Biodiversity means the web of life on the planet with its immense richness and variability that is dazzling and has interested humans for centuries, if not since times immemorial. Extinction and emergence of some species both relating to flora and fauna is a natural process that has been taking place since the pre-human times within the confines of a normal cycle of life occurring in various ecosystems all over the world. However, rapid industrialization of the recent centuries and development of an extremely wide range of new technologies have interfered with the natural cycle of ecosystem functioning and have become a major threat for biodiversity. During the last two centuries, human beings have been the main reasons of the decreasing biodiversity, as well as of climate change and ecosystem disruption. Thus, anthropogenic causes are responsible both for environmental problems and decreasing biodiversity. Despite the fact that the latter two phenomena are tightly interrelated, they both can have detrimental consequences for the humanity in the future. The matter is that human beings as a species are an integral part of all ecosystems in the world and issues with the diminishing biodiversity will impact them as well. The lack of biodiversity can result in the irreversible destruction of some major ecosystems on the planet, which would in turn threaten well-being and even existence of people in respective regions. Moreover, diminishing biodiversity leads to even more environmental problems, while a larger amount of environmental problems will result in further extinction of animal and plant species, hence in more severe problems with the biodiversity. As a consequence, it may turn into a cyclical vicious circle of gradual destruction of the world, as people know it nowadays, unless the humanity takes decisive actions to address existing problems. Therefore, countries of the entire world should unite their efforts aimed at combating environmental problems and preserving biodiversity, which is an underlying basis of life on the Earth.
Definition of Biodiversity
Prior to addressing the current state of affairs relating to biodiversity and its correlation with environmental problems, it seems reasonable to provide a definition of the notion. There is no single definition of biodiversity, which stands for biological diversity, that would be unanimously accepted by all scholars. Very often, there are given descriptive definitions emphasizing importance of biodiversity in the world. Hence, it may be defined as “the basis for all ecosystem services, and the foundation for truly sustainable development” that “plays fundamental roles in maintaining and enhancing the well-being of the world’s more than 6.7 billion, rich and poor, rural and urban” (Ash et al. 160). The aforementioned definition places a peculiar emphasis on the role of the notion as the basis of all life on the planet. Such interpretation of the notion under consideration is common and is met virtually in all sources dealing with the issue. However, the most frequently cited definition is provided by Article 2 of Convention on Biological Diversity and is as follows: “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems” (Convention on Biological Diversity). Sometimes, such long definition is reduced to one statement that defines biodiversity as “the web of life” and “the link between all organisms on earth” (WWF). Irrespective of the definition chosen, it is clear that biodiversity is an essential and integral component of life on the planet, since an extremely rich variety of various species is what makes it suitable for existence of life at the first place.
Thus, anthropogenic destruction of such biodiversity may result in drastic consequences for all inhabitants of the Earth and can even ultimately lead to extinction of human beings as a species that is responsible for the root causes of a constant decreasing of biodiversity. Of course, such extreme negative scenario is not likely to happen within the next few centuries unless some global catastrophe occurs. still, the humanity has obviously been approaching the critical point when most vital ecosystems are destroyed and irreplaceable natural resources necessary for substance of life are completely exhausted. The above suggestion is supported with various statistical data and studies relating to biodiversity and environmental problems.
Brief Overview of the Current State of Affairs
The current state of affairs may be briefly summarized as “a biodiversity crisis” (WWF). Humans have altered virtually all global ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, species, and the global environment in general. The past three centuries have been characterized with massive deforestation, transformation of lands for agricultural purposes and construction of metropolitan areas, fossil-fuel combustion, development of new technologies, and various activities with a profound impact on the environment (Chapin III et al. 234). All the above-mentioned factors have resulted in the unprecedented emission of greenhouse gases that are directly linked with the climate change, as well as a 30%-increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere (Chapin III et al. 234). Human activities have doubled the amount of gaseous nitrogen in biological species of all kinds, while water bodies have become filled with various nutrients and other by-products of industrial and agricultural production (Chapin III et al. 234). Moreover, the humanity has changed approximately 50% of all ice-free land by destroying indigenous ecosystems and transforming the land into urban areas and for agricultural purposes. Currently, it also uses 54% of available fresh water and such percentage is forecasted to rise to approximately 70% by 2050 (Chapin III et al. 234). At the same time, increased mobility of people all over the world has contributed to transportation of various organisms and species to new areas “across geographical barriers that long kept the biotic regions of the Earth separated” and flourishing (Chapin III et al. 234). As a result, nowadays biodiversity faces an unprecedented threat caused originally by humans, while the planet is predicted to experience the most rapid climate change not seen since the end of the last glaciation period more than 18,000 years ago. Consequently, it can have more drastic consequences due to the simultaneous exhaustion of irreplaceable natural resources.
