Sunday, November 3, 2013

Functions of biodiversity, Vaue of biodiversity and threats to biodiversity

Two main functions of biodiversity are:
  1. It is the source on which the entire human species depends on for food, fibre, shelter, fuel and medicine.
  2. It depends on biosphere which in turn leads to stability in climate, water, soil, air and overall health of biosphere.
Definition and estimation of the value of biodiversity is not easy. The value of biodiversity is classified into:
  1. Direct Value and
  2. Indirect Value
Direct value of biodiversity is of two types
  1. Consumptive use value and
  2. Productive use value
Consumptive use value: The consumptive use value is the value placed on nature's products that are consumed directly, without passing through a market. Some of them are firewood, food, and game meat.

When direct consumption requires recreation, as in sport fishing and game viewing, the consumptive value is the whole recreational experience. Consumptive value seldom appears in national income accounts, but could be easily included in measures such as GDP. It is valued from the cost if resource was sold at market value, rather than being consumed.
High consumptive use values on resources may lead to the following problems:
  1. Over-exploitation of wildlife in developing countries
  2. Loss of traditional controls on hunting and
  3. Loss of wildlife populations at productive levels.
Consumptive use value benefits the communities closest to the resource if harvested sustainably and managed efficiently.
Productive use value: Productive use value refers to products that are commercially harvested (sold in a market). Its value is estimated at the production end rather than retail end by adding an inflated cost to the finished product. Productive use value is often the only value of biological resource reflected in national income accounts and may have a major impact on the national economy.
Timber, fish, honey, construction materials, mushrooms, fruits, medicinal plants and game meat sold in a market have productive use value.
Indirect value of biodiversity
Indirect values provide economic benefits without being harvested and do not appear in GDP. However, they are crucial to other natural products which influence the GDP. These values involve functions performed by biodiversity which are not of any use. Ex: Ecological Processes etc. Direct values are often derived from indirect values because plants and animals are supported by the services provided by their environments. Many classes of plant and animal species are consumed by tribal and non-tribal communities.
  1. Ecological functions
  2. Flood and storm protection
  3. Waste assimilation
  4. Microclimatic functions
  5. Nutrient cycles
  6. Photosynthesis
  7. Carbon stores
  8. Soil protection, etc.
Indirect value of biodiversity is of the following types:
  1. Non-consumptive use value
  2. Optional value
  3. Existence or ethical value and
  4. Information value
Non-consumptive use value: This indirect value deals with nature's functions and services. It includes photosynthesis of plants which provides support system for other species by maintaining water cycle, regulating climate, production and protection of the soil, absorption and breakdown of pollutants, recreational, aesthetic, socio-cultural, scientific, educational, spiritual and historic values of natural environments. Recreational value is important with regard to tourism and helps the national GDP.
Optional value: This refers to the potential of biodiversity that is currently known and needs to be explored. This refers to the idea that there may be several existing species that may prove to be important in future and their usefulness needs to be studied with reference to a specific problem currently plaguing the society.
  1. The growing biotechnology field is searching for a the cure for diseases like cancer and AIDS.
  2. Medicinal plants and herbs play a very important role in the economic growth of our country.
Existence value: This is the value gained from continuous knowledge of existence. Also, this is the value that people are willing to pay to keep a species/community/ecosystem from going extinct. Examples of this are high amounts being spent for animals like pandas, whales, lions etc.
Our rich heritage teaches us to worship plants, animals, rivers and mountains. Examples being the Ganga river, trees like Banyan and Peepal and plants like the Vambu, Tulsi and Vengai are worshipped.
Information value: This relates to the educational, scientific, aesthetic and tourism values of biodiversity in an ecosystem
Aesthetic Values: Beautiful plants and animals inspire us to protect biodiversity. The most important aesthetic value of biodiversity is eco-tourism.
  1. People from distant places spend time and money to visit areas where they can enjoy aesthetic value of biodiversity. This is called eco-tourism.
  2. The pleasant music of wild birds, beautifully coloured  butterflies, colour of peacocks and colour of flowers are very important for their aesthetic value.
Any disturbance in a natural ecosystem tends to reduce its biodiversity. Waste generated due to increase in human population and industrialization spoils the environment and leads to decreased  diversity in biological species. Any change in the system leads to a major imbalance and threatens the normal ecological cycle. Causes for loss of biodiversity are:
  1. Habitat loss
  2. Poaching of wildlife and
  3. Man-wildlife conflicts
Habitat loss:
The loss of populations of interbreeding organisms is caused by habitat loss. Factors influencing habitat loss are:
  1. Deforestation: Loss of habitat is mainly caused by deforestation activities. Forests and grasslands are cleared for conversion into agriculture lands or settlement areas or developmental projects. Forests and grasslands are natural home to thousands of species which disintegrate due to loss of their natural habitat.
  2. Destruction of wetlands: Wetlands, estuaries and mangroves are destroyed due to farming, filling and pollution that cause loss of biodiversity
  3. Habitat fragmentation: When the habitat is divided into small and scattered patches the phenomenon is called habitat fragmentation. This leads to the disappearance of most wildlife
  4. Raw material: To produce hybrid seeds, wild plants are used as raw materials leading to extinction of many wild plant species.
  5. Production of drugs: Pharmaceutical companies collect wild plants for the production of drugs leading to extinction of several medicinal plant species.
  6. Illegal trade: Illegal trade of wildlife reduces biodiversity leading to habitat loss
  7. Developmental activities: Construction of dams in forest areas coupled with the discharge of industrial effluents kills birds and other aquatic life.
Poaching of wildlife:
Poaching refers to killing animals or commercial hunting. It contributes to loss of biodiversity. Poaching can be of two types listed below:
  1. Subsistence poaching: This refers to killing animals for survival.
  2. Commercial poaching: This refers to hunting animals in order to sell their products.
Factors influencing poaching
  1. Human population: Increased human population in India has led to pressure on forest resources, leading to degradation of wildlife habitats
  2. Commercial activities: Although a ban has been imposed internationally on the trade of products of endangered species,  there is a continued smuggling of wildlife products. Since trading of such products is highly profitable, poachers continue to hunt endangered animals and smuggle their fur, skin and tusks to other countries.
Wildlife products include furs, horns, tusks, live specimens and herbal products.
Richest source of biodiversity lies in developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Advanced countries like Europe, North America, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong are the major importers of wildlife products.
Man-wildlife conflicts arise, when wildlife starts causing immense damage and danger to man. Under such conditions it is very difficult for the forest department officials to convince the affected villagers to gain the villagers support for wildlife conservation.
  1. In Sambalpur, Orissa, several people were killed by elephants. In retaliation, the villagers killed and injured several elephants.
  2. In Mysore, elephants were killed by farmers in retaliation to the damage done by elephants to their cotton and sugarcane fields.
  3. Villagers sometimes hide explosives in their fields to ward-off animals which explode when the elephants enter the fields
  4. Several people were killed when leopards attacked them in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai
Factors influencing man-animal conflicts
  1. Shrinking forest cover compels wildlife to move outside the forest
  2. Human encroachment into forest area induces a man-wildlife conflict
  3. Injured animals have a tendency to attack man
  4. Wild animals venture out of the forest area in search of food
  5. Villagers set-up electric wiring around their fields. This injures animals (Elephants) who suffer pain and get violent.
  6. Cash compensation paid by the government is not enough.
  7. Garbage near human settlements or food crops attracts wild animals.

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