Biodiversity Conservation & National Development: Potentials & Challenges

By Adedimeji Quayyim Abdul-Hafeez*

As the ices melt and the environment is withered away through natural and human causes, it would be far from surprising that the disastrous consequences of biodiversity loss would not only affect Polar Bears in the North Pole, but would also affect human subsistence. As human activities alter landscapes and ecological processes on larger scales, the need for improved management and conservation of land, water, and marine resources will require greater understanding of ecosystem composition, structure, and function is crucial to optimize the environment towards economic growth and national development. 

“At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.”

The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity Website.

Biodiversity Conservation & National Development

According to The Nature Education Knowledge Project, the planet is inhabited by several million species in about 100 different phyla. About 1.8 million have been described by scientists (Hilton-Taylor et al. 2008), but conservative estimates suggest that there are 5–15 million species alive today (May, 2000), since many groups of organisms remain poorly studied. Over 15,000 new species are described each year (Dirzo & Raven 2003), and new species are evolving during our lifetimes. These figures emphasize the need to conserve species, as they are indispensable to our existence. Our biological environment needs to be conserved to avoid extinction of these species in our eco-system.

Biological diversity (or biodiversity) refers to the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur. It has three main objectives: to preserve the diversity of species, sustainable utilization of species and ecosystem and to maintain life-supporting systems and essential ecological processes. It is important for our health, wealth, food, fuel, and services we depend on as it plays an integral role in supporting many sectors of development.

As defined by notable economist, John Faizy, national development is “the total effect of all citizen forces and addition to the stock of physical, human resources, knowledge and skill”. The United Nations Decade Report referred to it as “growth plus change. Change in turn is social and cultural as well as economic and qualitative as well as quantitative”. It involves the growth of a nation in areas of industry, economy, infrastructure, agriculture, culture and other sectors. These developments translate to increased standard of living amongst the nation’s citizens.

According to the Nigeria Chapter of the Society for Conservational Biology (NSCB), Nigeria occupies a unique geographic position in Africa and the variability in climate and geographic features endow her with one of the richest biodiversity in the continent. Its diversity of natural ecosystems ranges from semi-arid savanna to mountain forests, rich seasonal floodplain environments, rainforests, vast freshwater swamp forests and diverse coastal vegetation.

Potentials & Prospects

The conservation of biodiversity has huge contributions to make in moving economies forward and preserving populations. As seen in Tanzania, the rangelands are a stronghold for biodiversity harbouring a variety of animal and plant species of economic, ecological and socio-cultural importance. Our ecosystem needs to be preserved as our very existence relies on its existence. Where do we get meat when all the animals are gone?

One of the potentials of biodiversity conservation is that it keeps the food chain secured for human beings. Adequate provisions of essential nutrients and vitamins necessary human growth could be fulfilled if the wildlife is protected. Conservation of species of animal family assures a nation that its population are freed from poverty which could be disastrous to economic growth and would be well fed with essential nutrients, which could be diverted towards provision of manpower needed for economic growth.

Pharmaceutical products are constantly supplied with plant species necessary for the production of drugs through biodiversity conservation. Also, by conserving trees and plant forms, green energy, which includes power produced by solar, wind, biogas, etc., provide the highest environmental benefits.  Through these, individuals are treated and life forms are preserved. This would go a long way in boosting the quality of healthcare in the nation, thereby boosting national development. 

In recognition of the aesthetic value of nature, in 1892 the US Congress set aside the first national park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”. The tourism sector, which could go a long way in creating viable revenue opportunities, could only be implemented if the biodiversity is protected. This would go a long way in utilizing the natural resources provided by the biological environment in actualizing national development and growth.

Challenges

Although of crucial importance for human life on Earth, biodiversity continues to be lost at an alarming rate. Many areas with high or even exceptional levels of biodiversity are found in developing countries, yet are often threatened by serious levels of habitat loss. If serious measures are not taken, the biological environment would be lost and this would to disastrous consequences.

Poverty, climate change, inadequate legislations, population growth, invasion by alien invasive species, wildfires and extinction of species, among many others, constitute factors hindering the conservation of biological reserves. If effective steps are not taken to solve these problems, the existence of humanity may be in jeopardy. These challenges may also hinder national development and growth.

Conclusion

The importance of biodiversity conservation to national development cannot be overemphasized. Through biodiversity conservation, the future of humanity, which may appear bleak, could be pretty much secured. It is our collective duty to extract potentials for growth from our biological environment while preventing environmental drain to ensure development. The future is biodiversity as humans cannot survive this world alone.

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* Writer, budding journalist and legal practitioner.

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