Why Conserve Biodiversity?

Text and photos by Heitor Cavalcanti de Albuquerque (u5250410)

It is interesting to think about the fact that despite all organisms exhibit the same controlling structure (DNA expression), the variety of forms, colors, size, perception of the world and a lot of others characteristics are incredibly huge. Not only physical characteristics, but also the way of living where products and sub products that are created make relations between living beings vital for the life of all.

Natural events already caused the extinction of various species, and the processes on Earth led to the evolution of the remaining life and opened again the “tree of biodiversity”. So extinction is not a problem, it only becomes one when viewed by humans’ eyes; but at the same time we assume it as a “problem”, our activities are causing Earth’s sixth major extinction event (Chapin III et al., 2000).

Pavan Sukhdev is a researcher that shows the economic importance of biodiversity known as “economic invisibility of the nature” where different ecosystems and individual species services are worth a lot of money while nobody needs to pay for it as nature is considered a public good. Garrett Hardin (1968) said that the inevitable outcome of the public goods is the “tragedy of the commons, in which individuals who consume a shared resource according to their own self-interest are bound to destroy it.” Almost fifty years after this statement, Sukhdev affirms the tragedy of commons is greater than ever and natural resources are under increasing pressure of human impacts, even though this may bring impacts for us (Sukhdev, 2009).

Medicines, nutritious foods, cosmetics, clothes and other products are provided by biodiversity, the importance of which is given by bioprospection. Although the importance of bioprospecting, the results of Costello and Ward (2006) showed that its conservation incentive is insufficient to generate much private-sector conservation, reminding that private-sector cannot efficiently provide public goods.

The idea of setting property rights in biodiversity raises questions about the ethics involving this market-based conservation and the divergences that this could bring when presented to different cultures. Over the various cultures around the world, there are various reasons of the importance of specific species conservation to each culture, which regard: religion, beliefs, direct resource importance (especially for indigenous people) and others cultural values. The ethno biologist Victor Toledo wrote that “world’s biodiversity only will be effectively preserved by preserving diversity of cultures and vice versa” (Toledo, 2001).

Although all the strong scientific background presented, I firmly believe that there is meaning in life, and its reasons are also capable to answer the question “Why conserve biodiversity?” This does not imply an answer with words; maybe the reason is just life itself. But it is hard to really understand that biodiversity has its own values and this is reason enough to conserve it. The nature of the question, which is formulated in a human-structured way of thinking for a human response, indicates that all possible answers will regard our interests.

Maybe we should have more contact with the different forms of “DNA expression”; maybe just personal experience of being in their presence will trigger personal understanding and answers. But while we think about “non-scientific” answers, we should keep in mind that the threats to biodiversity are real, and that actions regarding its protection are needed.

References

Chapin III, F. S. et al. 2000. Consequences of changing biodiversity. Nature.

Costello, C. and Ward, M. 2006. Search, bioprospecting and biodiversity conservation. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Hardin, G. 1968. The tragedy of the commons. Science.

Sukhdev, P. 2009. Costing the Earth. Nature.

Toledo, V. 2001. Indigenous people and biodiversity. In: Encyclopedia of Biodiversity.

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to Why Conserve Biodiversity?

  1. Thanks for sharing your deep thinking about this issue (and your fantastic photos). These are questions that are challenging and not easily answered.

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