Sunday, June 3, 2012

Protecting Biodiversity: A United Approach

Biodiversity is being threatened worldwide by tropical deforestation and oil exploration. So far, little has been done to decrease the rates of habitat destruction and the fragile ecosystems are quickly becoming decimated. Concerned citizens worldwide have few options when it comes to avoiding the exploitation of tropical deforestation as hundreds of everyday products originate from the resources which include: soy and cattle in South America and timber, paper, and palm oil in South East Asia ( As the destruction continues, an increased level of awareness is being seen in both scientists and economists. 
Deforestation caused by roads in the Brazilian Amazon. (Stephen Messenger Treehugger Exclusives)
So what can be done to protect the crucial biodiversity which drives so many ecosystem services and carries enormous levels of intrinsic value? Well, a proposal which has been around since the 1980’s is beginning to be taken more seriously as the situation becomes more critical. This proposal entails creating a trust fund for undeveloped nations where much of the deforestation and oil exploration is damaging the ecosystem. This trust would be funded by developed nations and would give undeveloped nations an alternative means of generating revenue rather than destroying the tropical rainforests (Rubinoff 1983). The fund would pay the undeveloped nations to leave their ecosystems intact and would further reward the nation for replanting lost habitat or allowing it to return to primary forest. In essence, the more old growth forest an undeveloped nation protects, the more money that nation can receive for protecting the world’s biodiversity.
A trust fund seems simple enough. It would be managed by an organization similar to the United Nations which would ensure longevity, protect the intentions of the trust fund, and enforce violations. A worldwide fund such as this may not give the average citizen a sense of change or helping reduce impact, but ultimately the tax dollars which pay for the fund may generate national pride. A worldwide trust fund supported by governments may not be the only solution. Smaller scale trust funds which could be funded by private donations may also provide huge benefits to the threatened biodiversity in undeveloped nations. Trust funds targeted at a specific resource or particularly bio-diverse area may also be effective at ensuring the land remains pristine and untouched.
 Oil pollution in the Amazon. 30 times more oil than the Exxon-Valdez spill has been spilled in the Ecuadorian Amazon region. Credit: SosYasuni
Currently, the first large scale trust fund which is being proposed by the Ecuadorian government called the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is progressing and may help keep millions of barrels of oil underground and eliminate the deforestation that would occur as roads, towns, and wells are built to support the oil exploration ( The Yasuní-ITT Initiative requests that foreign governments pay $3.6 billion which equates to approximately 50% of the total value of the oil which is promised to remain untouched and underground. Apart from saving the biodiversity in Yasuní National Park which is perhaps the most diverse area on the planet for tree, amphibian, and bird species, over 407 million tons of carbon dioxide will not by emitted by the oil reserves(yasuni-itt.gob). The English version of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative website can be found at SOS Yasuni.
A short documentary of the importance of the Yasuní National Park and the key role developed nations can play in protecting it. (

The success of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is still under review, but it may help spark other trust funds. The potential these trust funds have at preserving biodiversity where other efforts have failed is remarkable. Species conservation efforts often fail due to degradation of the habitat which ultimately started the species decline. Creating land reserves often fail due to a lack of enforcement which allows poachers to continue to take advantage of the resources. The downfalls of these two more common approaches are addressed by creating trust funds which only give money to nations who are successful at limiting habitat degradation and enforce policies which protect the species. Additionally, as new markets open up in the developing nation to ensure the criteria of the trust fund is met; local people become invested in protecting the environment as well. The driving force behind deforestation is money, and developed nations are beginning to understand and embrace the fact that if something is not done to protect the biodiversity worldwide, then adverse effects on the climate and environment will lead to decreased profits. 
 An interesting look at how the palm oil industry effects biodiversity at Wildlife Extra
 Palm oil plantation which destroyed thousands of hectares of primary forest. Credit: Matt Struebig 
How can we get involved? The first and most important step to protecting our precious biodiversity lies in education and ensuring our government and large corporations are doing everything possible to limit and reduce damage on ecosystems. Educating citizens of developed countries is just as important as educating the people of the countries that most threaten their incredibly bio-diverse and critically important species and ecosystems. Spreading the word can be as simple as letting a friend know about the importance of biodiversity and the key role something very far away plays in his or her daily life. Demanding companies increase the level of vigilance on protecting biodiversity is another very important step. As companies slow down the amount of mono-crop agriculture or cattle farms that they establish in undeveloped tropical regions, the security of the biodiversity in those regions will increase.
Protecting the biodiversity that the world takes for granted is not as simple as boycotting certain products or only buying organic foods. Though these methods surely help and the importance of such ideals are growing more accepted, more needs to be done and larger organizations need to see the true dangers of exploiting the rich biodiversity our planet provides. Although not every citizen may be able to eat exclusively organic or donate to a trust fund, each and every person is capable of voicing the importance of protecting biodiversity. Until the consumers stand up against business practices worldwide and governments take action, the world-wide biodiversity will continue to dwindle.

Works Cited:

 Image and Video Credits:  
Stephen Messenger Treehugger Exclusives
 Matt Struebig

Research Credit:
"SOS Yasuní." SOS Yasuní. Web. 03 June 2012. <>

"Oil Palm Plantations Are No Substitute for Tropical Rainforests, a New Study Shows." Wildlife Extra News -. Web. 03 June 2012. <>

UCS. "The Root of the Problem - Drivers of Deforestation." Union of Concerned Scientists. Web. <>. 

"YASUNI ITT | Crea Un Nuevo Mundo." YASUNI ITT | Crea Un Nuevo Mundo. Web. 03 June 2012. <>.

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