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Thesis statement: As a global society we must find solutions for overpopulation, pollution, misuse of natural resources, and rapid climate changes to attempt to conserve biodiversity; the interconnectedness which keeps the world running.
As the human population keeps growing and consuming extra resources, biodiversity is being threatened more than ever before. Actions of humanity, like clearing forests, burning fossil fuels, and urbanization are directly having an effect on biodiversity. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, (MA) published in 2005, named the five major threats to biodiversity. The five major sources of threat that were named in this publication are: habitat change, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution (Ed. Debra Rowe, 2014). Each of these five threats are caused directly by human actions. For example habitat change that threatens biodiversity is a result of the human action of deforestation. This can often result in a chain reaction effect. The deforestation causes organisms to lose their homes, and it also causes more carbon to be emitted into the atmosphere. This leads directly into one of the other threats, climate change.
Climate change depletes biodiversity in numerous ways. When the temperature starts to rise the different ecosystems cannot handle the effects and are therefore extinguished. Over the past 100 years, earth’s climate has become warmer and precipitation regimes have changed (Araujo and Rahbek, 2006). It is anticipated that climate change will affect the species composition of many ecosystems, affecting the continuity of ecosystem functioning as a result of a drop in species abundance.
The expected invasion of non-native species in numerous ecosystems has also been pointed out as a major driver of ecosystem change as a result of climate change (Hellmann et al., 2008). These adjustments will ultimately lead to changes in ecosystem functioning around the world. The impacts mentioned earlier will undoubtedly affect the precision of ecosystem services to local communities and society in general. Studies in different areas of the world have already demonstrated that climate change impacts affect fisheries, water flow regimes, and carbon sequestration processes. (McCarty, 2001).
The remaining three threats accentuated by the MA are quite self-explanatory and are humankind’s responsibility for these results are equally as obvious. Invasive species occur when humans move into a new area, causing the species that were there to leave and invade a new environment. Additionally, humans overexploit animals faster than they can reproduce, causing them to become endangered or extinct. And of course, humans pollute the earth to a point where living becomes almost unbearable for animals. Truth be told, if humans do stop and realize the results of their actions, biodiversity will continue to decline and eventually get to a point of no return.
Another effect on biodiversity is globalization. Globalization is the process in which people, ideas and goods spread throughout the world, spurring more interaction and integration between the world’s cultures, governments and economies. (Darity, 2008). Globalization progresses society by lowering consumer prices, breaking divisions, and improving the overall standard of living (Takacs, 1996). However, nothing can come without a price. Unfortunately, the price of exponential growth of consumerism is that ecosystems were not given the appropriate amount of time to adapt to such rapid depletion of resources. Some of these misuses of natural resources include deforestation, oil fracking, commercial agriculture, excessive mining, etc. On a small scale these were all beneficial at one time, however because of globalization these actions are overexploiting resources that many species revolve around for survival.
Globalization has had a huge impact on biodiversity, and because of this we are losing more species now than ever (Ehrenfeld 2003). Over time, we have depleted our natural resources and the other living species on Earth cannot evolve quick enough to compensate for these severe changes. Current research states that twenty percent of Earth’s species may be lost in just a few decades (Post 2004). Drastic changes need to be made if humanity wishes to preserve the remaining resources and decrease the current rate of extinction.
This concern is nothing new. Over twenty years ago there were rising concerns about this issue and now, that it is continuing to get worse, serious action is required. Throughout the Earth’s history we have lost 99% of the species that once inhabited Earth. But our current rate of extinction is occurring much quicker, approximately 1,000 times faster (Tobin 2010). Even though we are constantly discovering new species, it does not make up for our rate of depletion of other species. While there is no way that humanity can reverse all of the impacts made on the Earth, there is still hope for progress to save what is left. Global society has been more focused on economic gains and the state of the environment has been greatly compromised. Simply put, this must change if the environment is to be positively affected.
Another issue that contributes to a reduction in biodiversity is the misuse of resources (Food Security, 2011). Humans use nature for food, water, clothing, and shelter. We build our lives around nature and we have misused it greatly to a point where we do not have much left. When we misuse nature, it leads to pollution, erosion, and extinction. Consumerism plays a huge part in how we have begun to misuse our resources. We use resources unnecessarily for all of the extra products we think we need. For most people it is difficult to establish what they need and what they do not need, and this is where misuse of resources occurs.
Instead of valuing economy as supreme, it is important to look at why biodiversity matters and why it is important to the environment. Having a great amount of biodiversity guarantees natural sustainability for all life forms, healthy ecosystems and creates a stronger foundation from a variety of disasters (McCarty, 2008). Biodiversity also provides a plethora of natural services such as ecosystem/ biological resources, and social benefits. The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning has emerged as a central issue in ecological and environmental sciences during the last decade (Loreau, et al., 2001).
Additionally, a fit biodiversity provides a surplus of natural services for everyone including protection of water resources, nutrient storage and recycling. Biological resources include food, medicinal resources, lumber products, plants, future resources and diversity in genes, species and ecosystems. Social benefits encompass research, education, recreation and tourism. In our opinion that is a lot of services we get for free!
