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The Role of Sustainable Development in Biodiversity Conservation

By Samuel

Biodiversity which comprises of plants and animals among the different natural resources given to the world is one of the main targets sustainable development tries to preserve. This is because biodiversity is life and till today the planet Earth is the only planet that holds any proven record of life. Protecting this biodiversity is a prerequisite for the maintenance of human life. Any area with abundant biodiversity in good health shows signs of sustainable development and biodiversity like the presence of forest as an example serves as a natural sink to the huge amount of CO2 generated by humans from industrialization. The same CO2 is responsible for climate change and the extinction of many species around the globe. this tells us how important biodiversity is to us and the need for us to be sustainable in our development and protect our biodiversity.

Plants do not only help to regulate our climate but serve as power house for man being the source of food and medicine for humans. In certain areas of the globe most especially poor zones like in the village rely on biodiversity for their survival as it provides them with shelter, food and serves as fuel to its villagers.

A good number of mechanisms have been put in place in every country of the globe with the aim of conserving biodiversity like laws defending the logging of certain species of plants in extinction and animals, creating reserves where plants and animals are protected from hunters.

The role of sustainable development in biodiversity conservation

The concept of sustainable development was born as a concept to promote the conservation of nature. In 2003 at Durban, there was a congress held by the World Park in which the General Director of the organization IUCN, named Achim Steiner in his speech tried to highlight the relation between sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. He emphasized that  we should not see our environment as an ocean of destruction in which small islands like reserve for conservation of biodiversity are created but as an ocean of sustainable development in which the conservation of biodiversity serves as the building block of the environment.

The concept of conservation of biodiversity is not new, during the late 20th century the concept was actually referred to as wildlife or nature conservation by environmentalist at that time. In the 1960s it was observed that development had an impact on the biodiversity and hence altered the balance of the ecosystem. Following this gain of consciousness a conference was held at Virginia in 1968 to see how to make development sustainable for the conservation of biodiversity and had the title “the ecological aspect of sustainable development.”

The ecosystem group for the conservation of biodiversity is made up of the IUCN, UNEP, FAO and UNESCO with the philosophy that sustainable development itself can serve as a tool for the conservation of biodiversity.

The Conservation of Biological Diversity (CBD) was the aim of the Rio Conference held in 1992 for the conservation of wildlife. During the conference debates and decisions were made regarding sustainable development and biodiversity.

The conservation of biodiversity is related to the state of finance of the population that is concerned. In poor areas for example the population highly depends on the forest and animals to survive independent of the species involving those that are endangered. As means to sustainably maintain biodiversity the World Park Congress in 2003 held a conference where they gave a suggestion to displace the people living in protected areas or where endangered species are found like parks to other locations.

The loss of biodiversity is at an alarming rate today as compared to the records of history. There is a record of the last mass disappearance of biodiversity that existed on our planet about 65 million years ago in the late Cretaceous and this caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has carried an estimate of the rate of extinction of some Phyla in the animal kingdom and pasted the following results mammals 22%, the gymnosperm 32%, that of the birds 14%, and for the amphibians is 32%. A typical example is the extinction of the passenger pigeons which were largely abundant in the range of 3 – 5 billion in the mid-1800s but are now extinct. The extinction of biodiversity is as a result of acid mine drainage released in fresh water that kills fishes, oil spills and over fishing which are done in a manner that does not respect the environment which is the habitat of biodiversity.

Remediation methods

Remediation methods are the regulations put in place by the different institutions of sustainable development for the conservation of biodiversity. For example, in acid mine drainage that pollutes water and kill fishes, the remedial measure is for the mining company to chemically treat the water from the acid mine to a level where the heavy metals are completely removed before the water is released into the ecosystem. For excess fishing the creation of fish ponds where fish farmers grow fishes to meet up with the high demand by so doing they promote the conservation of biodiversity.

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture is the type of farming done based on the respect of the ecosystem for the maintenance of services. This is a farming practice that brings together plants and animals’ production for the specific use and it is expected to last over a long period. It can be practiced in order to meet up with human needs for food and fibers. Sustainable agriculture enhances the quality of the environment and the natural resources upon which the economy of the agriculture depends. The components a farmer uses in sustainable agriculture are water, soil, air and nutrients. The most important of these elements are the quality and the quantity of water and soil which can be affected by man’s action over time.

Methods to carryout sustainable agriculture

Air and sun which are elements necessary for sustainable agriculture can be found anywhere and in abundance. The problem in farming is that during a cycle of planting and harvest, the soil nutrients are absorbed by the harvested plants for their growth and these nutrients are not replaced afterwards. This makes the soil to be depleted of nutrients and there is a reduction in the yield of the soil when next another crop is planted on it.

