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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

Biology/Env S 204

Spring 2009


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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?)


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Benefits to humans

  • Direct use value = marketable commodities

    • Food

    • Medicine

    • Raw materials

    • Recreational harvesting

    • Ecotourism


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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


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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)


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Benefits to humans: raw materials

  • Industrial materials:

    • Timber

    • Fibers

    • Resins, gums

    • Perfumes

    • Adhesives

    • Dyes

    • Oils, waxes, rubber

    • Agricultural chemicals


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Benefits to humans: recreational harvesting

  • Recreational harvesting:

    • Hunting

    • Fishing

    • Pets

    • Ornamental

      plants


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Benefits to humans: ecotourism

  • By definition based on biodiversity

  • Growing portion of the tourism industry


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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.


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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


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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


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Intrinsic Value

  • Biophilia = the connection that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life (nature) or the innate connection of humans to biodiversity


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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?


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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.


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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


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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?


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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


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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.


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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)


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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


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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


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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?


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Redundancy in Ecosystems

Two opposing views: rivet hypothesis vs. redundancy hypothesis

redundancy

rivet


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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