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Five Reasons for the Conservation of Biodiversity

Ecosystems in Laos range from lowland plains to mountainous areas and are home to numerous animals and plants. Laos provides habitats for 700 bird, 500 fish, 166 reptile and amphibian and 247 mammal species including 90 different kinds of bat. Three mammal species, the Lao rock rat, the saola and the giant flying squirrel only live in Laos and cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Scientists estimate that the number of plants in Laos ranges between 8.000-11.000 species. Well-known ecosystems are, for instance, the limestone karsts in the Hin Nam Nor National Protected Area, the evergreen forests of the Annamite Mountains or the Bolaven Plateau and the Mekong Plains in the south of Laos. To a large extent, biodiversity contributes to economic growth in Laos.

Lotus flower. --Source: Swallowtail Garden Seeds - Flickr

But the status of biodiversity is very worrying not only in Laos. Experts estimate that loss of species is currently between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. As of March 2017, 7.5 billion humans overpopulate earth and drive other species to the brink of extinction. Habitat loss is the primary threat to the survival of many species. Human interventions such as deforestation, land conversions for infrastructural development, and pollution cause habitat destruction, fragmentation and degradation.
The evolution of the diverse forms of life we see today took 4.5 billion years. Since its formation, our planet went through a series of dramatic geological, chemical and biological changes. From a geological perspective, humans have only been on earth for a blink of an eye.
But no other species has influenced and changed the face of the earth more than homo sapiens. In this light, there are five reasons why the protection of biodiversity is of utmost importance. 
1 - Biodiversity provides many natural services and resources. Healthy ecosystems provide humans with clean water, food, medicine and products such as wool, wood, cork, rubber and leather. Approximately 80 percent of the Lao population depends directly on forests and forest products. For rural households, forest products are the main source of livelihood. Non-timber resources include bamboo shoots, wild fruits, vegetables, bush meat and medicinal plants. But a decline of biodiversity puts ecosystem services at risk and thus threatens food security.
2 - Biodiverse ecosystems generate income.  Diverse ecosystems offer many opportunities for economic development. Ecosystems rich in biodiversity are especially important to meet the needs of poor rural communities around the world. Non-timber products account for about half of the cash income of rural households in Laos. Bamboo, rattan and mulberry trees provide the raw material for handicraft products that generate income and they are also used for construction at homes and gardens. Moreover, eco-tourism is a new and promising field of income generation for rural communities in Laos.
3 - Biodiversity matters to human health. Nature provides medicinal resources. Aside from the importance of traditional medicine, used by more than half of the world’s population, medical research benefits from biodiversity. Biomedical research examines plants, animals and microbes to find substances which could cure diseases such as malaria, cancer, diabetes and AIDS. With each species that becomes extinct, a possibility of scientific discoveries for medicinal purposes is lost forever.
4 - Biodiversity is beneficial for engineering. A whole branch of science uses nature as inspiration for technical innovations. The science is called bionics. A famous example is the lotus effect. Due to its build-in self-cleaning mechanism, the leaves of the lotus flower are always spotlessly clean, even though the flower grows in muddy ponds. The surface of the leaves is water-repellent, so that water droplets roll off from the leaves and pick up dust and dirt particles along the way. Since this discovery in the 1970s, products with this lotus effect have been developed including house paints, ceramic roof tiles and architectural glass.
5 - Biodiversity is important for human well-being. Ecosystems have a high cultural, recreational and aesthetical value. In Laos, local traditions and beliefs of many ethnic groups are linked to nature and its resources. For example, sacred forests and other natural sites have spiritual value for local ethnic groups. Moreover, a growing number of studies have shown that nature as such and feeling connected to it makes humans happier and healthier. The beauty of nature is not only a treat for the eye, but nature can also stimulate our senses and make us feel more alive.
Ultimately, these reasons boil down to one conclusion: Humans need to protect biodiverse ecosystems because they depend on biodiversity. This will secure a world worth living in for future generations. The environmental organisation Conservation International coined an important message: “Nature does not need people. People need nature.” The way humans live today will determine the future of nature and the future of human survival.
This article has been contributed by ProCEEd (Promotion of Climate-related Environmental Education), a project supported by the Federal Republic of Germany and implemented by the Deutsche GesellschaftfürInternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

(Latest Update
May 25,2017 )

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