Using sustainable agriculture here will be to replenish the nutrient of the soil without the use of non-renewable sources of fertilizers that will later have a negative impact on biodiversity if washed by rain to other ecosystems. There are various means through which the nitrogen necessary for plant growth can be obtained naturally in sustainable agriculture;

-          Using life stock and crop waste that have been recycled and also human manure that have undergone treatment.

-          The cultivation of crops such as legumes and the cultivation of forages such as peanuts or alfalfa are capable  of trapping nitrogen through their root noodles.

-          Another means by which nitrogen is obtained can be industrially from the Haber process that combines hydrogen and air to produce ammonia gas and the gas obtained converted to ammonium salts that are used as fertilizers.

-          Using genetically engineering modified plants that are not legume crops that are capable of carrying out nitrogen-fixing symbiosis.

-          Crop rotation is another natural means of maintaining the long term fertility of a soil in sustainable agriculture.

Water management as a sustainable agriculture measure

For sustainable agriculture to meet up with the provision of food to man in conditions of draught or long dry seasons, the farmer can apply irrigation. For the irrigation applied to meet up with sustainable agriculture standards, the irrigation is done in such a way that the soil will not suffer from salinization and the source of the water is not consumed more than it is naturally replenished. High crop yields have been obtained with new drilling technology. Such technologies involve the uses of submersible pumps, the development of drip irrigation and low-pressure pivot.

sustainable agriculture and Soil Management

The soil on which crops are planted not only serve as support to the plant but also provides the necessary nutrients the plant needs to survive and grow healthy. The soil also serve as habitat to many small organisms like worms, ants and other insects and in Africa for example an estimate of more than 1 million tone of the soil found in the southern part of Africa is eroded yearly. If we do not but in place measures for sustainable agriculture, in using soil for farming (for large – scale farming), the soil value is reduced. Using sustainable agriculture the value of the soil can be maintained so as to conserve biodiversity through the following ways: cultivating the soil every year without using the tilting method, tracking the path way of water in what is known as keyline, making sure the land is save from water runoff and holding the soil with the help of windbreaks.

The advantages of sustainable agriculture in conservation of biodiversity

Environmental protection is enhanced by sustainable agriculture as its practice uses non toxic chemicals (pesticides, genetically modified seeds and or practices that will cause the degradation of the soil or water) to farm crops and animals hence biodiversity is protected and the ecosystem is healthy.

The non use of chemicals in sustainable development is advantageous to man and the natural environment.

The value of biodiversity

With the understanding of the value of biodiversity, most especially in the ecosystem and the services it renders to man, it has become of great importance to sustainably maintain this biodiversity. Some of these values of biodiversity are;

Intrinsic value of biodiversity

The evolution of life from the level of bacteria that first existed to complex plants started the production of oxygen that also led the existence of animals of different kinds who have evolved over time as recorded by scientific studies. These plants and animals therefore have a value as they exist that is why in certain areas in the world like conservational units, biological parks and national parks are there to protect the biodiversity that are on the verge of extinction.

The anthropocentric value of biodiversity

This refers to the economic dependence of man on biodiversity, the value of biodiversity to humans includes the use of wood obtained from plants for activities like making furniture for the household. The nutrients needed by man for his survival is provided by food obtained from biodiversity. Medicines needed for the treatment of our diseases are obtained from biodiversity and biotechnology which deals with the study of genetic modification and has a vast reserve of biodiversity studies. There are also indirect ways in which biodiversity helps humans giving them a vital value within our society.

The loss of biodiversity

The loss of biodiversity is a worldwide problem today, it is important for the society to be educated about sustainable development and its role in biodiversity conservation. Education on the importance of the various species and pointing out the practices that lead to the loss of this biodiversity are very important. The loss of biodiversity when concentrated in a particular area, makes the area a hotspot. This is particularly true as record shows that countries where protected species like elephants are mostly killed are poor.

This act of dependency on natural resources for total survival of the human being is called the resource dilemmas. Therefore, the loss of biodiversity can be stopped through proper education on the sustainable use of biodiversity to the individuals who completely depend on this biodiversity for their survival. Others can be pushed to another activity that can yield them income. If there is loss of biodiversity, it plays directly on the ecosystem and that is why natural disasters like desertification and flooding keeps occurring at alarming rates today. So biodiversity conservation through the sustainable use of the resources we have is important in the balance of our communities

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