Significance of biodiversity has been realized and emphasized by countless scholars, activists, common people, politicians, NGOs, and even governments who all emphasize the need to preserve biodiversity at the current level for the benefit of future generations. One of the scientists and conservationists who have managed to provide an easily comprehensible and impressive story about the interconnection between all species is Aldo Leopold. In his short story entitled Thinking Like a Mountain, he presents his view of how people, animals, and nature are interconnected and emphasizes that the nature symbolized by a mountain knows better than imperfect and selfish human beings who only think about their personal benefits and gains. On the example of wolves, the author shows how some species become endangered and under a threat of complete extinction, while human actions aimed at killing the species also result in the disruption of a long-existing ecosystem. He concludes that “We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness” (Leopold 59). Moreover, he claims that “In wildness is the salvation of the world”, which is perhaps “the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men” (Leopold 59). Hence, the author is wise to indicate that the humanity has been pursuing the above listed objectives without paying any respect to how their actions could affect the surrounding world. On the contrary, the nature is the only thing that knows best how to regulate the amount of various species’ representatives so that a balance with any existing ecosystem and between all ecosystems in general is maintained in the long run. Therefore, the current state of affairs with biodiversity and environmental degradation is a logical outcome of the humanity’s short-term pursuit of profits and comfort, which can have a long-term destructive impact on the planet.
Biodiversity and Environmental Problems
The overwhelming majority of scholars agree that biodiversity and environmental problems are tightly interconnected, each of them being a cause and an effect of the other (Perrings 1). One of the most topical environmental problems is currently a climate change and it is also a result of the decreasing biodiversity and altered ecosystems. At the same time, climate change has a profound impact on biodiversity as different species need different climatic conditions to survive. One of the most evident ways of how the current state of decreasing biodiversity has worsened environmental problems concerns transformation of lands for industrial, urban, and agricultural purposes (Perrings 1). Thus, massive deforestation and emission of greenhouse gases have resulted in the alteration of biological stocks of carbon in all ecosystems, which in turn has contributed to the accumulation of greenhouse gases and rise in global temperatures.
Furthermore, it is a proven fact that biodiversity changes influence “the flow of ecosystem services”, i.e. benefits that people receive from ecosystems, including such services as provisioning, cultural, and regulating ones (Perrings 1). The most acute group of services in terms of biodiversity connection with the environment concerns regulating services, which relate to control of biological variability, presence of pathogens and pests, emergence and mitigation of environmental hazards, as well as many other essential environmental processes (Perrings 1). Hence, it is obvious that if biodiversity significantly alters, the environment will be susceptible to a wide range of various impacts. Moreover, all of them will be of negative character. Diminishing biodiversity, for instance, means that the process of climate regulation performed by ecosystems and their correlation will be threatened and disrupted. As a result, it will intensify problems with the biodiversity and lead to further extinction of many species.
Nonetheless, researchers agree that it is difficult to predict exact impacts of biodiversity loss on the environment and the combined effect of the biodiversity loss, degradation of the environment, and climate change. The latter three phenomena may intensify impacts of each other and lead to more severe and abundant problems relating to each of them. Therefore, it becomes of utmost importance to address the existing problems today so that the future of mankind was not lacking in terms of diversity and natural resources. Besides, further studies on the correlation between biodiversity and environmental problems are required with a particular focus on how to prevent the intensification effect and preserve the current state of the environment and all ecosystems, not mentioning development of solutions to the preservation of endangered species from extinction.
