Term Paper: Biodiversity and Conservation in the Tropics

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Biodiversity and Conservation in the Tropics

Biodiversity and conservation have been difficult issues in the ecological field. This is not least so because of issues such as increasingly rapid species extinction and also the increasing human population and influence upon the natural environment. Nonetheless, ecologists are concerned about the conservation of biodiversity, as such conservation holds advantages not only for the future inheritance of the earth and its beauty, but also on a more practical and economic level. This is so because the diversity of species on earth have consequences for the often fragile ecosystems we as human beings share. Being aware of the importance of biodiversity is a step in the direction of saving the earth as we know it. One specific way in which to accomplish this is via large-scale reservations. These have also increased with the rising awareness of the importance of conserving our natural resources. When investigating the matter carefully, it becomes clear that such conservation has not only aesthetic, but also practical merit. Indeed, the conservation of biodiversity may be the one thing that stands between human beings and their final and complete extinction.

Naughton-Treves, Holland & Brandon (2005:220) address the issue of conservation, biodiversity, and the way in which these have evolved to integrate with human activities and needs. The authors state that protected areas as recently as twenty-five years ago, were the responsibility of professionals such as ecologists and forestry officials, with little effect on human activities in the regions. They were also solely focused upon protecting the diversity of fauna and flora in the area. The rising levels of poverty and hunger, particularly in developing countries, have changed this.

Issues of social and political responsibility have inspired ecologists to integrate their efforts with those of philanthropists who aim to alleviate human suffering where it manifests itself most seriously. As such, conservation of biodiversity has taken an equal position with poverty and hunger alleviation. In addition to conserving biodiversity, protected areas are now also expected to contribute to national development and the reduction of poverty. In this way, an attempt has been made to reintegrate human and nature; two entities that have been at war of centuries.

Another issue addressed by Naughton-Treves, Holland & Bandon (226), relates to the specific areas receiving priority when protection is implemented. The authors mention of example that tropical rain forests have receive disproportionate attention in terms of conservation awareness campaigns. The reason for this is the wide biodiversity that occurs in these forests. The authors however also emphasize that rain forests, while important, should not receive precedence to the detriment of biodiversity in other locations. The argument here is that a disproportionate focus on rain forests exclude other, also biologically rich areas, and in effect result in losses in these areas. Another problem is that the size of conservation parks is not sufficient to significantly prevent the future loss of biodiversity.

One solution for this problem might be to create large-scale conservation areas not only for conservation "hotspots," as the authors call them, but also to create these for any natural habitats on earth where biodiversity or indeed ecological equilibrium is being threatened. In this way conservation models in the tropics could be used as examples for how to handle conservation in other areas as well. Indeed, the entire earth is filled with a very rich range of different fauna and flora species. It is therefore only sensible that as many of these as possible should be conserved to contribute to both the future heritage of our children, as well as today's economic and social development. In this way, humanity can learn once again to respect and appreciate the earth for the life giving force that it is, rather than for its exploitable resources.

Sustainable development has been one of the buzz words at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century. Already aware of the necessity of conservation, environmentalists have also been obliged to consider how human needs are met amid the need for conserving biodiversity on earth.

When funding is made available for conservation, for example, target countries would wish to use such funding not only for conservation itself, but also for economic development via combining tourism with conservation, for example.

According to Green et al. (6), funding is often a problem, particularly for countries with greater biologic richness. According to the author, studies indicate that countries with greater biological diversity tend to spend less on protection for this heritage than countries with less diversity. The reason for this is a basic lack of financial resources in countries where biological diversity is rich. Hence strategies such as tourism could provide a valuable source not only of immediate funding for conservation areas, but also for the recruitment of potential investors. In this way, greater global cooperation can be achieved to create a better balance of investment in countries with great biological diversity.

According to Naughton-Treves, Holland & Bandon (245), one of the ways in which developers are aiming to meet the challenge of combining conservation with economic development and upliftment is by land-use zoning. This means that certain areas within a resource extraction zone is reserved for replenishment purposes. In other words, these zones are not available for extraction, but by being protected against exploitation, is allowed to replenish the resources to the zones surrounding it. In this way, a balance between conservation and development is made more likely.

Brown (1998: 4-5) also addresses the ways in which conservation can be linked with development for the benefit of both. The author distinguishes three ways in which the links can be made with a level of projected success: alternative resources to support livelihoods; compensation for costs incurred by conservation activities; and benefits from conservation that can be used as a vehicle for further development.

In terms of the last-mentioned point, Brown mentions that there are specific ways to ensure that conservation is compatible with development. As already mentioned, conservation is a rich source of potential tourist income. In addition, tourist activities can also be used to raise awareness concerning the importance of biodiversity. Another way in which conservation can enhance development, as suggested by Brown, is the improvement of management strategies and local livelihood enhancement. Specifically, this could mean targeting important resource areas for management and conservation, or creating employment opportunities by implementing such management strategies.

Bruner et al. (2001:125) conducted a study to determine the level of effectiveness in using parks as conservation method. According to the authors, comparative studies of the parks and their surrounding areas show that the parks are in a much better ecological condition than non-protected areas. Hence it is found that parks indeed do serve the purpose of conservation to a certain level of effectiveness. Specifically, of the damage zones investigated, land clearing were best mitigated by parks, followed by hunting and logging impacts. Impacts caused by fire and grazing were more severe, but still mitigated to a greater degree than those of surroundings areas.

The authors conclude that, despite popular claims to the contrary, the majority of parks in tropical countries do indeed serve their conservation purpose remarkably well. Indeed, when viewed in the light of challenges such as lack of funding and land-use pressure. Despite these problems, the parks have had significant success in preserving the fauna and flora species within them. Bruner et al. (125) cite that the greatest threat to biodiversity, namely from land clearing has been best mitigated by these parks. The study therefore appears to indicate that, if provided with more funding and expansion opportunities, conservation parks in tropical countries could have an even greater effect in terms of conserving biodiversity for the future health of the earth and for the heritage of future generations. Indeed, the authors note that more funding will also help mitigate the more immediate threats such as hunting, which is currently a problem in these areas. These findings indicate that the parks form part of a very effective conservation strategy, and that they should be allowed to develop and improve, as well as grow in size and number.

According to the studies considered so far, there is little doubt that conservation parks in tropical countries make a substantial difference in preserving biological diversity. Despite negative reports by some critics (Rotenberg, 2007), who hold that parks are not sufficient in ensuring future biodiversity, it is undeniable that a difference is indeed detected in conservation areas when compared with areas that are not protected. While a large amount of investment is required for these parks to make a substantial difference in the far future, there is definite potential to reach these goals.

The main concern for investors, conservationists and land-use planners at this stage should be how such investments can be utilized in a sustainable way in order to ensure future biological diversity. A positive element is that many conservation parks are already in existence, and that these have proven to be effective despite being challenged in terms of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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