Free What Is Bio-Diversity And Ecosystem? Research Paper Example
Type of paper: Research Paper
Topic: Environment, Law, Ecology, World, Environmental Issues, Ecosystem, Human, Nature
The total variety, number and vastness of the living organisms together is called as biodiversity. It may hence also be explained as the variability of total life on earth. When we talk about the variability of life forms in biodiversity, it refers to two main aspects, though – the total number of different living forms and the way that they are different from each other. As Convention on Biological Diversity expertly puts it, the variability of life forms is measured from all known sources – terrestrial, aquatic, inter alia and from other ecological ecosystems available on earth (Hens & Boon, 2003).
An ecosystem, on the other, consists of all the factors – chemical and physical – which form the particular living or non-living environment of a certain locale. For example -- a pond or a forest; a pond is an ecosystem containing fishes, plants, chemical formation of the water etc. The point to notice, however, is that there are no boundaries containing an ecosystem. The only reasons why boundaries are defined are for purely ease of studying reasons (Globalchange, 2008).
In recent times, even as our understanding of biodiversity and ecosystems has improved, the fact is that human activities and actions are increasingly harming the sustenance of these ecosystems. As a result, the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems has become a constant and is ever increasing with passing time. This has posed a big question towards mankind. The fact is that ecosystems provide valuable services and goods for the survival of mankind, such as: food, fuel, fibre, shelter and building materials, purification of air and water, decomposition of wastes and detoxification, stabilizing the earth’s climate, controlling the extent of floods, temperatures, winds etc, maintaining and renewing the soil fertility, nutrient cycling, maintenance and provision of medicinal plants, livestock, edible crops etc, pollination of plants etc. Several such services and goods provided by nature free of cost help in the survival of humankind (WWF, n.d.2).
However, climate change and other activities by humans have endangered the very system through which the nature, ecosystem and biodiversities work and maintain. The fact is that ecosystems depend heavily on the species which they support. The loss of these species or biodiversity, in turn results in the loss of ecosystem. This in turn, results in the fall of the efficiency of the earth’s ecosystem to provide the above mentioned goods and services for the use of mankind (Cleland, 2011).
What is happening to them and why
In recent times, scientists and researchers have become more and more concerned with respect to the biodiversity and ecosystems surrounding us. The reason is the rapid decline in biodiversity is resulting in losses of ecosystems and vice versa, which is resulting in several worrying factors. Even as extinction of species is a part of evolution, the rate of extinction has multiplied at a rate of ten to hundred, when compared to that of the pre-human times (Hens & Boons, 2003). At present, around one third of the animals are on a verge of extinction. With a rise of every 1ºC in temperature, further 10% of the biodiversity faces drear chances of extinction (Gov.uk, n.d.).
According to Anup Shah (2014), the following graph defines and explains the extent of biodiversity which is endangered and challenged in the present scenario:
The major causes for this loss of biodiversity and ecosystem happen to be the following:
Over-exploitation of earth’s resources
According to a report by WWF (World Wildlife Foundation), the way human needs have grown, the world requires an equivalent of 1.4 planet to sustain the needs of mankind (WWF Global, n.d.1). This is also termed as ecological footprint. In the year 2009 alone, mankind exploited 40 percent more resources than the earth can normally sustain or regenerate. At this rate, the world would soon be facing scarcities and further loss of natural resources and ecosystems. (Eniscuola.net)
Alteration and Loss of Habitats
According to research, throughout the earth, the natural habitat has seen alteration or loss. For instance, only 15% of the natural habitat in Europe remains undisturbed. This is the highest figure of undisturbed habitat. The rest of the world faces even more bleary figures with respect to damaged or lost habitat (Hens & Boons, 2003). Coral reefs for example have been destroyed by dynamite and other human actions, while natural grasslands have been domesticated and ploughed.
Introduction of exotic species
Introducing species which do not belong to a certain ecosystem has also become a major threat to biodiversity and ecosystems. For example, fox and rats which were transported to Australia for research purposes or introduction have fought off the indigenous wildlife supported in that region. Further, it is estimated that 18 types of fresh-water fishes face extinction because of human activities such as fishing (Hens & boon, 2003).
The impact of their losses on humanity
According to Jim Erickson (2012), loss of biodiversity has directly affected the surrounding ecosystems and brought on changes in climate, pollution and other environmental stress factors. This has endangered the provision of several goods which are necessary for the survival of humans such as clean air, water etc. According to a report by WWF, humans are utilising 25% more natural resources annually than earth can naturally refurbish in a year (WWF Global, n.d.2). This has resulted in undue stress son natural resources available. Further, it has been established that the loss of biodiversity owing to a loss of habitat, environmental changes caused by human activity and over-harvesting will further reduce nature’s efficiency in providing the goods and services needed for the survival of humans.
