Biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

come from the realjzation that birds can be used as indicators of ecosystem health. Conceptually Hence, in its broadest definition, biological diversity is the manifestation of biological structure. Phylogenetic processes are closely related. Climate change threatens biodiversity and ecosystem integrity all over the globe . If the local river health-management target was distant from unimpaired . improved the condition (weight-to-length relation) of Arctic char (Milbrink et al. ). Biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health and integrity1 by J.P. ( Hamish) i m m i n s ~. Introduction. The human population has increased from about 1.

Why is biodiversity so important? - Kim Preshoff

Such biotic impoverishment could lock HWB at minimum levels or lead to its decline and halt or reverse progress in achieving sustainable development. Introduction For several decades, world governments and policy bodies have been on a course of attempting to improve human well-being HWB through the stated intention of sustainable development, which includes improved education, health and environmental quality [ 1 — 9 ], although often to the exclusion of family planning and the demographic dividend i.

Although biodiversity has long been considered integral to this sustainable development agenda [ 412 — 15 ], its relationship to HWB has not been systematically explored.

Biodiversity and human well-being: an essential link for sustainable development

As Seddon et al. Our motivation here is, through a systematic exploration of the current literature, examining its trends, its findings and its frameworks, to provide such clarity. Our focus, however, is specifically on biodiversity's values as they relate to improving HWB, the stipulated goal of sustainable development. Understanding the link between biodiversity and HWB is important as both parameters are undergoing considerable change. Biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services and human well-being are widely used terms, though how they are defined, unfortunately, varies among sectors, sometimes generating confusion.

Biodiversity is most commonly defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources including taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversity and the ecological complexes of which they are part [ 16 ]. Though complex in definition, global syntheses focusing on species or other components have documented widespread loss of biodiversity [ 17 — 21 ].

Every ecosystem features key functions such as primary production and nutrient cycling, which give rise to ecosystem services that improve HWB, such as the provisioning of clean water, fertile soils, timber and capture fisheries [ 922 — 27 ]. HWB, like biodiversity [ 28 ], is a multidimensional construct that includes both subjective e. HWB has eluded any universal definition because of this multidimensionality [ 30 ]; it encompasses concepts of knowledge, friendship, self-expression, affiliation, bodily integrity, economic security, freedom, affection, wealth and leisure [ 31 ].

biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

There are, however, many other subjective and objective variables that can be included [ 3233 ]. In a review of HWB indices, for example, Smith et al. Ecosystem functions and services are shaped by their biodiversity; it is intuitive that HWB and biodiversity should be linked.

To date, two alternative though not mutually exclusive perspectives on the relationship between biodiversity and HWB have shaped public discourse and scientific research. One perspective emphasizes that human or economic development, in which natural, human, social and other capital stocks are marketed to produce flows of desired economic outputs, comes at the price of biodiversity loss. Addressing questions of ecosystem health might appear to be a fairly scholarly, perhaps even arcane, activity, free from the intrigue that dominates much of the science and policy underlying natural resource management, but such is not the case.

Ecosystem health is seldom discussed dispassionately because, as Wicklum and Davies observe: Wicklum and Davies realize that the word health elicits powerful, positive images even if its meaning is variable and ambiguous. Therefore, they argue, a precise understanding of ecosystem health is essential because it is likely to be used and given a variety of meanings by scientists, policy advocates, politicians, bureaucrats, and the general public.

In practice, it may fall to scientists and other technocrats to provide operational clarity to the perplexing, value-laden notions of ecosystem health that appeal on an intuitive level to nearly everyone Meyer In reality, when value-based ecological concepts such as ecosystem health are generally accepted, they may be useful in general conversation but they are impossible to quantify RyderLancaster Ecosystem health and related concepts have become highly charged political terms Jamiesonoften to the extent that they become shorthand for factions in political debates.

Even in the relatively isolated venues of academic and government laboratories, an assertion that ecosystem health is not a scientifically sound concept may be sufficient cause for being branded a political reactionary.

biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

Conversely, scientists embracing the notion of ecosystem health may be dismissed by fellow scientists as political zealots who use their scientific credentials to champion personal policy preferences.

