Biodiversity conservation

Background

The Department of Ecosystems and Conservation provides students with instruction and expertise in a diverse area of ecological and biological sciences including Biodiversity conservation.

Biodiversity conservation in Tanzania

Biodiversity conservation, the practice of protecting and preserving the wealth and variety of species, habitats, ecosystems, and genetic diversity on the planet, is important for our health, wealth, food, fuel, and services we depend on. It plays an integral role in supporting many sectors of development.

  • Food security depends upon natural resources that form the basis of food production.  Biodiversity conservation protects plant, animal, microbial and genetic resources for food production, agriculture, and ecosystem functions such as fertilizing the soil, recycling nutrients, regulating pests and disease, controlling erosion, and pollinating crops and trees. At the same time, unsustainable agricultural production and use of wild species for food or fuel can reduce biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity conservation is vital for economic growth and poverty reduction.  A majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend upon forests, water, wetlands, fields and pastures for their livelihoods. Some 1.6 billion people in the world rely on forests and non-timber products for income and subsistence. In the developing world alone, 2.6 billion people depend on fisheries for protein and livelihoods. Seafood is also the most highly traded food commodity internationally.  In 2008, fish and shellfish exports from developing countries exceeded the value of coffee, rubber, cocoa, tea, tobacco, meat, and rice combined.
  • Biodiversity conservation can help address the effects of climate change.  Conserving habitats can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Conserving mangroves and other coastal ecosystems can lessen disastrous impacts of climate change such as flooding and storm surges.  Projects that reduce the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to climate change impacts can safeguard essential ecosystem services such as air and water purification, pollination and food production, and carbon sequestration.
  • Scarce or contested natural resources are often at the root of conflict.  Mismanaging natural resources and harming biodiversity can increase poverty and instability.  Helping communities and individuals secure rights to use natural resources, and involving local communities in responsibly managing them, can prevent or minimize conflict and provide opportunities for economic growth.

Objectives and advantages of biodiversity conservation

  • Conservation of biological diversity leads to conservation of essential ecological diversity to preserve the continuity of food chains.
  • The genetic diversity of plants and animals is preserved.
  • It ensures the sustainable utilization of life support systems on earth.
  • It provides a vast knowledge of potential use to the scientific community.
  • A reservoir of wild animals and plants is preserved, thus enabling them to be introduced, if need be, in the surrounding areas.
  • Biological diversity provides immediate benefits to the society such as recreation and tourism.
  • Biodiversity conservation serves as an insurance policy for the future.

Types of conservation

Ex situ conservation

Conserving biodiversity outside the areas where they naturally occur is known as ex situ conservation. Here, animals and plants are reared or cultivated in areas like zoological or botanical parks.

Reintroduction of an animal or plant into the habitat from where it has become extinct is another form of ex situ conservation. For example, the Gangetic gharial has been reintroduced in the rivers of Uttar PradeshMadhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where it had become extinct.

Seedbanks, botanical, horticultural and recreational gardens are important centres for ex situ conservation.

In situ conservation

Conserving the animals and plants in their natural habitats is known as in situ conservation. This includes the establishment of

  • National parks and sanctuaries
  • Biosphere reserves
  • Nature reserves
  • Reserved and protected forests
  • Preservation plots
  • Reserved forests

Agrobiodiversity conservation

After the introduction of cotton, tobacco, sugarcane, sunflower, soyabean and so on, farmers became victims of monocultures in their greed for money. Therefore, many of the indigenous varieties of crops were lost. Moreover, the hybrid varieties of fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes), introduced for pulp are more susceptible to disease and pests. Though hybrid varieties are preferred, traditional wild varieties of the seeds should be conserved for future use in the event of an epidemic which would completely wipe out the hybrids.

Botanical gardens, agricultural departments, seed banks etc., alone should not be given the responsibility of agrobiodiversity conservation. Every farmer, gardener an cultivator should be aware of his role in preserving and conserving agrobiodiversity.

Convention of Biological Diversity

The aim of the convention is to save species and plants from extinction and their habitats from destruction.

The developed countries are looking for a sustainable supply of biological resources from the developing countries and easy access to them as well. The developing countries lacking the technology to exploit their resources are inviting the developed countries to do so. This has resulted in the developed nations channeling out the benefits of these natural resources. The developing countries are now demanding a higher share of the accrued economic benefits. The developed nations are also concerned by the unsustainable exploitation of natural wealth, particularly rainforests.

Key points from the Convention on Biological Diversity

The aim of the Convention on Biological Diversity is ‘the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. The convention stipulates that Parties must :

  • develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources;
  • establish protected areas, restore degraded ecosystems, control alien species, and establish ex-situ conservation facilities;
  • establish training and research programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and support such programmes in developing countries;
  • promote public education and awareness of the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
  • recognize the right of governments to regulate access to their own genetic resources, and, wherever possible, grant other Parties access to genetic resources for environmentally sound uses;
  • encourage technology and biotechnology transfer particularly to developing countries;
  • establish an information exchange between the parties on all subjects relevant to biodiversity;
  • promote technical and scientific cooperation between parties (particularly to developing countries) to enable them to implement the convention;
  • ensure that countries that provide genetic resources have access to the benefits arising from them; and
  • provide financial resources to developing countries/parties to enable them to carry out the requirements of the convention.