A Brief Overview of Some Root Causes of the Biodiversity Loss
In general, the underlying root cause of the recent rapid biodiversity loss depends on human activities. However, some scientists prefer to outline different root causes so that each of them can be addressed and solved in the most effective and efficient way. In addition to biological causes of the decline in biodiversity that have been an inseparable part of natural regulation for thousands of years, some social and economic root causes are responsible for the current state of affairs. Recently, biological causes have been replaced by the latter, which is evidence by the statistical fact that current extinction rates are ten to hundred times higher than in the pre-human times (Sinclair 10). Hence, some of the most influencing causes resulting in biodiversity loss include: introduction of exotic species, intensive wood-cutting, overharvesting by illegal hunting, knock-on effects among co-evolved species, homogenization in forestry and agriculture, pollution, environmental problems, and climate change (Hens and Boon). They are the most often studied root causes of the biodiversity loss. However, there are also distinguished societal root causes, including demographic changes, poverty, and inequality, public policies, politics, and markets, macroeconomic structures and respective policies, and development biases and social changes (Hens and Boon 10). However, all the root causes are united by one common factor: they are induced by humans and human activity. Therefore, a solution to the problem of biodiversity loss and accompanying environmental problems depends on the human activity as well. Anyway, this time it should be aimed at preservation of the nature and its diversity rather than at its destruction.
Some Recommendations Relating to Biodiversity
The humanity should realize that biodiversity is the basis of their daily normal existence and that sustainable development is the best solution with a view to preventing further degradation of the environment. Therefore, countries should unite in their efforts and develop some initiatives that would ensure reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss and incorporation of “the full values of good-and-services provided by biodiversity” into all taken decisions (Ash et al. 158). Nowadays, the UNDP is consistently trying to implements its Biodiversity and Ecosystems Global Framework 2012-2020, but its successful implementation requires committed participation of all countries, including both developed and developing economies. One of the declared Sustainable Development Goals includes recognition of “the importance of the sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems for sustainable and equitable development” (United Nations Development Programme 10). The UNDP is now overseeing 512 projects relating to biodiversity in 146 countries. That is why it is highly recommended for the governments of these countries to support the projects and be committed to the UNDP’s goals on the whole (United Nations Development Programme 10). Another recommendation of the global nature concerns creation of an international market of ecosystem services that would make benefits of ecosystems visible and comprehensible to everyone (European Commission Directorate-General for Environment 99). The matter is that the contemporary world is highly money and profit-oriented and such market would assist with visualization of biodiversity costs and benefits, which would promote its preservation. Furthermore, enforcement of different current biodiversity policies is highly recommended as nowadays they are mostly of advisory nature. As a result, they should be made obligatory for all countries that have committed themselves to their goals (European Commission Directorate-General for Environment 99). Besides, more countries who are now not participants of the policies should be encouraged to join various global initiatives, which is the recommendation for respective international organizations responsible for biodiversity preservation. Finally, the most feasible and influential recommendation concerns education of people on the significance of biodiversity and its preservation, which should become the primary responsibility of both governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Withal, based on the above discussion, it becomes obvious that the biodiversity loss has detrimental and hazardous consequences for the entire world and threatens existence of the life in general. Governments of different countries, as well as various organizations, have been trying to assess and forecast impacts of the decreasing biodiversity and have proven that it threatens the entire world in the nearest future. The humanity has been altering ecosystems for several centuries without paying any attention to how it might affect various species. Moreover, some species like wolves have been deemed harmful for human activities and have thus have been purposefully killed until they either became extinct or appeared to be on the verge of extinction. However, such behavior has already had drastic consequences for the ecosystems and humans who are an integral part of the ecosystems. Therefore, urgent actions need to be taken to preserve the biodiversity at its current level and prevent further environmental degradation. Nonetheless, unless each person realizes how important biodiversity is for preservation of life, other initiatives launched by separate organizations and governments will have a limited impact on the planet.