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← Ecosystem Services

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Showing Revision 22 created 10/04/2016 by Ioana-Noemy Toma.

  1. We're talking about
    why biodiversity is important,

  2. specifically to us as humans
  3. in the form of ecosystem services.
  4. Given that we'll lose about 20%
    of the present species richness
  5. by the middle of the century,
  6. it's crucial to ask why that should
    matter to any of us.
  7. Should we be worried about that loss?
  8. And why do so many of us
    care so much about it already?
  9. There are three main ways
  10. in which biodiversity
    is crucial to humans.
  11. The first is by direct services.
  12. The second is by indirect services.
  13. And the third is the aesthetic
    or ethical effect.
  14. We get so many things
    directly from biodiversity
  15. on this planet.
  16. Food, clothing, housing,
    transportation,
  17. many medicines and medical supplies,
  18. and even energy in some cases.
  19. These things are derived directly
    from various ecosystems.
  20. Food goes without saying.
  21. All of our major food types,
  22. as diverse as they might be,
  23. originated in diverse ecosystems.
  24. It turns out that there are wild types
    of tomatoes still growing in Peru.
  25. This Peruvian tomatoes
    are a different species
  26. from the kind of tomato
    that we typically eat
  27. and the whole sum of the genetic
    diversity within them.
  28. When bread with some other tomatoes
  29. that we're using as our own food now,
  30. the yield from the hybrid tomatoes
  31. can go up almost as much as 50%.
  32. And we wouldn't have that productivity
  33. if we'd let that wild type
    of Peruvian tomato go extinct.
  34. If we didn't have that as part
    of the biodiversity out there today,
  35. there's no way that we would have access
    to that genetic diversity.
  36. Another direct service provided
    by a biodiversity shelter.
  37. Originally we built housing
    out of all kinds of biological materials.
  38. Even today where's still
    building houses out of trees.
  39. And what about medicine?
  40. Almost all of the medicines
    that human kind has developed
  41. have come directly from studying
  42. the way that organisms
    live in their environment,
  43. how they interact,
  44. and the chemicals that they use
    during those interactions.
  45. The rosy periwinkle
    is a very famous example of a plant
  46. that grows in some very secluded
    environments in Madagascar.
  47. And it turns out that this plant
  48. produces a couple
    of very insteresting chemicals
  49. that are now used
    to treat childhood leukemia.
  50. And again, we wouldn't have
    those medicines
  51. if the rosy periwinkle had gone extinct.
  52. Some of the more interesting things
    that I think people forget about
  53. when thinking about the value
    of biodiversity
  54. fall under the category
    of indirect services
  55. that are delivered to us
    by healthy ecosystems.
  56. If you think about mangrove swamps,
  57. which are these fantastic places
  58. along the coastal margins
    of some tropical countries,
  59. where specific types of trees,
    trees called mangroves, grow.
  60. Mangroves can grow in salt water,
  61. so they form a semi-marine forest
    at the edge between land and sea.
  62. There are many species
    of mangrove trees
  63. and they're all
    really tough resilient plants
  64. that provide tremendous services to us
    and to the natural environment.
  65. They protect the coast line
    from wave action and erosion,
  66. they're nurseries for all kinds
    the different types of organisms,
  67. and some of these are very important
    food types for us.
  68. Unfortunately,
    in certain parts of the world,
  69. people are destroying the mangroves
    in orden to make shrimp fisheries,
  70. they remove the mangroves
    and set up shrimp farms
  71. with the idea that they're adding
    economic value
  72. to that part of the coast line
  73. by putting in a shrimp farm
  74. that's going to produce
    a comercially viable product.
  75. But, if you look at the graph
    of the value of these things,
  76. the value of the shrimp farm
    is really only one third,
  77. maybe even only one quarter of the value
  78. of the original undisturbed
    mangrove swamp,
  79. because of the protection
    that the mangroves give
  80. against storms and erosion
  81. and the food sources
    they produce, such as fish.
  82. You can actually attach
    a dollar value to these things,
  83. which is sometimes the only way
  84. that people really come to grips
    with ecosystem value.
  85. It's the only way that people
    really understand the value
  86. of ecosystem services to humanity.
  87. Economic value of intact biodiversity
  88. has also been determined
  89. for ecosystems
    far from mangrove swamps,
  90. much closer at home.
