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Loss of biodiversity

By Tiffany Shum Definition: loss in number of species and its richness, valuable animals and plants may even get extinct.

Reasons for biodiversity loss:

To meet local needs- for survival *High natural increase *Brazil: population is increasing at 3%every year and reaches over 200,000,000 in 2009 * India reaches 960,611,000 in 2000 at a rate of 2% increase annually *Rainforests are burned by shifting cultivators by tribes, e.g, the Amerindians to cultivate also to collect firewood To meet local demand- for urban development *Forests are cleared for building accessible routes E.g. in Amazonia, Brazilian government carried out the policy of clearing large tracts of rainforests to settle local social problems of homelessness To meet foreign demand- for profit making E.g. Brazil * forests are cleared for commercial grazing and producing commercial crops( rubber, oil palm) for export to MDCs. The government even supported it with government funds. * Commercial logging short term economic gain * Mineral ores - bauxite with increasing living standard and industrialized level, there is a boom on rainforest exploitation for their rich agricultural, timber and mineral resources; however, these actions lead to severe loss in biodiversity due to the clearance of species habitat. To develop infrastructure for economic development *E.g. Brazil *The Trans-Amazon Highway (over5500km) built in 1975 *Dam construction for water resources * They either cleared or drown large areas of rainforests and the associated habitats

Economic activities in Tropical rainforests include shifting cultivation, wet rice cultivation, plantation, lumbering, mining, forestry, grazing. All activities cause deforestation which in turn destroy wildlifes habitat seriously. Deforestation

breaks the nutrient cycle, increases soil erosion and increase leaching. It would lead to a slow recovery and growth of vegetation and a drop in biological productivity. The loss of vegetation leads to a loss of animal life or even extinction of some animals species.

Examples of biodiversity loss in Tropical Rainforests:

1) Brazil
The forest of Brazil, which originally had an area of one million km2 now consists of only 35,000 km2. Much of it has been cut for farms and ranches, and the government at one time offered tax breaks for raising Asian water buffalo (still a favored project in Amazonia). Many birds, such as guans, chachalacas, toucans and aracaris, which are dispersers of large seeds, are near extinction, and the Alagoas curassow is extinct in the wild because of hunting. The loss of these seed-dispersing animals will lead to alterations in the composition of the remaining forest, because the tree species (those with large seeds; about one-third of tree species in the Atlantic forest) dependent upon seed-dispersers will not be able to reproduce. Deforestation continues at a rate of 15,000 to 20,000 km2 annually. Among the ancillary consequences of deforestation is a loss of the immense biodiversity of the Brazilian Amazon. Mammals are declining everywhere from the impact of hunting (for food, skins, and medicines) and habitat loss. Birds are being lost for similar reasons. Reptiles, especially tortoises, alligators, and freshwater turtles, are hunted for food (and hides, in the case of the alligator). Fish, the main protein source for humans in the Amazon, are intensely sought as the human population increases and fishing becomes more efficient and mechanized. Many species of mammals and reptiles can be found in markets and on restaurant menus. Brazil is the leader in deforestation:: a. Land policies and speculation: The government also gives low-interest loans and other incentives to clear forest land, considering it land improvement. Because of this policy, the person clearing it has the right to sell the improvements. In fact, one can receive six additional hectares of land for each hectare cleared, although the land is frequently used for a few years and subsequently abandoned. b. Road construction: Road construction into the Amazon basin began in the 1960s and 1970s, when the government embarked upon its development and colonization plans for

this region. The Belem-Brasilia, Cuiaba-Santarem and Trans-Amazon highways are huge arteries opening access to previously inaccessible parts of the country. c. Ranching: The majority of projects for the development of the Amazon have involved cattle ranches, some very large (up to 560,000 hectares). Five hundred ranch owners have caused 85% of the deforestation in Brazilian Amazon. A government policy, begun in the 1970s, allows people to use tax payments to establish ranches, and to keep any capital gains, without tax liability (Moran, 1996). Thus forests become a ranching subsidy Sales of meat from the ranches generate only about $100 per hectare over the lifetime of the property (Terborgh, 1989) a measly profit and a catastrophe for the rainforest, which has been converted into a wasteland. d. Dam construction: Dam construction has been the second-largest cause of deforestation in Brazil. e. Mining: Mining of various kinds (for gold, tin, petroleum, natural gas) has led to deforestation and severe environmental degradation because mines are cut into forest land and roads are driven through the forest to them. In mining processes, toxic chemicals are released into waterways, degrading forest around and near the mines. f. Timber extraction: Economic incentives are given to logging companies in the form of tax breaks. The government continues to license more and more sawmills, and the production per mill has doubled since 1965. The consequence of all of this is that Brazil is removing its rainforest at an annual rate higher than the global average of 1%. In the mid1990s, it averaged losses of 2.2% of its forest per year (Dobson, 1995).

