understanding biodiversity, its benefits and how it is threatened

By Dr J Floor Anthoni (2001)

 biosecurity Safeguarding the life of native species, crops and livestock against the onslaught of introduced species and disease. 
protecting biodiversity Endangered species are listed in CITES and Red Data Books. 
related pages
on this web site
Conservation principles: understanding conservation of the environment and how it can fail
Resource management: important knowledge for understanding biodiversity and conservation (30p)
Global threats to humans, atmosphere, land and sea. (20 p)
Marine habitats: an introduction to the life-determining factors in the sea. (16 p)
The intertidal rocky shore: principles of the rocky shore zoning, and an identification of shore species. (80p)
Myths and fallacies in marine conservation, marine reserves, MPAs and marine science. (large)
Biorealms of the planet: the major biospheres and their differences. (4 p)
Red Data Book of NZ: a summary of the list of endangered species in New Zealand. (9 p)
Sitemap: discover the gems in the Seafriends web site from our complete site map (11p)
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Most nations have an immigration policy to prevent criminals from entering. Biosecurity is their policy to prevent unwanted pests from entering a country. Island nations like New Zealand, are particularly active in this field because of economic and environmental reasons.
The word biosecurity is a new word:
biosecurity (L: bios=life; se-=apart/ without ; cura=care; securus=carefree/ untroubled; securitas= freedom from anxiety/ feeling of security) the safety and safeguarding of endemic life. The protection of native wildlife.
In the light of people's intensive desires to change their environments, to have gardens with exotic plants, to be free to travel to and from any place in the world, and to bring back any form of animate or inanimate object, biosecurity is an up-hill battle. Most people don't seem to realise how much they depend on biosecurity. Biosecurity aims to prevent the introduction of the following: Some people think that by introducing exotic animals, biodiversity is served, but this is not so. Introduced (exotic) species do not increase biodiversity but compete with indigenous species, displacing and threatening these. In the end the less aggressive species die out. Eradication of introduced species has been spectacularly unsuccessful, and controlling them is costing more each year. How much cost and trouble could have been saved by simple prevention?

Biosecurity can involve the following activities:

Although biosecurity operations are in place in all countries, the risk of new pests taking a foothold is increasing, due to the following circumstances:
f970534: possum
f970534: the Australian possum, under threat in its native country, has been introduced into New Zealand, where it has become an invasive pest, spreading disease (tuberculosis), killing native trees and eating the eggs of native birds. They are attracted to the warmth of the tar-seal by night, where they get killed by traffic.
f981617: poison bait sign
f981617: The control of invasive species has become an on-going effort, but it is not quite sure who is winning. Eradicating one predator (stoat), leads to an increase in another (rats), or forcing it to predate on other species. Prevention cannot be stressed enough!
www.aphis.usda.gov: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Servies have good further information.
www.protectnz.org.nz: biosecurity in New Zealand.


Protecting biodiversity

As shown in this article and that on resource management, and also touched in science, technology and human nature, we have placed some formidable obstacles in the way of conservation and the protection of biodiversity. Lasting solutions must be found by changing human behaviour and curtailing freedom somewhat. But here are the classical solutions:

In the article on conservation, we'll discuss the many methods of saving wildlife and their habitats. At this point, however, we would like to comment that human-induced extinctions (reductions in biodiversity) are real and as large as expected from the amount of habitat destroyed or changed. This is likely to continue, as will be the spread of alien species and human use of the biosphere. Between 1950 and 2000, human population doubled and the world economy grew five-fold. These actions are not compatible with conservation and the protection of biodiversity. Our efforts to save biodiversity are thus destined to remain token gestures and feel-good decisions, characterised by doing too little too late, while being unable to address the real causes.

f971031: trade in marine species
f971031: marine tropical reef species such as these starfish and shells, are traded for collectors. But in order to satisfy demand, and for the best quality, these animals are caught alive. It does not take long before the reef's supply is exhausted, and its natural balance upset.
f003900: seahorse on seaweed
f003900: a female seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis) attached to a seaweed (Carpophyllum flexuosum) in a sheltered harbour of New Zealand. These fragile animals are hunted with fervour for use in Traditional Eastern Medicine. Simply because some people falsely believe in the medicinal properties of  these cute animals, they may become extinct.

McNeely, J A (1988): Economics and biodiversity. IUCN, Gland Switzerland.

go to part1 (content) <==> go to part2 <=> go to part3