Biodiversity conservation and sustainable development

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BIODIVERSITY INCLUDES all species of flora and fauna on earth, their gene pool, and the ecosystems where they thrive. Life forms have taken millennia to develop through natural selection and evolutionary processes. Biodiversity provides ecosystem goods in form of food, fibre medicine, services such as air and water purification, climate regulation, erosion control and nutrient cycling etc.

Over the past half-century, world has seen more economic progress, prosperity, and human development during any other era in human history. During this same era, however, mankind have altered the natural ecological balance than any other comparable time in history leaving biodiversity in a state of swift decline. Globally 300 million

people depend on forests directly for their survival, including 60 million people of indigenous and tribal groups, who are almost completely dependent on forests and 1.6 billion people relying on forests and non-timber forest products e.g. the fruits from trees for their livelihoods. More than three billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity so as many people directly depend on the availability of usable land, water, plants and animals to support their families. In fact, ecosystems are the base of all economies.

Rare tree species and many species of wildlife are on brink of extinction due to illegal hunting, poaching and trans-boundary trade. Extinction of a single species means loss of important ecological services and function it provides. Conservation of biological diversity and sustainable development are interrelated. On one hand is focusing on social progress, economic growth, and environmental protection and ecosystem conservation on the other. Conservation includes the efforts carried out in protected areas such as national parks and community reserves, and in areas with rich and important biodiversity where conservation is not the main focus. It is in these latter productive landscapes where sustainability is needed most.

Sustainable agriculture, sustainable fisheries and sustainable management of natural resources are the main approaches for preserving these landscapes for long-term social, economic and ecological benefits. Sustainable human development is about living on earth without taking more than can be naturally replaced as earth has enough to fulfil everyones need but it cant fulfil everyones greed. It is about good health, good living conditions and long-term wealth creation for everybody. All these things must occur within the carrying capacity of the planet.

Biodiversity is a key component of sustainable development and the environmental health. Biodiversity conservation requires the participation of many different groups of people, working with various conservation mechanisms both in situ and ex situ. Biodiversity policy and conservation activities are informed, enhanced, and driven by research and technology. Sustainable conservation of biological capital is the taking from the Earth only what it can provide indefinitely, thus leaving future generations no less than we have access to ourselves. Biodiversity conservation is at the heart of sustainable development as people may be the part of problem; they are part of the solution as well. Public participation, awareness and education are important tools in any long-term conservation strategy. Culturally and emotionally, unsustainable use of biological diversity and resources leads to the loss of a group of species from peoples daily lives, customs, and virtual world, thus leaving a poorer world for their children.

Biodiversity conservation practitioners must therefore ensure that the communities relying directly on natural resources are involved in conservation initiatives, and guarantee their active participation during the whole conservation process. Some form of community engagement is essential for the success of any biodiversity conservation project. Sustainable use of biodiversity is widely included in national biodiversity strategies but unsustainable use and over exploitation remain major threat in several sectors. In the past, humans have adapted to changing conditions by increasing productivity, but now we have reached the limits of the Earths carrying capacity.

Increasing human population is putting ever more pressure on ecosystems services making our ecological footprint unsustainable. Pakistan situated at a transition between three zoogeographical realms; Palearctic, Oriental and Ethiopian is country with rapid changes in altitude that affect its biodiversity. Pakistan has some of the worlds rarest animals and plants. It hosts the endangered snow leopard in North, and further South, the Blind Indus Dolphin. Indus wetlands are critical for the waterfowl population that visit the area in winter. Indus flyway is globally considered the fourth major bird migration route. Among plants, Saussurea lappa, locally known as kut, is endemic to the alpine regions and is considered an endangered species.

Increasing population is one of the major challenges to biodiversity. According a report by World Wildlife Federation (WWF), by the year 2050, we may need two Planets equal to earth to sustain human population. Question is; where will we find that second planet? What happens if we dont find it? What alternatives are there? The answer lies in sustainable development of human societies living in harmony with nature and leaving the Planet a better place for our coming generations to live as we dont inherit the earth from our ancestors, but borrow from our children. Moreover, erroneous economic policies have led to the widening of inequalities, forcing the poor to depend more heavily on natural resources.

Lack of facilities, such as adequate electric supply and natural gas in the rural areas, has resulted in the exploitation of fuel wood at an unsustainable rate. The result: deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, salinity and waterlogging, non-sustainable agricultural practices and hunting have become major threats to biodiversity. Presently, main aim of biological capital conservation is through community participation: by seeking to meet human needs from ecological resources, while ensuring the long-term sustainability of vital and productive ecosystems. Besides conserving wildlife, it also involves the protection of the genetic diversity of cultivated and domesticated wild species and their relatives. It is important to assess the relative importance, in terms of diversity, of different habitats and ecosystems. To conclude, it is also imperative to recognise the importance of our biological capital and improve the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems to ensure biodiversity conservation while keeping sustainable development intact.


Published in: Volume 06 Issue 20

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