This article is actually an assessment submission I made today for my “Ecological and Environmental Economics for Sustainable Development” unit. For this assessment, we were asked to:“Discuss the possible abrupt environmental change that could occur if these boundaries are transgressed. Explain how economics affects these boundaries and propose possible governance and management solutions working within a ‘planetary boundaries’ framework. This is a very large topic, so to be fair, stick to a cursory explanation of one boundary using one example globally“.
This assessment pertained to the paper: Rockstrom, J et. al. (2009). ’Exploring the safe operating space for humanity’. Ecology and Society 14(2): 32.
Biodiversity Loss – Fauna
As we have previously discussed in topic 1, economicpressures driven from increased consumption impacts on all aspects of the environment; our increasing need to support growing populations demand resources that negatively impacts on the environment which supplies them (Asafu-Adjaye, 2009; Costanza et al., 1997; McTaggart et al., 2003; Pearce et al., 1993; Sullivan, 2012a, 2012b; Waud et al., 1989). Although subtle at first, these impacts increase the vulnerability of ecosystems by decaying its resilience (Campbell et al., 2009; Smith et al., 2009). Further impacts result in more pronounced change such as biodiversity loss (Asafu-Adjaye, 2009; Campbell et al., 2009; McTaggart et al., 2003) that eventually result in a catastrophic environmental shift as the services performed by these species is also lost (Smith et al., 2009).
Current and projected rates of species loss is identified as being the sixth major extinction event in the earths history but is the first to be directly associated with anthropogenic pressures (Rockström et al., 2009). Evidence from previous major extinction events indicates that changes are irreversible and that biodiversity is important in stopping undesirable environment changes (Campbell et al., 2009; Rockström et al., 2009).
Globally, 25% of species is threatened with extinction (Rockström et al., 2009). This situation is compounded by theories such as The Theory of Island Biogeography. This theory postulates that islands are in dynamic equilibrium, that is, rates of species colonisation and extinction are in balance. Pressure one way or either side will cause change in community composition (Goldingay, 2011). Australia typifies this theory with the most species extinct in the shortest amount of time (Campbell et al., 2009; Department of Sustainability, Environment, Population and Community, 1999). The Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) identifies 23 bird, 4 frog and 27 mammal and 1 other species extinctions in Australia since European Settlement (1788) (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Population and Community, 1999). This act does not account for loss in invertebrate losses which also provide vital ecological services. The EPBC list a further 16 species of fish, 15 frog, 16 reptile, 44 bird, 35 mammal and 17 other species as endangered plus a total of 200 species are listed as vulnerable (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2009).
Change is inevitable, however, the rate and degree of change is still within our control. Effective management strategies must be employed globally to maximise conservation efforts and effect. While there are firm moves towards this end, current fragmented and inefficient attempts at management are falling short of the mark (eg: international whaling laws). Such management strategies could then influence the economic demands for natural materials, slowing consumption rates that impact on environmental health. This is especially important in the face of a growing global population.
Post note: This subject is HUGE and this is the tip of the ice berg. I have, for the sake of simplicity, left out many theories and contributing factors (eg: climate change acceleration, niche alterations, species emergence ect). It is meant to just be a brief over view to demonstrate our understanding on the topic at hand, and discussion is entered into on the universities forums.
Asafu-Adjaye, J. (2009). Environmental economics for non economists: techniques and policies for sustainable development. (2nd ed.). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pty. Ltd.
Campbell, N. A., Reece, J. B., Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., & Dickey, J. L. (2009). Biology: concept and connections (Vol. 6th). San Francisco, CA: Benjamin Cummings.
Costanza, R., Cumberland, J., Daly, H., Goodland, R., & Norgaard, R. (1997). An introduction to Ecological Economics. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Population and Community (1999). Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999). Department of Sustainability, Environment, Population and Community Retrieved 24 April, from http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2009). EPBC Act List of Threatened Fauna Retrieved 1 March, 2012, from http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=fauna
Goldingay, R. L. (2011). BIO00212 / BIO003103 Wildlife Conservation Study Guide (4th ed.). Lismore: Southern Cross University.
McTaggart, D., Findlay, C., & Parkin, M. (2003). Economics (4th ed.). Sydney, New South Wales: Pearson Education Australia Pty Ltd.
Pearce, D. W., & Warford, J. J. (1993). World without End; Economics, Environment and Sustainable Development. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.
Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., Persson, A., Chapin, I., F.S., Lambin, E., . . . Foley, J. (2009). Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society, 14(2), 32.
Smith, T. M., & Smith, R. L. (2009). Elements of Ecology (7th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education inc.
Sullivan, C. A. (2012a, 21 February). [Week One Lecture: How Economy Works].
Sullivan, C. A. (2012b, 28 February). [Week Two Lecture: Ecological or Environmental Economics?].
Waud, R. N., Hocking, A., Maxwell, P., & Bonnici, J. (1989). Economics (Australian ed.). New York, New York: Harper and Row Publishers Inc.