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The importance of ecosystem management and protection

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Dean Smith

on 4 November 2013

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Transcript of The importance of ecosystem management and protection

The importance of ecosystem management and protection
Heritage Value
Refers to the protection of areas seen as having outstanding universal value from aesthetic and scientific points of view.

The Australian heritage Commission views natural heritage, worthy of National Estate listing, to include ‘those places, being components of the natural environment of Australia or the cultural environment of Australia, that have aesthetic, historic, scientific or social significance or other special value for future generations, as well as for the present community’

Current Australian World Heritage Areas include: The Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, Ulura-Kata Tjuta National Park, Fraser Island and Shark Bay.


The maintenance of genetic diversity
Utility Value
Intrinsic Value

"If we are to continue to inhabit the Earth there will have to be a revolution in the relationship of humans to the Earth and of human to each other and to other species that share the Earth with us" - Charles Birch
Attempts to protect the earths biodiversity range from setting aside and protecting large areas of wilderness to the preservation of species in zoos, botanical gardens and seed banks. These measures alone will not be sufficient to save many species from extinction or prevent large areas from being degraded.

The reasons for managing and protecting ecosystems include:
The maintenance of genetic diversity
utility value (current and potential)
intrinsic value
heritage value
the need to allow natural change to proceed

Ecosystems rich in genetic diversity generally have greater resilience and are, as a result, able to recover more quickly from naturally induced stress and human-induced environmental degradation.

Where diversity is diminished the functioning of ecosystems (and by association the well-being of people) is put at risk.

Diversity allows a species to adapt to changes in its environment. The more successful a species is at regeneration and adaption the less vulnerable it is to changes in the ecosystem
The loss of genetic diversity that is brought about by human-induced stress has to be considered as an opportunity cost of an ever expanding human population.

Ecologists say that of the estimated 5-30 million species that currently inhabit the Earth only 1.4 million have been identified.

These represent only 10% of the species that have ever existed on Earth, the other 90% have fallen victim to natural extinction. That equates to about one species per year, however, now the actual rate of extinction is estimated to be about one species per day. The difference in these rates of extinction reflect the impact of human activity.
All living and non-living components of the earth's ecosphere have a utility value or usefulness.

By maintaining and protecting ecosystems we maximise humanity’s ability to adapt to change. The sheer diversity of life represents a vast store of genetic material that can be tapped as human needs change.

The loss of a species - whether plant, animal, fungus, bacterium or virus - denies humanity a possible future source of food, medicine, chemicals, fibres and other materials.

At a global scale, components of the various ecosystems play a vital role in protecting catchments, purifying water, regulating temperature, regenerating soil, recycling nutrients and wastes, and maintaining the quality of air.

Their protection is critical to the physical wellbeing of humanity.
The existence value of an ecosystem is defined as the value a community is prepared to place on an ecosystem in its natural state.

Given that ecosystems have an economic value it follows that they also have an option value. The option value is the cost of keeping the ecosystem or species in its natural state as opposed to exploiting its resources.

Exploiting the utility value of ecosystems would, if taken to its extreme, destroy the environment. Utility value, in a practical context, should incorporate appropriate management techniques so as to minimise the risk of environmental degradation.

Ecosystems are endowed with their own intrinsic and ethical value, that is, they have the right to exist irrespective of their utility value.

Central to the notion of the intrinsic value of ecosystems is a recognition that the biophysical environment provides for many of the inspirational, aesthetic and spiritual needs of people.

In an increasingly urban society, aesthetic values, for example, make an important contribution to emotional and spiritual well being.

By interacting with elements of ecosystems, humans are reminded that they are part of an interdependent natural world.

The intrinsic value taken to its extreme would mean that no, or minimal, human uses would take place in an ecosystem.

This option would assist the long-term survival of the ecosystem due to the removal of direct human-induced change to the ecosystem that would risk degradation of its features.

In a practical context, protection of an area may involve acknowledging its intrinsic value but managing it with a utility value for social, political and economic reasons, or may require extensive public education campaigns to increase public awareness and support

The need to allow natural change to proceed
The multiplicity of life forms on earth is a product of ongoing evolutionary process. Many ecologists and environmentalists argue that humans have an ethical responsibility, and selfish rationale, to see that this evolutionary process continues relatively unimpeded.

To ensure that this occurs it will be necessary to protect large areas of representative ecosystems. To achieve the desired objectives these areas should:

•Be large enough to protect and conserve intact ecosystems effectively and to allow evolutionary processes to continue.

•The areas must have representative biodiversity- small fragmented areas often lack biodiversity.

•Boundaries need to be environmentally based and cross-national if possible – bilateral agreements need to put the ecosystem before political considerations.

•Ideally, the surrounding areas need to have a buffer zone that allows for migration patterns of animals and regeneration of species.

•Local people need to be integrated into the management program so the benefits are shared in their communities. The local economy should benefit, not suffer, from the protection of the ecosystem. The knowledge of the local people should be used as part of the management strategy.

•The reserves need to be well managed and adequately funded. Rangers need to ensure that the animals are protected from the people outside the area and that the people are protected from the animals within the area.
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