Why biodiversity loss is a concern?
The services provided by healthy, biodiverse ecosystems are the foundation for human well-being. However, out of the 24 ecosystem services recently assessed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 15 are in decline. These include the provision of fresh water, marine fishery production, the number and quality of places of spiritual and religious value, the ability of the atmosphere to cleanse itself of pollutants, natural hazard regulation, pollination, and the capacity of agricultural ecosystems to provide pest control.
Biodiversity loss disrupts ecosystem functions, making ecosystems more vulnerable to shocks and disturbances, less resilient, and less able to supply humans with needed services. The damage to coastal communities from floods and storms, for example, can increase dramatically where protective wetland habitats have been lost or degraded.
The consequences of biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption are often harshest for the rural poor, who depend most immediately upon local ecosystem services for their livelihoods and who are often the least able to access or afford substitutes when these become degraded. In fact, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment has confirmed that biodiversity loss poses a significant barrier to meeting the needs of the world's poorest, as set out in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Garnering the political will to halt ecosystem degradation will depend on clearly demonstrating to policy makers and society at large the full contribution made by ecosystems to poverty alleviation efforts and to national economic growth more generally.
Apart from natures immediate usefulness to humankind, many would argue that every life form has an intrinsic right to exist, and deserves protection. We must also recognize the right of future generations to inherit, as we have, a planet thriving with life, and that continues to afford opportunities to reap the economic, cultural and spiritual benefits of nature.