2) Madagascar (Africa)
Madagascar, one of the most biologically-rich areas on Earth, has perhaps the most endangered ecosystem. Originally much of the eastern part of the island was covered with forest, perhaps 11.2 million hectares, by 1985, only 3.8 million hectares, less than 34% of the original forest cover. Much of the land now being converted is marginal and. Some land has become so badly degraded that soil has been lost down to bedrock. Population growth in Madagascar is very high (3.1% per year in the early 1990s; a population doubling time of 22 years) and the remaining forest is threatened by the encroachment of subsistence farming and demands for fuel. This has led to removal of forest even in areas designated as nature reserves. At present Madagascar, many other species of birds and mammals have become highly endangered due to human activities, mainly habitat destruction.

3) Central Africa

Central Africa: Although there are areas set aside as reserves in Africa, rapid population growth and strife have put incredible pressures on the forests of the Congo basin. At least half of the protected areas in Tanzania have been degraded by agricultural and other land uses Nigeria has virtually no forest left, so that, in 1988, it earned $6 million from wood exports but spent $100 million on imported forest products.

4) Thailand
In 1950, 70% of Thailand was still covered by rainforest, but by 1988 the cover had been reduced to 15% by virtually unrestrained logging. By 1985, demand for wood and wood products was more than five times the sustainable level. Deforestation has been driven also by population growth, the expansion of agricultural land (much of it for export cash crops), land speculation, illegal logging. Virtually all of the primary forest in Thailand has now disappeared. The Thai government has banned logging of natural forests, and has made some attempts at reforestation and resettlement of squatters, the latter with little success. This is mainly due to the vast corruption plaguing Thailand, the fact that the high government officials profit greatly from illegal logging and other activities facilitating or abetting deforestation. The last great teak forests of the world are on their way to extinction. And Thailand, once a major exporter of timber, has essentially only secondary forest left and is now an importer of wood.

5) India
The government of India has designated 23% of the land as state forest land but less than 11% of the country is still covered by forest! And less than 2% of this area consists of natural forest. India has a forest destruction rate of about 3.3% per year and deforestation and the unsustainable use of marginal lands has left approximately 40% of the country in wasteland. Much of India is subject to flooding, and dams have become silted up, due to the deforestation of watersheds. River flow is very low during dry seasons because of the severe damage to watersheds by deforestation, which has led to the salinization (and thus ruin) of coastal agricultural lands.

6) Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak)

Deforestation on a larger scale began in the late 19th century, when large tin reserves were discovered, and pepper, tobacco, and cassava cultivation became widespread. No action was taken, partly for political reasons and partly because of the structure of the government. Very little lowland forest remains in Peninsular Malaysia, and even montane forests up to 1500m are being cleared. Some rainforest remains in the north and elsewhere in isolated and mountainous patches, but the connection between the two large northern forested areas has been severed. Peninsular Malaysia can no longer provide much timber, but for the past 30 years much of the world supply of hardwood has come from Borneo (including Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo). In Borneo most of the deforestation has been for the purpose of supplying the timber industry. Fifty years ago Sarawak, one of the two Malaysian states on the north coast of Borneo, was almost entirely covered with forest, but by 1989 60% of the land had been licensed for timber extraction and huge areas have since been logged. By the late 1980s, this area supplied almost one-third of the worlds hardwood timber. Lately, the proportion has dropped, due to resource exhaustion, and attention has now shifted to the Neotropics. While logging, the timber companies routinely harvest 57% of the forest area in a patchwork of sites; however, they also degrade another 20-30% of the land for roads, logging yards and camps. Little is left, usually less than 20% as undisturbed forest, and that only in isolated pieces . Even worse, the forest is not left to regenerate (if it could), but is usually replanted with exotic commercial species in monocultures. It is anticipated that, at present rates of deforestation, more than 50% of Malaysian forest species will become extinct.

