Biodiversity Loss: Where Have They Gone?

Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal. Edward O. Wilson

Are we losing all our forests?

The Philippine forest cover has been slowly vanishing since the early times. It’s been reduced from 90% in the 1500’s to 57% in 1934 to 24.27% in 2013. There’s about 7.168 million hectares left because of increasing logging practices related to agriculture, land development, illegal logging, fuel wood and timber poaching, strip-mining and migration1, 2. Our forests provide innumerable services and products that not only benefit our health, safety from harsh temperatures and economy. They also sustain key ecosystems to various species and serve as a shield against climate change. The loss of our forests is a tremendous biodiversity loss considering the myriad of life forms they support. We’ve arrived at a time of desperate need for conservation and restoration efforts if we want our forests to still exist.

What is biodiversity loss?

Biodiversity loss is an alarming response of organisms upon the disturbance of their habitats or unsustainable hunting of their population, in a rate that there is no time for recovery and repopulation.They either survive in reduced numbers or completely disappear into extinction. Biodiversity loss is a very costly phenomenon in the environment. Biodiversity does not instantly thrive in ecosystems. It usually takes some time before key species in an ecosystem become established in their territories, and breed.

Habitat disturbances are caused by natural or anthropogenic causes. Depending on the intensity of devastation, organisms typically recover and start again. Species will have to find a new place where they can meet their needs for survival. This is also true if they lost their breeding and spawning grounds or, places where they hunt food. There are sensitive species that need specific levels of moisture, heat temperature or water salinity. When altered from what is ideal for their survival requirements, some individuals die while some migrate to find a new place. Habitat loss is a major cause of biodiversity loss. Habitat of many animals and plants have been completely lost due to destructive man-made activities. As a result, biodiversity has been continually reduced in number.

Where have the fishes gone?

overfishing,biodiversity loss fish
Cods in the trap | CC Image courtesy of Derek Keats

In 2003, it was reported that our oceans have been overfished largely by industrial fishing decimating the large fishes leaving only 10% of their population in the pre-industrial age3. Because of this, commercial fleets with sophisticated fish extraction technologies target the deeper parts of the ocean. The process also wrecks the lives and habitats of other marine organisms living there. It is difficult for large fishes to replenish their population considering their slow growth and low reproductive rates, including the pressure of being frequently hunted.

Where have the bees gone?

where are the bees, bees decline, bees disappearing
A bumblebee pollinating in action | CC Image courtesy of Life-of-Pix

Flowers in North America have declined as a result of 40 years of warming summers. The loss of these flowers led to the loss of the Alpine bumble bee species. Bees are very exclusive to the flowers they pollinate. There is a mutualistic relationship between bees and flowers as one gets its nutritional needs and the other takes the role of pollen vectors. Bees are very important in ecology and agriculture. In fact, over $200 billion dollars worth of food products were made available because of them4, 5. Bee populations depend on where they find food. They feed on nectars found in flowering plants. However, flowering plants are sensitive to the environment. Land conversion, use of pesticides and climate change are only some of the factors that restrict their growth. With flowering plants vanishing in the outdoors and the wild, bees also disappear with them.

How does biodiversity loss impact our lives?

There are many repercussions of biodiversity loss. For one, it automatically disrupts the supply of goods that it provides. It also causes certain environmental safety issues such as flooding, diseases, proliferation of insects and rising temperature. However, these are only the visible effects. What we don’t see directly is the greater impact that affects the planet from the atmosphere to the core in a scale that requires a long time and a hard process of recovery.

Our Hope

By 2020, it is hoped that biodiversity protection and implementation of its sustainable use have been significantly achieved, at least according to the Convention on Biological Diversity. With all the initiatives currently put into action, at the local and international levels, to fight against rapid biodiversity loss, there is still good to see in the future. Yet, it is never a one man’s job. It takes a community of united forces to put things back together.

Human consumption is a major cause of biodiversity loss. Balance must be brought back between nature and man. Sustainable use of resources must be respected and practiced by each individual. Yes, we all need to be educated and reminded. Importantly, we also need a willing heart that cares for the next generation. It can motivate all of us to responsibly use our natural resources. How do we really achieve this? By continually being active and participative until we gain consciousness to these sensitive matters.

Sources:

1 Philippine Forest Cover in 2013

2 Philippine Forest Cover in 1934

3 Overfishing

4 Loss of the Alpine Bumble Bee

5 Flowers Gone

Photo Credit:

Featured Image – Jungle burned for agriculture | CC Image courtesy of Jami Dwyer

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