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Value and Maintenance of Biodiversity Biology/Env S 204 Spring 2009 Value and Maintenance Benefits to humans, direct or indirect Intrinsic value What kind of a world do we want to live in? Redundancy in ecosystems (how much is enough?) Benefits to humans

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Value and Maintenance of Biodiversity


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value and maintenance of biodiversity

Value and Maintenance of Biodiversity

Biology/Env S 204

Spring 2009

value and maintenance
Value and Maintenance
  • Benefits to humans, direct or indirect
  • Intrinsic value
  • What kind of a world do we want to live in?
  • Redundancy in ecosystems (how much is enough?)
benefits to humans
Benefits to humans
  • Direct use value = marketable commodities
    • Food
    • Medicine
    • Raw materials
    • Recreational harvesting
    • Ecotourism
benefits to humans food
Benefits to humans: food
  • About 3,000 species (ca. 1% of 300,000 total) of flowering plants have been used for food
  • About 200 species have been domesticated
  • Wild relatives source of genes for crop improvement in both plants and animals
benefits to humans medicine
Benefits to humans: medicine
  • Organisms as chemists
  • About 25% of all medical prescriptions in the U.S. are based on plant or microbial products or on derivatives or on synthetic versions
  • Some medicinal products from animals (e.g., anticoagulant from leeches)
benefits to humans raw materials
Benefits to humans: raw materials
  • Industrial materials:
    • Timber
    • Fibers
    • Resins, gums
    • Perfumes
    • Adhesives
    • Dyes
    • Oils, waxes, rubber
    • Agricultural chemicals
benefits to humans recreational harvesting
Benefits to humans: recreational harvesting
  • Recreational harvesting:
    • Hunting
    • Fishing
    • Pets
    • Ornamental

plants

benefits to humans ecotourism
Benefits to humans: ecotourism
  • By definition based on biodiversity
  • Growing portion of the tourism industry
indirect use value
Indirect Use Value
  • Indirect use value = services provided by biodiversity that are not normally given a market value (often regarded as free)
  • Include primarily ecosystem services: atmospheric, climatic and hydrological regulation; photosynthesis; nutrient cycling; pollination; pest control; soil formation and maintenance, etc.
indirect use value10
Indirect Use Value
  • Biosphere 2 was an attempt to artificially create an ecosystem that would sustain human life
  • Ca. US$200 million invested in design and construction plus millions more in operating costs
  • Could not sustain 8 humans for two years
intrinsic value
Intrinsic value
  • Simply because it exists
  • Moral imperative to be good stewards, the preservation of other life for its own sake
  • Supported in many different religious or cultural traditions
  • Recognized in the Convention on Biodiversity
intrinsic value12
Intrinsic Value
  • Biophilia = the connection that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life (nature) or the innate connection of humans to biodiversity
intrinsic value13
Intrinsic Value
  • Biophilia = the connection that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life (nature) or the innate connection of humans to biodiversity
  • Should we put a monetary value on everything?
intrinsic value14
Intrinsic Value
  • Biophilia = the connection that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life (nature) or the innate connection of humans to biodiversity
  • Should we put a monetary value on everything?
  • If something can be valued, it can be devalued.
what kind of a world do we want to live in
What kind of a world do we want to live in?
  • Human co-opt about 40% of the net primary productivity on an annual basis
  • Human population at over 6 billion and growing at about 80 million per year
  • Loss of some biodiversity is inevitable
what kind of a world do we want to live in16
What kind of a world do we want to live in?
  • Current extinction rate much higher than background; also commitment to extinction
  • Extinction is forever; species may have unforeseen uses or values (e.g., keystone species, medicinal value, etc.)
  • Biodiversity has recovered after previous mass extinctions, but are we also eliminating that possibility by severely restricting conditions conducive to evolution?
what kind of a world do we want to live in17
What kind of a world do we want to live in?

If 6 billion people consume 40% of the annual net primary productivity, what is the theoretical limit (= carrying capacity) for humans under current conditions?

2.5 x 6 billion = 15 billion

what kind of a world do we want to live in18
What kind of a world do we want to live in?

But this number does not factor in the costs of dealing with wastes or non-renewable resources.

Nor does it leave room for other biodiversity, upon which we depend for ecosystem services (such as waste removal/recycling).

Human population is expected to reach ca. 12 billion by 2050.

what kind of a world do we want to live in19
What kind of a world do we want to live in?
  • This is why many now argue that we have to find a way to put biodiversity into the economic equation
  • Previously no monetary values were associated with natural resources except the actual ones generated by extraction (the world is there for us to use)
what kind of a world do we want to live in20
What kind of a world do we want to live in?
  • Extraction costs (e.g., labor, energy) usually computed
  • But cost of replacement not included, nor costs of the loss of the services provided by that resource or its ecosystem (e.g., cutting forest for timber)
  • Because costs are undervalued, benefits of extraction are overvalued
what kind of a world do we want to live in21
What kind of a world do we want to live in?
  • Green accounting proposed as part of the solution
  • But requires that environmental assets have proper prices (p. 171, Chichilnisky essay in text)
  • Tie in to property rights for natural resources
redundancy in ecosystems
Redundancy in Ecosystems
  • Or, how much biodiversity is enough?
  • How much redundancy is built into ecological processes/communities?
  • To what extent do patterns of diversity determine the behavior of ecological systems?
redundancy in ecosystems23
Redundancy in Ecosystems

Two opposing views: rivet hypothesis vs. redundancy hypothesis

redundancy

rivet

redundancy in ecosystems24
Redundancy in Ecosystems
  • Rivet hypothesis: most if not all species contribute to the integrity of the biosphere in some way
  • Analogy to rivets in an aircraft—there is a limit to how many can be removed before the structure collapses
  • Progressive loss of species steadily damages ecosystem function
redundancy in ecosystems25
Redundancy in Ecosystems
  • Redundancy hypothesis: species richness is irrelevant; only the biomass of primary producers, consumers and decomposers is important
  • Life support systems of the planet and ecological processes will generally work fine with relatively few species
redundancy in ecosystems26
Redundancy in Ecosystems
  • In the past (from fossils), most ecological systems have been conspicuously less species rich
  • But no evidence that they operated any differently
redundancy in ecosystems27
Redundancy in Ecosystems
  • Major patterns of energy flow and distribution of biomass in existing ecological systems may be broadly insensitive to species numbers
  • But systems with higher diversity and more kinds of interactions may be more buffered from fluctuations
  • Lack of data regarding the link between species-richness and ecosystem function
redundancy in ecosystems28
Redundancy in Ecosystems
  • Middle ground: ecosystem processes often but not always have considerable redundancy built into them
    • Not all species are equal (e.g., functional groups, keystone species)
    • The loss of some species is more important than the loss of others
    • Species loss may be tolerated up to some critical threshold