Biodiversity Under Threat

  • Created by: Sarahh
  • Created on: 20-04-14 11:19

Fynbos, South Africa

  • Fynbos - fine leaved plants: major vegetation type of the Cape Floral Kingdom
  • Plant Species - 1,300 per 10,000km2
  • Adapted to the Mediterranean Climate: heat and drought

What makes it a hotspot? 

  • Unusual Geology + Soils
  • Topography and a Distinctive fire regime 

Current Threats:

  • Spread of alien plants e.g. Hakea + Australian Acacia
  • Commercial Forestry using non-native species e.g. European pines
  • Bush fires 
  • Housing developments around Cape Town
  • Intensification of Agriculture

No development may be undertaken in the 12 nature reserves and 4 designated wilderness areas without special approval. 

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Value of an Ecosystem: Coral Reefs

The importance of coral reefs to local economies is complex and underestimated.

  • Tourism and Recreation: More than 100 of 109 countries with reefs have established tourist industries. 33% of Tobago's GDP, 24% of St Lucia's GDP depends on tourism from Coral Reefs.
  • Fisheries:0.8-1.3 million spent directly and indirectly (boats and nets) in Tobago. 
  • Shoreline Protection: Reef in St. Lucia protects 610km (50% of coast) avoiding $28-50million worth of potential damage.

Biodiversity: Occupy 0.15% of marine environment, yet home 25% marine fish. Although 4,000 species of reef living fish and 800 species of reef-building corals have been identified, scientists say this is a fraction and species may not be discovered.

Shoreline Protection: Buffer coasts from storms and erosion. Will help with rising sea levels and global warming.

Food: 20% of animal protein consumed by people comes from marine environments. Population + commercial fishing put pressure on reefs esp. in far east where reef fisheries feed 1bn people.

Medicine: Algae/sponges yield bioactive compounds used - pharmaceutical industry. Support bacterial infections/bone grafts.

Building Materials: Mined for lime and stone in countries that lack basic construction materials.

At present, 60% of coral reefs on the planet are threatened by local activities (world resources insititute) Unless we reduce human impact and climate change, by 2030, 90% of reefs will be threatened.

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Global Warming on Biodiversity in Arctic - Global

Shifting of ecosystems polewards. Coniferous forests expand into tundra zone.

Tundra along with it's rare arctic plants will shrink as rising sea levels drown coastal areas. - shrinkage will lead to shrinking habitats - a number of bird species are projected to lose more than 50% of their breeding area. (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment - Cambridge University 2004)

Today, migrant bird species depend on summer feeding and breeding grounds in the Arctic, so birds will have to fly further north.

Increased forest fires + insect infestations will reduce biomass & biodiversity.

Marine life will respond to warmer sea temperatures and reduced ice cover - improved food supplies mean bigger fish stocks and appearance of new species. 

Fragile foodwebs damaged - loss of tundra mosses and lichens that provide the main food for animals such as reindeer - lead to decline in deer numbers will affect predators e.g. wolves.

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Global Threats

  • Habitat Change: Least threat in deserts but increasingly in tropical forest regions, inland water regions and marine.
  • Climate Change: Increasing rapidly in every ecosystem. Worst impac in polar regions in last century.
  • Invasive Species: Increasingly a threat in Mediterranean Scrubland and Inland water ecosystems.
  • Over-exploitation: Increasing or stabilised impact - most in Marine environments.
  • Pollution (nitrogen and phosphorus) - Rapid increasing impact on all ecosystems mainly: Temperate grassland, Inland Water and Coastal Water. 

The Stern Review on economies of climate change 2005 - climate change is likely to occur too rapidly for species to adapt. Species have been moving polewards 6km per decade.

Phenological studies: Seasonal events e.g. egg laying advancing several days each decade.

Coral bleaching and ocean acidification caused by rising CO2 is a threat.

1'C = 10% land species face extinction. 2'C = 15-40%. 3'C = 20-50%. 

Threats are exacerbated by human pressures e.g. deforestation, pollution and over-exploitation.

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Local Threats

Fire: slash and burn farming practices. Controlled fire is used as a management tool on grazing land e.g. maintaining heather on the grouse moors of Scotland.

Habitat Change: developing natural habitats for agriculture, mineral working or urban growth. Modern large-scale agriculture reduces bio, impacts can be reduced by creating hedgerows and ponds. Overexploitation e.g. overfishing in North Sea can unbalance food webs and lead to species extinctions.

Recreational Use: Plants vulnerable to trampling, animals to disturbance. Impacts depend on natural carrying capacity, level of use and how recreational use is managed. Bad examples inc the Galapagos and Antartica.

Mineral Exploitation: open-cast extraction leaves huge holes and toxic spoil heaps scar the landscape.

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Disruption: Invasive Species in the Galapagos

  • Hotspot, on the basis of their endemism and being severely under threat, off the coast of Equador. 
  • Alien species introduced by people seeking to make a living from tourism and fishing. 
  • 55/490 recorded introduced insect species are considered high risk.
  • 13/18 vertebrae species considered harmful.

New vertebrae species arrive every year, aggressive mainland species e.g. snake predators.

Actions to preserve biodiversity:

  • Eradicate introduced rodents and feral cats
  • Rounding up stray dogs
  • Removing the quinine tree - most serious plant invader. 

Tourists remain a big threat as they marvel at what impressed Charles Darwin in 1835.

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Udzungwa Mountains National Park: Pristine Area

  • In East African Mountains. 276 tree, 50 endemic, 55 mammal species. 
  • Provides local villages with watershed protection, medicines and food. Villagers are allowed limited, controlled access for worship, collecting fuelwood. Hunting = prohibited! 
  • Pressures: Population/ Immigration, poor people and unemployment.
  • Tanzanian National Park Authorities recognised need for bottom-up strategies. 