  91. Some years ago, a large city
    on the East Coast,
  92. which shall remain nameless,
    except that it's New York,
  93. had an issue with the quality
    of its source water.
  94. There are rivers feeding
    into the New York City area,
  95. and the sources of that water
    were being compromised
  96. by pollution and environmental degradation
  97. to the point where biodiversity
    was being lost in some of those areas.
  98. So, city officials had a question
    in front of them.
  99. How do we deal
    in a cost effective way
  100. with this problem of declining
    quality of our water?
  101. It turns out that to build
    treatment plants
  102. to deal with cleaning the water up
  103. was going to cost
  104. somewhere in the neighborhood
    of six billion dollars,
  105. just to build the treatment plants.
  106. And then another
    three hundred million per year
  107. to maintain those plants
  108. and make sure that they were doing
    the things that they were supposed to,
  109. by removing the harmful chemicals
    that were being introduced
  110. through environmental
    degradation upstream.
  111. Then, they looked
    at what it was going to cost
  112. to clean up and restore the environment
  113. to make sure that the ecosystems
  114. and the biodiversity in those ecosystems
  115. were maintained to the point
    where they were doing
  116. what they would naturally do,
  117. by removing chemicals from the water
  118. basically filtering it
    through wetland habitat.
  119. Wetlands are tremendous,
    tremendous places
  120. for the recycling of dangerous chemicals
  121. and for the removal
    of chemicals from water,
  122. and for clarifying and cleaning water.
  123. The cost for this restoration
    was going to be about one billion dollars
  124. spread over ten years.
  125. Much, much lower cost.
  126. So, the answer was pretty clear.
  127. You are going to go and spend
    that billion dollars over ten years.
  128. Not only do you enhance
    the quality of the water
  129. in a very cost effective way
    but you do something else, too.
  130. And that addresses the third
    and final aspect of biodiversity value.
  131. The ethical and aesthetic services
    or value provided by biodiversity.
  132. These services may in fact be,
    in some ways, the most important ones.
  133. Sure, we can attach dollar values
  134. to the direct and indirect cost
    of a decline in biodiversity
  135. and the declined environmental services
  136. and ecosystem services,
  137. but the ethical and aesthetic value
  138. is something that's very,
    very difficult to put a price on.
  139. You might say, "Okay, well,
    it costs so much to go visit a park,
  140. or you might enjoy the view so much
  141. that you put a quarter into the telescope
  142. and soak in that environment,
  143. but that's not really
    what we are talking about.
  144. The value here comes
    in what we leave for the future.
  145. A drop in biodiversity,
  146. removal of biodiversity,
  147. the extinction of species,
  148. those are things that we can't repair.
  149. Lost biodiversity is something
    we cannot bring back.
  150. So, our children are going
    to inherit a depleted world.
  151. The ethical and aesthetic quality
    of the environments
  152. that they are going
    to experience in their future
  153. is going to be decreased.
  154. How do you put a dollar value on that?
  155. We are the stewards of the environment,
  156. but we are also the major influence
    on envionmental quality
  157. and certainly
    on ecosystem function these days
  158. through our activities that result
    in pollution, overfishing,
  159. habitat destruction,
  160. loss of certain species
    from the environment.
  161. No one wants a world
    that's filled with nothing but wheat,
  162. corn, dandelions, some cows and us.
  163. That's a very simple ecosystem
  164. that's fraught with future difficulty
    and instability.
  165. If you reduce biodiversity
  166. to the point where the loss of species
    in the ecological food web
  167. causes an ecological collapse
    of that system,
  168. we won't be just standing by
    watching that collapse,
  169. we are going to be part of it.
  170. Clearly, biodiverse ecosystems
    are great places to live and to visit.
  171. There's much to see
    that make you fell happy,
  172. restful, appreciative, full of awe,
  173. reminded of what a remarkable
    and unique planet this is.
  174. After all, it's ours.
  175. I think there's a deeper sort
    of societal psychology at work here.
  176. And it behooves us to pay attention
  177. not just to the economically measured
    direct and indirect services
  178. and benefits provided
    by diversity-rich, healthy ecosystems,
  179. but also to the ethical
    and aesthetic value
  180. of those amazing environments
    that are the inheritance
  181. we will leave for future generations.