk of sudden environmental changes such as fisheries collapses, floods, droughts, wildfires, and disease. Changes will also affect human well-being indirectly, for instance in the form of conflicts due to scarcer food and water resources. Though the average income per person (GDP) is projected to rise in all scenarios, this can mask increased inequity for instance in terms of food security. Major decisions will have to address trade-offs between competing goals, for instance between agricultural production and water quality, or between water use and aquatic biodiversity. Policies that conserve more biodiversity are also promoting higher overall human well-being by preserving multiple benefits obtained from ecosystems.
  15. 15. What actions can be taken to conserve biodiversity? Protected areas are an essential part of conservation programs, but they are not sufficient by themselves to protect the full range of biodiversity and can be difficult to enforce. To be successful, sites for protected areas need to be carefully chosen, ensuring that all regional ecosystems are well represented, and the areas need to be well designed and effectively managed. Market tools, such as direct payments for ecosystem services or transfers of ownership rights to private individuals, can provide economic incentives to conserve biodiversity and to use ecosystem services sustainably.
  16. 16. Prevention and early intervention have proven to be the most successful and cost-effective way of tackling invasive species. Once an invasive species has become established, its control and particularly its eradication through the use of chemicals or through the introduction of other species is not necessarily effective and is extremely difficult and costly. To be conserved, biodiversity must be integrated into the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors. These sectors are directly dependent on biodiversity and affect it directly. The private sector can make significant contributions, for example by adopting certain agricultural practices. Many companies now show greater corporate responsibility and are preparing their own biodiversity action plans. Strong institutions at all levels are essential to support biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of ecosystems. International agreements need to include enforcement measures and take into account impacts on biodiversity and possible synergies with other agreements. Most direct actions to halt or reduce biodiversity loss need to be taken at local or national level. Suitable laws and policies developed by central governments can enable local levels of government to provide incentives for sustainable resource management.
  17. 17. Informing all of society about the benefits of conserving biodiversity, and explicitly considering trade-offs between different options in an integrated way, helps maximize the benefits to society. Ecosystem restoration is generally far more expensive than protecting the original ecosystem, but is becoming increasingly important as more areas become degraded. Direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss must be addressed to better protect biodiversity and ecosystem services. Possible actions include eliminating harmful subsidies, promoting sustainable intensification of agriculture, adapting to climate change, limiting the increase in nutrient levels in soil and water, assessing the full economic value of ecosystem services, and increasing the transparency of decision making processes.
  18. 18. Conservation biology Conservation is the scientific study of the nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.
  19. 19. Concepts and foundations Measuring extinction rates Extinction rates are measured in a variety of ways. Conservation biologists measure and apply statistical measures of fossil records, rates of habitat loss, and a multitude of other variables such as loss of biodiversity as a function of the rate of habitat loss and site occupancy to obtain such estimates. The Theory of Island Biogeography is possibly the most significant contribution toward the scientific understanding of both the process and how to measure the rate of species extinction. The current background extinction rate is estimated to be one species every few years. The measure of ongoing species loss is made more complex by the fact that most of the Earth's species have not been described or evaluated. Estimates vary greatly on how many species actually exist (estimated range: 3,600,000-111,700,000) to how many have received a species binomial (estimated range: 1.5-8 million). Less than 1% of all species that have been described have been studied beyond simply noting its existence. From these figures, the IUCN reports that 23% of vertebrates, 5% of invertebrates and 70% of plants that have been evaluated are designated as endangered or threatened. Better knowledge is being constructed by The Plant List for actual numbers of species.
  20. 20. Systematic conservation planning Systematic conservation planning is an effective way to seek and identify efficient and effective types of reserve design to capture or sustain the highest priority biodiversity values and to work with communities in support of local ecosystems. Margules and Pressey identify six interlinked stages in the systematic planning approach: 1.Compile data on the biodiversity of the planning region 2.Identify conservation goals for the planning region 3.Review existing conservation areas 4.Select additional conservation areas 5.Implement conservation actions 6.Maintain the required values of conservation areas Conservation biologists regularly prepare detailed conservation plans for grant proposals or to effectively coordinate their plan of action and to identify best management practices. Systematic strategies generally employ the services of Geographic Information Systems to assist in the decision making process.
  21. 21. Conservation physiology: a mechanistic approach to conservation Conservation Physiology was defined by Steven J. Cooke and colleagues as: ‘An integrative scientific discipline applying physiological concepts, tools, and knowledge to characterizing biological diversity and its ecological implications; understanding and predicting how organisms, populations, and ecosystems respond to environmental change and stressors; and solving conservation problems across the broad range of taxa (i.e. including microbes, plants, and animals). Physiology is considered in the broadest possible terms to include functional and mechanistic responses at all scales, and conservation includes the development and refinement of strategies to rebuild populations, restore ecosystems, inform conservation policy, generate decision-support tools, and manage natural resources.’ Conservation physiology is particularly relevant to practitioners in that it has the potential to generate cause-and-effect relationships and reveal the factors that contribute to population declines.
  22. 22. Context and trends Sixth extinction Conservation biologists are dealing with and have published evidence from all corners of the planet indicating that humanity may be causing the sixth and fastest planetary extinction event. It has been suggested that we are living in an era of unprecedented numbers of species extinctions, also known as the Holocene extinction event. The global extinction rate may be approximately 100,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate. It is estimated that two-thirds of all mammal genera and one-half of all mammal species weighing at least 44 kilograms (97 lb) have gone extinct in the last 50,000 years. The Global Amphibian Assessment reports that amphibians are declining on a global scale faster than any other vertebrate group, with over 32% of all surviving species being threatened with extinction. The surviving populations are in continual decline in 43% of those that are threatened. Since the mid- 1980s the actual rates of extinction have exceeded 211 times rates measured from the fossi record. However, "The current amphibian extinction rate may range from 25,039 to 45,474 times the background extinction rate for amphibians." The global extinction trend occurs in every major vertebrate group that is being monitored. For example, 23% of all mammals and 12% of all birds are Red Listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), meaning they too are threatened with extinction.
  23. 23. Status of oceans and reefs Global assessments of coral reefs of the world continue to report drastic and rapid rates of decline. By 2000, 27% of the world's coral reef ecosystems had effectively collapsed. The largest period of decline occurred in a dramatic "bleaching" event in 1998, where approximately 16% of all the coral reefs in the world disappeared in less than a year. Coral bleaching is caused by a mixture of environmental stresses, including increases in ocean temperatures and acidity, causing both the release of symbiotic algae and death of corals. Decline and extinction risk in coral reef biodiversity has risen dramatically in the past ten years. The loss of coral reefs, which are predicted to go extinct in the next century, will have huge economic impacts, threatens the balance of global biodiversity, and endangers food security for hundreds of millions of people.
  24. 24. The oceans are threatened by acidification due to an increase in CO2 levels. This is a most serious threat to societies relying heavily upon oceanic natural resources. A concern is that the majority of all marine species will not be able to evolve or acclimate in response to the changes in the ocean chemistry.
  25. 25. Conservation biology of parasites A large proportion of parasite species are threatened by extinction. A few of them are being eradicated as pests of humans or domestic animals, however, most of them are harmless. Threats include the decline or fragmentation of host populations, or the extinction of host species.
  26. 26. These things do not imply, however, that human activities must necessarily cause irreparable harm to the biosphere. With conservation management and planning for biodiversity at all levels, from genes to ecosystems, there are examples where humans mutually coexist in a sustainable way with nature. However, it may be too late for human intervention to reverse the current mass extinction.