Value of ecosystems: tropical rainforests and corals

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  • Value of ecosystems
    • Economic value
      • Maintaining a genetic pool means we can access ecosystems for new medicines.
        • 25% of all drugs are from plants.
          • Only 1% of rainforest plants have been tested for medicinal use so far.
          • E.g.Horseshoe crab, the peptides in its blood look as if it will aid resistance to HIV in humans.
          • Rosy periwinkle was source for successful drug for childhood leukaemia.
      • A healthy ecosystem can help reduce the financial impacts of floods- interception by the rainforest helps protect flooding and soil erosion.
      • No need to use fertilisers- natural nutrient cycle.
    • Cultural/ aesthetic value
      • Recreational use. Many want access to natural ecosystems for walking/ outdoor activities. Adds to quality of life.
      • Education and scientific research expanding our understanding of the natural world.
      • Supporting the lives of local peoples and helping maintain traditional cultures.
      • Rainforest aboriginal people are the original owners of the Wet Tropic rainforests. The natural features of the rainforest are interwoven with the people's religion.
        • Amerindians- Amazon. Aborigines- Australia.
      • Economic value as it attracts tourism.
      • Idea of sustainability- we should pass on the same resources we have had access to.
    • Ecological value
      • Loss of biodiversity makes ecosystems less stable and more vulnerable.
      • Plants' ability to photosynthesise provides the base for food chains (they're primary producers). Reduction of biodiversity reduces this ability.
      • Carbon sequestration: Absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
      • Plant communities are essential components in the hydrological cycle. Transpiration recycles water back into the atmosphere and interceptors aid infiltration and reduce rainfall impact.
      • Wastes are broken down within ecosystems by bacteria as part of the nutrient cycling process.
    • Coral reefs
      • South-east Asia is home to over 30% of the world's coral reefs.
      • 700 species of coral out of a world total of 1,000.
      • Algae photosynthesise and produce 95% of the nutrition for the coral.
      • Coral reefs act as a protection for the coastline, breaking the power of the waves before they reach the the land.
      • Important as a food source (fish, shellfish), especially for local villages.
      • Some reef species e.g. sponges are used  pharmaceutical industry to medicine.,
      • Highly biodiverse ecosystems- 'rainforests of the sea'.
      • Important attraction for tourism. Reef tourism is a growing sector of the market. Snorkelling and scuba diving in income.
      • Coral habitats allow relatively easy access for research into complex marine ecosystems. Also important for education about sustainable management of marine systems.


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