Projects: Tree nurseries: Fuel-efficient stoves: Rice husk technology to solve fuelwood crisis

WWF has been conducting a series of awareness campaigns, seminars, study tours, exchange visits, video shows to communities, which have introduced villagers to conservation activities and the possibility to develop various alternative sources of income. -> Agricultural diversification projects e.g. bee keeping, poultry and vegetable farming. Cultivation of medicinal plants have provided employment.

  • Establishing micro-business, Promoting eco-tourism, Improving health + education services


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Kenya: The Masai Mara game reserve: degraded area

  • Breakdown in management - decline in state of grassland ecosystems.
  • Park fees paid by tourists meant to go toward protecting the reserve and providing social services  + support for local tribes living on adjacent land. 
  • Little money reached the destination, park rangers were not paid properly and lacked basic equipment e.g. radio's and 4 wheel drive vehicles so couldn't fully stop widespread hunting of giraffes, zabras and antelopes which tourists enjoyed.

June 2008: local councils replaced by Mara Conservation (private organisation.) Foreign donors gave $300,000 which purchased two 4 wheel drive vehichles, repaired roads and paid rangers.

Organisation will run on a non-profit basis but use 50% of revenue to build roads and finance anti-poaching patrols whilst ensuring the remaining 50% revenue goes to tribesmen. 

Support of Masai people crucial to success of reserve as they have to give up cattle-grazing land in East Africa to benefit wildlife. 

Possible step: small, tightly controlled big-game hunting e.g. CAMPFIRE. Undergone sustainably may stop further degradation of park's ecosystems. 

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Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA): Protected

Management area: Coastal town of Soufriere on Caribbean island St. Lucia. Tensions between Fishing and Agriculture led to creation of SMMA in 1995. 

Environmental Problems:

  • Degradation of water quality - direct impacts human health + well being of reef system.
  • Depletion of near shore fish resources.
  • Loss of economic, scientific and recreational use of coral reefs esp. diving.
  • Degradation of beach landscapes + environmental quality by hotel developments.
  • Yacht anchor damage to reefs.

Stakeholder Conflicts:

  • Dive operators vs. fishermen over coral use
  • Yachts vs. fishermen
  • Local community vs. hoteliers over access to beaches.
  • Fishermen vs. Hoteliers - use for fishing or recreational use?

5 Zones of SMMA: Marine reserves/ Fishing priority areas/ Yacht mooring areas/ Recreational Areas/ Multiple-use areas.

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SMMA Continued...

Self-financing however, external funding from Caribbean Conservation Association, ENCORE project and French Government. 


  • Reduction in conflicts among users
  • Increase in fish biomass and biodiversity
  • A self-financing management area
  • Continued participation of all stakeholders

:) Integrated, bottom-up management of nature resources has worked 

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Sustainable Yield Management: South Ocean Fisherie

Sustainable Yield: the safe level of harvest that can be hunted/caught/utilised without harming the individual ecosystem.

Southern Ocran accounts for 10% of the world's ocean. Fisheries are sustainably managed due the Antarctic Treaty System' 1961.

Before: Soviet trawlers overharvested the fishing grounds leading to extinction of species of fin fish.

Model used to calculate fishing yield one of most sophisticated sue to threepronged approach:

Single species approach - sets limits for harvesting individual species that are indefinitely sustainable.

Ecosystem approach - considering harvested species both on their own and in relation to dependent species and the whole environment.

Precautionary Principle - aims to model the consequences of any planned expansion of catches beore it is permitted. 

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CAMPFIRE Zimbabwe: Sustainable livelihoods

Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources project - pioneering scheme developed in 1980's:

Aim: Long-term development, management and sustainable use of natural resources in each communal area - were forced to live in communal areas under British Colonial Rule.

How was it achieved? 

  • Placing responsibility with local people 
  • Allowing the community to benefit directly from the exploitation of available resources e.g. Wildlife.
  • CAMPFIRE schemes varied locally due to them being bottom-up with administrative back-up from Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. 
  • Many schemes made money from big-game hunting at sustainable yield levels, money fed back to community for common good.

:( Environmentalists disagreed that hunting endangered species was a good way to protect them The scheme failed due to economic collapse of Zimbabwe: lose staff, funding,local hunger, land takeovers by 'war veterans.'

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Key Players

Global: Wildlife Conservation Treaties e.g. The World Heritage Convention

  • TNC's - favour green strategies for public image and long-term benefit.
  • International Institutions e.g. UN, World Bank, International Tropical Timber Organisation = a cartel of timber producers and consumer countries that develop mechanisms for forest conservation. Activities controversial as top-down and favour large short-term projects.
  • NGO's: WWF = operates in 100+ countries mission: to stop degradation of planets natural environment.
  • Smaller 1-issue organisation e.g. FAN a bolivian NGO mission: conserve biodiv. by protecting sustainable and equitable use of natural resources in eastern Bolivia.
  • Greenpeace - captures media/public attention by taking direct action on conservation issues e.g. illegal whaling. Not all conservationists favour direct action as intercepts Japanese whalers.

National: Governments act as regulators and facilitators - establish/enforce laws to conserve genetic biodiversity, protect areas, regulate damaging factors e.g. Polluting agrochemicals. Also funding  - taxes and subsidies and positive incentives e.g.  paying farmers to be stewards. 

Local: Harbour knwldg (SMMA) + County wildlife trusts in UK have developed own biodiv. plans to involve locals in conservation.

Individual: Ethical Consumerism - buy environmentally friendly products. Can influence supermarkets, behaviour + tourism, R+D

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