Environment Law governing the ecosystem
With the harm that has been done to the ecosystems and biodiversity due to human actions has brought in a lot of relevance to the environment laws. For those uninitiated, environment laws are a set of standards and guidelines, which help maintain the quality of the natural resources and environment. Some of the elements which are regulated by environment laws are forests, wildlife, wetlands, pollution (air, water and land), hazardous waste disposal, land-use and agricultural practices. The laws made are managed internationally, as well as, regionally. For example, the United States have a set of environment laws such as National environment Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act (Ucar.edu). Another example of regional laws is that of laws made to protect the natural habitats for birds and animals in Europe. This law is called as named the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives. This law provides guidelines which help preserve the natural habitat and its biodiversity (Gov.uk, 2013).
While the above are only a few examples, our focus of attention will be solely on the laws made by the United States to help preserve biodiversity and ecosystems. Using these laws, agreements and licences, the biodiversity is protected, even as implementing these laws and mandates helps ensure that these guidelines are properly adhered to. In 1970, the Nixon government established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the sole responsibility of regulating pollution control. Its responsibilities are divided amongst several sub-agencies, which cover all aspects of pollution control such as clean air, water, control on chemicals, disposal of hazardous wastes etc. Some of the statutes which support environment are as under (Beardon, et al, 2013):
Clean Air Act (CAA) -- The EPA, via this act, helps regulate the air quality, mobile sources of air pollution, air pollutant standards, making plans and implementing ways to reduce acid rains etc. The efforts to protect the environment by way of controlling air pollution began in 1955 itself and that was when the first law was passed in this regards. At the point of formation of EPA, this law was further strengthened.
Clean Water Act (CWA) -- This act basically covers the area of waste discharges into US waters and construction of water treatment plants etc. Some sub-acts which further support this act are Ocean Dumping Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, etc.
Some other Acts which control the pollution are Solid Waste Disposal Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Oil Pollution Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) etc. While the list of such supporting acts is long, these acts sum the efforts made within the law-making society to help preserve the environment and its ecosystem.
Apart from these acts and statutes, EPA is also responsible for providing grants and aid to states and local governments in order to help them in maintaining pollution standards and implementing these regulations.
While the laws are made extensively, it is extremely important to ensure that these laws are implemented and adhered to. For such occasions, the governing bodies have developed penalties and trade restrictions on the offending parties. For example, when Japan decided to violate the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium, the United States decided to restrict Japan’s fishing activity in US waters (Ucar.edu, n.d.).
Further, regional mandates have been established which provide incentives to businessmen and landowners to help preserve the local biodiversity and ecosystems. These positive incentives while providing trade benefits to the locales also help preserve the local habitats. However, if certain norms are not worked with, liabilities and penalties will also be applicable to the same. Certain business communities did raise a concern with regards to these penalties and payables towards preserving habitats. Nevertheless, law-makers weighed the costs of leaving the biodiversity to delete against the preservations costs and realised that long-term costs of depleted biodiversity are much more than the costs of preserving the biodiversity now. Hence, the forum decided to provide trade benefits to businessmen to get their cooperation towards saving habitat (Clark & Downes, n.d.).
The cases mentioned above are only a few pointers amongst the huge haystack. While the above focuses on the US majorly, throughout the world, such agencies exist which are trying hard to set certain mandates and laws to preserve environment. As long as all of the human-kind is willing to abide by these laws and extend their cooperation towards saving habitat, biodiversity and ecosystems, the world will remain a better place to live for future generations.
Bearden, D.M, Copeland, C., Luther, L., McCarthy, J.E., Tieman, M., Esworthy, R., & Yen, J.H. (2013). Environmental Laws: Summaries of Major Statutes Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Congressional Research Service (CRS). Retrieved from https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL30798.pdf
Clark, D., & Downes, D. (n.d.). What Price Biodiversity? CIEL. Retrieved from http://www.ciel.org/Publications/summary.html
Cleland, E. E. (2011). Biodiversity and Ecosystem Stability. Nature Education Knowledge, 3(10), 14. Retrieved from http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/biodiversity-and-ecosystem-stability-17059965
Erickson, J. (2012, May 2). Ecosystem effects of biodiversity loss could rival impacts of climate change, pollution. Michigan News. Retrieved from http://ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/slideshows/20366-ecosystem-effects-of-biodiversity-loss-could-rival-impacts-of-climate-change-pollution
Hans, L., & Boon, E.K. (2003). Causes of Biodiversity Loss: a Human Ecological Analysis. Multiciencia. Retrieved from https://www.multiciencia.unicamp.br/artigos_01/A1_HensBoon_ing.PDF
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(2008). The Concept of the Ecosystem. Global Change. Retrieved from http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/kling/ecosystem/ecosystem.html
(2013). Biodiversity and Ecosystems. Gov.uk. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/protecting-biodiversity-and-ecosystems-at-home-and-abroad
(n.d.). Causes of the Loss of Biodiversity. Eniscuola.net. Retrieved from http://www.eniscuola.net/en/argomento/biodiversity1/loss-of-biodiversity/causes-of-the-loss-of-biodiversity/
(n.d.1). What are the major reasons why we are losing so much biodiversity? WWF Global. Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/biodiversity/threatsto_biodiversity/
(n.d.2). How does Biodiversity loss affect me and everyone else? WWF Global. Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/biodiversity/biodiversity_and_you/
(n.d.). What is International Environmental Law? UCAR. Retrieved from http://www.ucar.edu/communications/gcip/m3elaw/m3pdfc1.pdf