The cost of replacing these would be extremely expensive. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the monetary value of goods and services provided by ecosystems is estimated to amount to $33 trillion U.S. dollars per year. It therefore makes economic and development sense to move towards sustainability and preserving biodiversity as much as we can. Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where freshwater is in irregular or short supply.
Biodiversity should also be valued more importantly because it is a primary factor that assists numerous ecosystems. These ecosystems provide humans with natural resources and creates equilibrium between nature and human well-being. The responsibility of biodiversity ensures many factors that connect ecosystems with human beings, including: food security, health, freedom of choice, and overall basic materials for a sustainable life (MA, 2005).
While it is obvious that human societies have gained from these factors within the past century, the loss of biodiversity has also caused human societies to suffer. The losses in biodiversity and the changes that are connected with ecosystem services has caused a decline in the well-being of humans. Biodiversity loss is a key concern when it comes to human well-being. Without the balance between ecosystems, ecosystem services and human societies the equilibrium cannot be maintained and decline in ecosystem life and human life is at stake. The issue of biodiversity loss and the conservation of biodiversity needs to be conveyed throughout human societies, so humans can begin to make a difference and restore biodiversity because it is so important for our survival.
Biodiversity provides a plethora of natural services, such as: ecosystem services, biological resources, and social benefits. Food and security are one of the few factors that make the relationship between ecosystems services and human well-being important to biodiversity. Thousands of dependent species take part in a vital web of biodiversity within ecosystems that food production depends on.
With the continuous loss of biodiversity humans lose potential to accommodate ecosystems to new challenges like the growth of population and climate change. Being able to achieve food security for human societies is directly linked to the maintenance of biodiversity. In order to provide food security for a constant increasing population, creating a system that will integrate the conservation of biodiversity and food production needs to be applied (Sunderland, TCH, 2011). Nutritional and livelihood benefits of extended production systems are one of many possible methods of solving food security. Achieving food security will provide agricultural resources and other food resources for human societies.
On average, there are around seven thousand plant species and a few hundred animal species that human societies have used for human consumption (MA 2005). Overexploitation of these resources and other resources like fisheries are a key issue to the loss of diversity. Overexploitation has led to the reduction in the accessibility of wild-caught animal protein, which results in various consequences regarding to human well-being and health. The uncertainty of exposure to various infectious diseases depends on biodiversity in ecosystems (MA 2005).
Previous studies and observations have contemplated an increase in wildlife diversity can result in a decrease the spread of many wildlife pathogens to humans (MA 2005). For example, some deer ticks are carriers of Lyme disease, the spread of this disease has decreased by the biotic integrity of ecosystems. Both food security and health are important to biodiversity because they are key for connecting and maintaining the balance of the relationship between the ecosystems and human societies (MA 2005).
Loss of biodiversity is often times irreversible and can highly affect that specific ecosystem and human societies. The loss of biodiversity means the decline in choices. Being able to have available options to choose from is an essential factor relating to the freedom aspect of human well-being. For example, in the fishing industry some fishermen rely on mangroves as a breeding ground for fish populations (MA 2005). The loss of mangroves results in the loss of control over the fish stock and livelihood the fish populations have been pursuing for numerous generations. The loss of choices results in the loss of available resources that are available to human societies. The loss of choices is also the loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity needs to be restored in order to create a stronger foundation for human societies and more available resources.
Coming up with a solution to such an astronomical issue is not an easy task however it is a challenge that must be met. One example can be found in Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink, where Mitch Tobin establishes a twelve-step plan for positive change in the environment. One step that significantly stands out is step seven. This step says that 73 out of 250 species that are at risk for extinction have not received federal protection after over twenty-five years (Tobin 2010).
The reason for this is because there is not enough money set aside for issues that do not seem to be a current danger. We would need five years to spare and $150 million in hand in order to protect all of these species. In today’s economy, many believe that money should not be spent for issues like this. This results in waiting far too late before a decision is made to attempt and solve these issues. If action had been taken sooner, issues like these would not add up and they would be much easier to handle. These steps mentioned by Tobin, along with others, could be the beginning of change in the right direction.
Overall, the interconnectedness of biodiversity and human well-being are important because biodiversity is the foundation for human health. By ensuring life-sustaining resources and materials and services that biodiversity provides to human societies, the conservation and sustainability of these utilize biodiversity in ways that also provide important benefits towards our health (COHAB 2010) The increasing loss of biodiversity on a worldwide scale expresses numerous threats to human health and well-being which should be concerning to all people, or at least ones who value their lives.
Negligence to effects of the depletion of biodiversity can be compared to knowing there is a bomb that is about to explode and not detonating it. Not reacting to this threat is inhumanitarian. While researching the depletion of biodiversity it became frighteningly apparent that without a prospering worldwide ecosystem that has the capability of supporting the diversity of life, a human population cannot exist or be maintained.
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