Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Biodiversity vs. Humanity

A while ago I saw an interesting article in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS). We have see a lot of articles about how human activity is reducing biodiversity. But this essay discusses how loss in biodiversity is reducing human well-being.

One of the areas the loss of biodiversity has a major effect is in agriculture. Indeed, for a while people have been warning about agriculture tending toward a monoculture. Many varieties have been lost due to agricultural practices. Ironically, the use of GMO's has in fact reduced the diversity of crops because of the practice of seed companies such as Monsanto (see my article What is Wrong with GMO's?).

A biodiverse environment helps improve the soil and also prevent soil loss through erosion. Biodiversity also helps crops through pollination, seed dispersal, and controlling pests and diseases

Many people have discussed how nature is a storehouse for medicine. Many drugs are derived from plants found originally in the wild. Reduction in biodiversity would reduce the possibilities to discover new medicines and therefore could have an effect on human health.

Protection against disasters (especially floods) is affected greatly by loss of forest habitat that has gone on throughout the world. This forest loss causes increase in flood intensity because vegetation allows the water to soak into the ground instead of running off. Forests can also act as barriers against natural disasters, reducing their effect on the local area.

All of these effects are collectively called ecosystem services. In other words the ecosystem is providing a service to humans. In a way I would also that the above contributes to our human knowledge. I now wonder if this is what business people mean when they say "knowledge management" ;).

Note: This is an expanded version of an article that originally appeared at my old (and now defunct) blog: johnsearth.blog-city.com.

UPDATE: After I wrote the above, I found this article briefly discussing the issue of agricultural biodiversity but from the side of livestock.

No comments: