I was watching GTV over the weekend and saw on the screen news report on a seminar related to Biodiversity. I was much interested in the various contributions made by the participants and decided to highlight some aspect on how this could really be a sustaining one of tourism. knowing how important ecotourism is, Ghana is developing its first Biodiversity Policy aimed at reducing threats to its over 6,000 flora and fauna to promote the sustainable utilization of biodiversity and benefits sharing to meet the people’s needs.
The draft policy, which is at the consultation stage, is in line with the post-2020 global biodiversity conservation framework, an agenda to galvanize urgent and transformative action by Governments and all of society to preserve and protect nature in the next ten years. Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) was present and disclosed this at a national dialogue on institutional and financial mainstreaming of Biodiversity conservation in Ghana.
Dr Afriyie stated that biodiversity supported food security by providing raw genetic material for improved crop and livestock varieties and provided opportunities for indigenous and other communities to cultivate market niches based on traditional knowledge and livelihood practices. He said the major drivers of biodiversity loss including, over-exploitation, pollution, invasive alien species, and climate change – have remained unaddressed.
He further said there was the need to reflect and recast the idea of sustainable development by marrying sustainability and biodiversity along with their relationships in more detail outlining some of the major approaches to biodiversity management and regulation.
“Our strategy should move from general principles of sustainability to concrete actions that are rooted in biodiversity conservation. Decisions about sustainability must either accommodate multiple viewpoints, values and interests or they must force some people to compromise,”
Referencing the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of this year’s World Environment Day, said: “Science tells us these next 10 years are our final chance to avert a climate catastrophe, turn back the deadly tide of pollution and end species loss. So let today be the start of a new decade – one in which we finally make peace with nature and secure a better future for all.”
“This requires reducing the intensity of development’s ecological footprint to ensure the resilience of the biosphere, with healthy and diverse ecosystems,” she noted. Listening to most participants, it is clear they all agree that Galamsey, and other human activities such as unsustainable farming, illegal logging and mining, overfishing, hunting, wildfire, and environmental pollution that place great threats to the environment could be a great challenge to tourism going forward.
This place great considerations on all stakeholders to consider this policy and ensure its smooth implementation. Ghana has a rich stock of biological diversity with enormous benefits. These benefits range from economic, environmental, social, religious, and recreational. Indeed, biodiversity underlies the goods and services provided by ecosystems that are crucial for human survival and well-being.
What Is Biodiversity?
The term biodiversity (from “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life whiles tourism conservation also seeks the same objective. It also refers to a variety of living species on Earth, including plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi.
While Earth’s biodiversity is so rich that many species have yet to be discovered, many species are being threatened with extinction due to human activities, putting the Earth’s magnificent biodiversity at risk. Biodiversity includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered but also every living thing—from humans to organisms we know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertebrates.
At the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, we include humans and human cultural diversity as a part of biodiversity. We use the term “biocultural” to describe the dynamic, continually evolving and interconnected nature of people and place, and the notion that social and biological dimensions are interrelated. This concept recognizes that human use, knowledge, and beliefs influence, and in turn are influenced, by the ecological systems of which human communities are a part.
This relationship makes all of biodiversity, including the species, land and seascapes, and the cultural links to the places where we live—be right where we are or in distant lands—important to our wellbeing as they all play a role in maintaining a diverse and healthy planet. Only around 1.2 million species have been identified and described so far, most of which are insects. This means that millions of other organisms remain a complete mystery.
Over generations, all of the species that are currently alive today have evolved unique traits that make them distinct from other species. These differences are what scientists use to tell one species from another. Organisms that have evolved to be so different from one another that they can no longer reproduce with each other are considered different species. All organisms that can reproduce with each other fall into one species.
Scientists are interested in how much biodiversity there is on a global scale, given that there is still so much biodiversity to discover. They also study how many species exist in single ecosystems, such as a forest, grassland, tundra, or lake. A single grassland can contain a wide range of species, from beetles to snakes to antelopes. Ecosystems that host the most biodiversity tend to have ideal environmental conditions for plant growth, like the warm and wet climate of tropical regions. Ecosystems can also contain species too small to see with the naked eye. Looking at samples of soil or water through a microscope reveals a whole world of bacteria and other tiny organisms.
Some areas in the world, such as areas of Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, the southwestern United States, and Madagascar, have more biodiversity than others. Areas with extremely high levels of biodiversity are called hotspots. Endemic species—species that are only found in one particular location—are also found in hotspots. All of the Earth’s species work together to survive and maintain their ecosystems. For example, the grass in pastures feeds cattle. Cattle then produce manure that returns nutrients to the soil, which helps to grow more grass. This manure can also be used to fertilize cropland.
Many species provide important benefits to humans, including food, clothing, and medicine. Much of the Earth’s biodiversity, however, is in jeopardy due to human consumption and other activities that disturb and even destroy ecosystems. Pollution, climate change, and population growth are all threats to biodiversity. These threats have caused an unprecedented rise in the rate of species extinction. Some scientists estimate that half of all species on Earth will be wiped out within the next century. Conservation efforts are necessary to preserve biodiversity and protect endangered species and their habitats.
Why Is Biodiversity Important?
Biodiversity is important to most aspects of our lives. We value biodiversity for many reasons, some utilitarian, some intrinsic. This means we value biodiversity both for what it provides to humans, and for the value it has in its own right. Utilitarian values include the many basic needs humans obtain from biodiversity such as food, fuel, shelter, and medicine. Further, ecosystems provide crucial services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests.
Biodiversity also holds value for potential benefits not yet recognized, such as new medicines and other possible unknown services. Biodiversity has cultural value to humans as well, for spiritual or religious reasons for instance. The intrinsic value of biodiversity refers to its inherent worth, which is independent of its value to anyone or anything else. This is more of a philosophical concept, which can be thought of as the inalienable right to exist.
Finally, the value of biodiversity can also be understood through the lens of the relationships we form and strive for with each other and the rest of nature. We may value biodiversity because of how it shapes who we are, our relationships to each other, and social norms. These relational values are part of peoples’ individual or collective sense of wellbeing, responsibility for, and connection with the environment. The different values placed on biodiversity are important because they can influence the conservation decisions people make every day.
Threats to Biodiversity
Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet, causing rapid ecosystem change and massive loss of biodiversity across the planet. This has led some people to refer to the time we now live in as the “anthropocene.” While the Earth has always experienced changes and extinctions, today they are occurring at an unprecedented rate. Major direct threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable resource use, invasive species, pollution, and global climate change. The underlying causes of biodiversity loss, such as a growing human population and overconsumption are often complex and stem from many interrelated factors. The biggest looser will be the tourism industry if things are left this way.
The Good News
The good news is that it is within our power to change our actions to help ensure the survival of species and the health and integrity of ecological systems. By understanding threats to biodiversity, and how they play out in context, we can be best prepared to manage conservation challenges.
The conservation efforts of the last decades have made a significant difference in the state of biodiversity today. Over 100,000 protected areas—including national parks, wildlife refuges, game reserves, and marine protected areas, managed both by governments and local communities—provide habitat for wildlife, and help keep deforestation in check. When protecting habitat is not enough, other types of conservation actions such as restoration, reintroduction, and the control of invasive species, have had positive impacts. And these efforts have been bolstered by continuous efforts to improve environmental policies at local, regional, and global scales.
Finally, the lifestyle choices of individuals and communities can have a large effect on their impacts on biodiversity and the environment. While we might not be able to prevent all negative human impacts on biodiversity, with knowledge we can work to change the direction and shape of our effects on the rest of life on Earth.
Philip Gebu is a Tourism Lecturer. He is the C.E.O of FoReal Destinations Ltd, a Tourism Destinations Management and Marketing Company based in Ghana and with partners in many other countries. Please contact Philip with your comments and suggestions. Write to [email protected] / [email protected]. Visit our website at www.forealdestinations.com or call or WhatsApp +233(0)244295901/0264295901.Visit our social media sites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: FoReal Destinations