These averages hide inequalities within countries (USD, 1999). Under such circumstances, sustainable development is the need of the hour. Key challenges for ensuring sustainability include population growth and weak technological, institutional and financial capabilities.
Biodiversity is under pressures everywhere due to human population growth, excessive resource demands, exotic species introductions, and atmospheric pollutants. Although, we often emphasize biodiversity loss in tropics, major problems exist in temperate, arid, and semiarid zones as well.
Worldwide, an estimated 2 to 5 % species will extinct per decade in near future. Even, if we stopped cutting forests, filling wetlands, and damming rivers worldwide today, species extinctions caused by historic habitat destruction would continue for centuries.
To halt biodiversity loss at a level somewhere near today’s, it needs not only to stop habitat loss immediately but also to restore a substantial fraction of habitat that already has been lost. Expansion of agriculture, cities, and infrastructure are predicted to cause habitat loss and lead to a continuing decline in local and global biodiversity.
Habitat loss between 1970 and 2050 would cause extinction of approximately 10-15% of the species. Losses of habitat and plant populations would be fastest in warm mixed forests, savannas, scrub, tropical forests and woodlands. More proactive approaches will have more success in slowing terrestrial habitat and biodiversity loss in near future than reactive approaches (MA, 2005).
The more pressing problem from standpoint of biodiversity and biosafety, however, is not genetically modified organisms but common garden variety, genetically unmodified “weeds.”
The most rapidly growing threat to biodiversity is exotic species. The U.S. has some 4,500 introduced species accounting for some 2 to 8 % of groups as insects, vertebrates, and molluscs. Between 1906 and 1991, 79 introduced species caused documented $97 billion losses in the U.S.
The zebra mussel will cause more than US$3 billion losses in coming years as estimated elsewhere. If we do negotiate a biosafety protocol, it should not be restricted to genetically modified organisms but also should address broader issue of introduction of exotic species and their social and ecological impacts.
Biodiversity is a precise gift of nature. Biodiversity loss is continuing as a serious threat to human civilization. It would ultimately threaten the existence of man himself on this planet, if present trend continues.
To ameliorate the problem of biodiversity loss, there is an urgent need to implement the concept of sustainable development. International, National, regional and local biodiversity conservation programme requires to be implemented on urgent basis to reverse the present trend of biodiversity loss and to ensure future of planet earth as well as future of our next generations.
Biodiversity loss will increase rapid climate change, desertification, fisheries collapse, floods, landslides, wildfires, eutrophication, and disease. During this century, global temperature may increase by 2.0 to 3.5°C, depending on the scenario.
Precipitation may increase over most of land area on earth, though some arid regions may become even more arid and sea levels will rise. Changes in ecosystem services will be rapid, in “hot spot regions”.
Major decisions in next 50-100 years will have to address trade-offs between agricultural production and water quality, land use and biodiversity, water use and aquatic biodiversity, current water use for irrigation and future agricultural production, and in fact all current and future use of nonrenewable resources.
Over the long run, biodiversity’s fate will in fact lie with social and economic progress around world. The steps countries show take to improve literacy, empower women, invest in health and child survival, and stimulate sustainable economic development.
“Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History, explains how the invention of agriculture made it possible for human race to increase its numbers exponentially and spread across planet in his book “Life in the Balance, Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis,” The sheer bulk of human numbers,” he writes, “probably nearly doubling to over 10 billion [thousand million] by mid-21st century – is wreaking havoc on Earth, on its species, ecosystems, soils, waters, and atmosphere.”
Eldredge foresees a coming “Sixth Extinction” of life forms on this planet, rivaling the previous five known prehistoric mass extinctions of life in prehistoric times. Eldredge adds: “Everything is linked. World truly is a complex system, and we are a part of it, still dependent on its renewable productivity, which we ourselves are beginning to stifle.
“Tuxill’s (1999) thesis was that survival of wild varieties of plants, or plants those have been domesticated but vary genetically from small farm to small farm, is extremely important, as variety in plant genome can provide a way of breeding disease-resistant varieties and enriching human agriculture.
“Plant biodiversity, in particular,” Tuxill says, “is arguably the single greatest resource that humankind has garnered from nature during our long cultural development.” He adds that due to modern agricultural-practices, “we are eroding the very ecological foundations of plant biodiversity and losing unique gene pools, species, and even entire communities of species forever.”
According to Millennium Ecosystem Assesment (MA) (2005), four scenarios are important in this connection:
Here, a globally-connected society focuses on global trade and economic liberalization and takes a reactive approach to ecosystem problems. Under this scenario, poverty is reduced along with deterioration of ecosystem services.
Order from Strength:
This represents a regionalized and fragmented world, concerned with security and protection and takes a reactive approach to ecosystem problems. The rich protect their borders, attempting to confine poverty, conflict, environmental degradation, and deterioration of ecosystem services to areas outside their borders.
Here, regional ecosystems are focus of political and economic activity. Societies develop a local strongly proactive approach to management of ecosystems. Some regions are successful, others learn from them, but some ecosystems still suffer degradation.
This depicts a globally-connected world relying strongly on technology to improve the provision of ecosystem services. Environmental problems are dealt with proactively in an effort to avoid problems.
People push ecosystems to produce as much as possible, but this often undermines ecosystems ability to support them, which in turn can have serious consequences for human well-being.