All living things on Earth are connected to support and maintain life cycles, therefore biodiversity is extremely important for the functioning of ecosystems on the Earth. Biodiversity loss prevention is imperative to the sustenance of all kinds of ecosystems on Earth, as humans are dependent on wildlife, plants, fisheries and more for their livelihoods. Here are seven solutions to address the issue of biodiversity loss.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of living organisms on Earth, and it provides ecological, economic, and social benefits. It is declining however at such a rate that it has even been predicted that we are on the path to a sixth mass extinction event.
Climate change has pushed biodiversity to the top of the agenda on the international stage, focusing us to urgently assess and address the interconnected problems of biodiversity, climate change, and desertification
Causes of biodiversity loss include both natural and anthropogenic activities. Natural activities come in the form of extreme weather, floods, volcanic eruptions and more. Anthropogenic activities come in the form of human-induced climate change, habitat loss, species introduction, land pollution, marine pollution, land clearing for mining and industrial activities, agriculture, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, drainage of wetlands, and mangroves.
Biodiversity loss can come in the form of habitat loss through land converted to agriculture, combined with land degradation through intensive farming practices – which is the principal contributor to the decline and extinction of species – and it can also come in the form of unsustainable food production, where our meat and dairy consumption habits are to blame, as livestock farming requires disproportionate areas of land to be used.
Solutions to Biodiversity Loss
Species of plants and animals that are vulnerable to extinction require our utmost attention. We need to ensure that significant changes at a policy and a collective individual level are made.
1. Biodiversity Conservation
This is the one of most important solutions to biodiversity loss: conserving biodiversity that is at risk of extinction by protecting them with adequate conservation strategies.
Biodiversity conservation covers a wide range of activities that can be done. Protecting habitats is an extremely important biodiversity conservation activity; done by identifying the habitats facing threats and eliminating these threats in order to maintain the natural area. This also comes in the form of leaving wildlife undisturbed, especially nesting and denning areas, and wildlife habitats can be promoted by setting up man-made bird and bat houses.
Limiting and modifying agricultural activities also falls into the category of biodiversity conservation. This can be done by conserving water in wetlands and reducing irrigation, and by managing livestock grazing through maintaining good quality range conditions and leaving areas ungrazed.
Biodiversity conservation can also come in the form of domestic conservation. This involves an individual taking responsibility for any wildlife they have direct control over. Maintaining your garden by eradicating and controlling weed growth can be particularly beneficial to conserving wildlife. Reducing disturbance to wildlife and monitoring pets and their behaviour with wild animals are also domestic biodiversity conservation solutions.
2. Restructuring Business Plans
There is a fundamental business risk from an ecosystem failure. This is a concept that needs to be acknowledged, along with the realisation that there is also a reputational risk of unsustainable supply chains.
Some commodities, such as cocoa and coffee, are integral to an economy, but also depend on its growth from the delicate ecosystem. Growth of such commodities require a stable ecosystem tailored to its needs. Therefore, businesses need to factor these considerations into their risk analysis and allocate capital investment accordingly.
Additionally, businesses have also been said to have a “fundamentally crucial role” in sustainability transformation. Therefore, they also need to set some standards and rules that address biodiversity loss reduction.
3. Pressure on Governments
Pressure needs to be put on governments to draft, pass, and enforce legislation to protect biodiversity. All governments should strive to create an environment that welcomes intergovernmental bodies and international policymakers to collaborate in advocacy in regards to issues of biodiversity.
Unsustainable food production can also be a cause of biodiversity loss. Therefore, governments can ensure that company policies are put in place to encourage more sustainable methods by ensuring sustainable fishing methods through certification of seafood products, for example.
They can also protect national parks and other areas with flora and fauna through laws, and they can provide incentives and subsidies to farmers to encourage production methods towards sustainable land stewardship.
4. Funding Directed to Innovative Solutions
Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, so directing funding and research into technological biodiversity loss prevention methods can be extremely beneficial.
Reforestation drones are an excellent example of using technology as an innovative solution. A UK company called Biocarbon Engineering came up with this potential idea. One of the main causes of biodiversity loss is habitat loss and fragmentation caused by deforestation, so a simple solution would be to plant more trees, however, tree planting by hand can be slow and labour intensive. Biocarbon Engineering came up with this solution to tackle this issue by first mapping the area of regeneration via the drone. Next, the drone will fly around two to three metres above the surface, and then shoot biodegradable seed pods into the soil which contain all the nutrients the tree needs to start growing. Biocarbon Engineering estimates this speeds up the planting of trees by 10 times and at 15% of the cost.
5. Substitute Products
Obtaining the resources to create the products we consume is severely damaging to biodiversity. Examples include, meat consumption, baked goods containing palm oil, mass produced-cheap clothing, and the use of plastic straws.
One of the most simplest solutions to biodiversity loss is by substitute products with sustainable and environmentally-friendly replacements.
Lab-grown meat is an excellent example. The way in which we currently rely upon to produce meat is by rearing animals until they grow large enough to kill and consume. This practice requires huge amounts of land, particularly for beef production. Land use does not exclusively limit to raising cattle but is often dedicated to producing food for cows and other livestock. The simplest solution to this would be to encourage people to eat less meat. But this may take too long and it can be challenging to encourage people to change their lifestyle. A solution to this issue is therefore, “lab-grown meat” – also known as cultured meat. The meat is not a meat-substitute, but rather meat produced in a different way through a process known as intro-vitro cultivation with methods. Taken from medical research where scientists have figured out how to regenerate organic tissues, the technology is currently being worked on by many companies around the world in a race to get it to market. At the moment, the main barriers are cost and ensuring that the taste matches the original animal product.
Using microalgae as a palm oil alternative is another example of an excellent solution to replacing a harmful product that is heavily consumed globally.
Image by: Second Nexus
6. Vertical Ocean Farming
Human action has affected the oceans too. Sea life has been impacted through pollution and climate change, but the changes impacting the ecosystem the most are those caused by overfishing.
Overfishing occurs when fish are caught from the ocean at a faster rate than the populations can replenish. Many other sea creatures, such as oysters, have been severely overfished and the practices to catch them now involve scraping the bottom of the ocean, catching all sorts of unintended fish, and destroying the habitat at the same time.
GreenWave, a charity which promotes the use of restorative vertical ocean farming was created to address this issue. Co-founder, Bren Smith, describes vertical ocean farming as an ‘underwater garden’ where they grow kelp, mussels, scallops and oysters, by mimicking the habitats that would have previously existed in the ocean.
Having these gardens remove the need to trawl the ocean floor with large nets and they can even provide food for other wildlife, such as fish and seals. An additional benefit about vertical ocean farming methods is that the seaweeds and shellfish require no fresh water, feed or fertiliser, which dramatically reduces the overall environmental impact and keeps costs down.
7. Change Your Individual Choices
Biodiversity loss comes from our direct action, therefore, making conscious decisions to make sustainable and biodiversity-friendly choices is an important solution.
There are a number of solutions to biodiversity loss, but do not overlook small choices, such as bringing your own bag to the supermarket and using a metal straw to drink. If each individual makes a small change to their lifestyle, the collective impact of these changes would be monumental.