What is Loss of Biodiversity?

A number of factors like pollution, erosion, evolution, urbanization, industrialization, population, and depletion lead to the loss of biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity is very harmful to the ecosystem as it indicates either loss of species, or reduction of species in a natural habitat, or both of them on a global level. Loss of biodiversity has a poor impact on the ecosystem. Loss of biodiversity directly impacts the ecosystem and food chains in it. It affects agriculture and weakens the resistance to natural disasters like floods, drought, etc.

The major causes for biodiversity loss

Loss of biodiversity occurs when either the habitat essential for the survival of a species is destroyed, or particular species are destroyed. The former is more common as habitat destruction is a fallout of development. The latter reason is encountered when particular species are exploited for economical gain or hunted for sport or food.

Extinction of species may also be due to environmental factors like ecological substitutions, biological factors and pathological causes which can be caused by nature or man.

Natural causes for the loss of biodiversity

Natural causes include floods, earthquakes, landslides, natural competition between species, lack of pollination and diseases.

Man-made causes for the loss of biodiversity

  • Destruction of habitat in the wake of developmental activities like housing, agriculture, construction of dams, reservoirs, roads, railway tracks, etc.
  • Pollution, a gift of the industrial revolution can be given the pride of place for driving a variety of species in air, water and land towards extinction.
  • Motorcars, air-conditioners and refrigerators, the three symbols of a modern, affluent society, have been instrumental in global warming and ozone depletion. They have drastically altered the climate with disastrous effects on the various species. Factories and power stations spewing out poisonous gases and effluents have fouled up the environment bringing death and disease to many species. Oil spills and discharge of sewage have ravaged the oceans and coastal habitats.
  • A large number of species are threatened by overhunting, poaching and illegal trade.
  • Indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals and pesticides and overexploitation of wildlife resources for commercial purposes are responsible for the rapid decline in the number of some species. The tiger for instance is hunted for its claws and other parts believed to be effective cures for various ailments of man. Snakes and crocodiles are killed in large numbers for their skin and minks, sable, ermine, etc., are in demand for the luxury and warmth of their fur.
  • Genetic erosion arises from the loss (due to commercial and anthropogenic pressures) of habitats rich in biodiversity and from the disappearance of the traditional conservation practices of wild species in their habitats by rural and tribal people.

Biodiversity Conservation Strategies

  • Conservation of Ecosystems- The intent of the conservation of biodiversity is to provide long term viability to the ecosystems. It is to make sure that ecological integrity is intact. The landscapes of the region which have undergone historical or evolutionary deterioration can be reinstated. The threats can be removed and the ecosystems should be able to continue with ecological processes.
  • Reverse the decline of species- According to this strategy, the aim of conservation is to restore the population of declined species in a particular ecosystem.
  • Conservation of all biological aspects- This strategy aims at giving cover and conserving food, livestock, microbial population, agricultural stock including plants and animals.
  • Efficient utilization of natural resources.
  • Strict laws on deforestation and preventions of deforestation by every means.
  • Poaching and killing animals in the wild should be prevented.
  • Creating public awareness about conservation of biodiversity and its importance.
  • Longer time and breeding activity of the animals are provided.
  • The breeding of species in captivity is reintroduced in the wild.
  • Genetic techniques are used to preserve endangered species.

Need for Biodiversity Conservation

Various types of conservation methods ensure a healthy ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem means a clean and healthy environment, smooth running food chains, availability of resources, and so on.

Human beings are also majorly dependent on the environment for basic necessities and wellbeing. We are interdependent on a variety of species of plants and animals for a living. Hence it is very important to conserve these species and their ecosystems which are threatened by many human activities.

A threat to biodiversity poses a threat to humankind. It can be the cause of various grave problems like pollution, habitat loss, resource exploitation, climate change, species extinction, disease outbreak, and so on.

For economic and various life support reasons, it is very important to protect and preserve biodiversity.

Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation

Following are some of the important strategies for biodiversity conservation:

  • Conservation of all food varieties, timber plants, livestock, microbes, and agricultural animals should be done.
  • Identification and conservation of all the economically important organisms should be done.
  • Preservation of unique ecosystems should be done.
  • Efficient utilization of resources should be done.
  • Prevention of poaching and hunting of wild animals should be done.
  • Development of the reserves and protected areas should be done carefully.
  • Reduction in the levels of pollutants should be done on the environment.
  • Prohibition of deforestation should be followed.
  • Strict environmental laws should be followed.
  • Conservation of useful and endangered species of plants and animals should be done.

Reason for Conservation of Biodiversity

An area with higher abundant species has a more stable environment when compared to a lower species abundance area.  Humans directly depend on different species of plants for numerous needs. Similarly, people depend on various animals and microbes for different reasons.

Due to various reasons such as the loss of habitat, over-exploitation of resources, climatic changes, pollution, invasive exotic species, diseases, hunting, etc biodiversity is being lost. It is very important to conserve biodiversity as it provides various economic and ethical benefits and adds aesthetic value.

Contact Us
Head of Department
Department of Ecosystems and Conservation,
PO Box 3010, Chuo Kikuu, Morogoro, Tanzania