7) Indonesia
Twenty years ago Indonesia planned a national protected area system, with large conservation areas within a variety of biogeographic regions. All forest areas were allocated for production, watersheds, or conservation. Unfortunately, these principles were not incorporated into practice, and Indonesia is well on its way to losing all of its vast rainforests (not many years ago, more than 70% of its land area). Highway construction and urbanization have contributed a great deal to forest removal in Indonesia. Businessmen, government officials, politicians and workers make money from these activities. The interests of the future, the environment and the local small farmers are rarely considered. Deforestation is driven by profit and in some places in the name of socioeconomic equality. Now, in Borneo, the forests are being heedlessly razed for agriculture and timber. Often forests are simply burned to make way for short-lived agricultural plots, without the extraction of timber first. Because of this senseless activity, the virtually limitless forests in Kalimantan will be almost gone by 2010.

The World Bank and other international agencies provided funds for the management of Kerinci-Semblat, which provides habitat for the almost extinct Sumatran rhinoceros, Sumatran tiger, and the Asian elephant. Despite this, illegal logging operations follow logging roads into the forest, much forest land has been cleared and burned for agriculture, and there are many sawmills operating within the parks. Among the many endangered species in Indonesia is the silvery gibbon, which now has a population size of 400 to 2,000. Orangutans, which are perhaps the best-known Asian primates, are in serious trouble as well, as their habitat is reduced and the adults are killed for food, or to obtain the babies for pets.

Why is biodiversity loss a concern?

Biodiversity loss and deteriorating ecosystem services contributedirectly or indirectly to worsening health, higher food insecurity, increasing vulnerability, lower material wealth, worsening social relations, and less freedom for choice and action.

Food insecurity
Biodiversity is important to maintaining agricultural production. Wild relatives of domestic crops provide genetic variability that can be crucial for overcoming outbreaks of pests and pathogens and new environmental stresses. Many agricultural communities consider increased local diversity a critical factor for the long-term productivity and viability of their agricultural systems. For example, interweaving multiple varieties of rice in the same paddy has been shown to increase productivity by lowering the loss from pests and pathogens.

The world is experiencing an increase in human suffering and economic losses from natural disasters over the past several decades. Mangrove forests and coral reefsa rich source of biodiversityare excellent natural buffers against floods and storms. Their loss or reduction in coverage has increased the severity of flooding on coastal communities. Floods affect more people (140 million per year on average) than all other natural or technological disasters put together.

An important component of health is a balanced diet. About 7,000 species of plants and several hundred species of animals have been used for human food consumption at one time or another. Some indigenous and traditional communities currently consume 200 or more species. Wild sources of food remain particularly important for the poor and

landless to provide a somewhat balanced diet. Overexploitation of marine fisheries worldwide, and of bushmeat in many areas of the tropics, has lead to a reduction in the availability of wild-caught animal protein, with serious consequences in many countries for human health.

Energy security
Wood fuel provides more than half the energy used in developing countries. Even in industrial countries such as Sweden and the United States, wood supplies 17% and 3% of total energy consumption respectively. In some African countries, such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda, wood fuel accounts for 80% of total energy consumption .In rural areas, 95% is consumed in the form of firewood, while in urban areas 85% is in the form of charcoal. Shortage of wood fuel occurs in areas with high population density without access to alternative and affordable energy sources. In some provinces of Zambia where population densities exceed the national average of 13.7 persons per square kilometer, the demand for wood has already surpassed local supply. In such areas, people are vulnerable to illness and malnutrition because of the lack of resources to heat homes, cook food, and boil water.

Provision of clean water

The continued loss of cloud forests and the destruction of watersheds reduce the quality and availability of water supplied to household use and agriculture. The availability of clean drinking water is a concern in dozens of the worlds largest cities. In one of the best documented cases, New York City took steps to protect the integrity of watersheds in the Catskills to ensure continued provision of clean drinking water to 9 million people. Protecting the ecosystem was shown to be far more costeffective than building and operating a water filtration plant. New York City avoided $68 billion in expenses by protecting its watersheds.