But is the use of the health metaphor, even as a heuristic tool, ill-advised? Shrader-Frechette counseled against using the concept of ecosystem health to communicate with the public about environmental issues because it does not add new information to policy debates, nor does it explain policy tradeoffs.

Kapustka and Landis exhort against using the metaphor because it is misleading and based on values and judgments, not on verifiable scientific reality, whereas Callicott et al. Few proponents explain in specific terms the implications for individuals and society of basing policies on the concept.

Regardless of the merit and direction of the scholarly debate, notions of ecosystem health frame important public policy issues, such as sustainability of agriculture, overuse of marine resources, scarcity of water for domestic and agricultural use, and ecological consequences of introduced species. Ecological policy issues are not mere abstract intellectual concerns, but matters that affect people's daily lives Shrader-Frechette Normative science's assumptions A number of implicit, but highly contested, value-based assumptions masquerade as science Lancaster in the ecosystem health debate.

Many examples of normative science are obvious; others are subtle. However, when a science or policy problem is specified e. Thus, ecosystems are context-specific entities because they cannot be delimited without a science or policy concern, and therefore they may have heuristic problem solving value but they are not analogous to the patient in medicine Suter Although rarely stated clearly, in most formulations of ecosystem health, there is a premise that natural systems are healthier than human-altered systems Figure 3; Wicklum and Davies For example, consider a defined geographic location.

Given the alternatives of a pristine woodland, a housing subdivision, or an industrial complex, which is the healthiest? The subdivision may be necessary, even somewhat aesthetically pleasing, and the industrial complex may serve a worthy purpose, but almost everyone considers the unaltered woodland to be the healthiest. Tacitly, the assumption is that pristine, or less altered, is good and preferred, whereas highly altered ecosystems, by contrast, are less desirable, if not degraded.

Biological diversity is certainly an important element in understanding the structure and function of ecosystems, but the key policy assumption revolves around the level of importance society places on biological diversity or its constituent elements. For example, some argue that biological diversity is such a core i. As Meffe and Viederman bluntly recommend, Scientists can take a clear stand that biodiversity is good, that functioning and intact ecosystems are good, that continued evolutionary change and adaptation are good, and that diversity and variation in general is good.

Scientists cannot and should not remove themselves from these usually unstated value judgments. Invariably, concepts of ecosystem health implicitly assume that certain ecosystem features such as biological diversity have an inherent policy importance Schaeffer et al.

Ecosystems are complex, typically in both structure and function, and the diversity of species within an ecosystem may be important in determining how that particular ecosystem functions, but biological diversity is inherently no more important to ecosystems than nutrient cycling, carbon storage, or the rate of photosynthesis. As a public policy priority, society collectively may ascribe high or low value to preservation of certain, perhaps all, species, based on human values and preferences, without considering biodiversity's ecological function Lackey Although not universally agreed upon, a common tacit assumption is that there is a natural ecosystem state i.

The existence of such a natural state is appealing because disruption of an ecosystem's balance—deviation from its natural state—can be used to define and measure its health. Unfortunately, ecosystems do not adhere to this idealized view.

biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

Instead of predictably approaching single-point equilibrium, they may oscillate over time in a fairly indeterminate manner Belovsky n. Societal values Few challenge the assertion that societal preferences should drive the environmental management goals inherent in implementing ecosystem health, but how will societal aspirations be selected Gaudet et al.

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Society is not a monolith; there are many competing opinions on what should be preeminent societal aspirations or preferences. The marketplace, the most common adjudicator of societal preferences, is never totally unconstrained, nor do most participants have much understanding of the long-term ecological consequences of their individual market decisions.

Thus, economics has an important role in resolving competing societal preferences, but it is insufficient in itself. Although the language framing ecosystem health is value laden Jamiesonthe values are not easily translated into public policy. The crux of the policy challenge is deciding which of the diverse societal preferences are to be adopted.

Resolving policy issues always consists of making tradeoffs, winnowing partially or entirely exclusive alternatives, picking winners and losers, and settling for plenty of compromises.

How will this be done for ecosystem health?

Biodiversity and human well-being: an essential link for sustainable development

Consider any specific ecological policy issue: Who are the stakeholders and how should their conflicting input be used to define ecosystem health? The task is relatively easy when policy problems are defined narrowly, such as licensing a particular chemical or authorizing a timber harvest rate for an individual forest. The task is more difficult for achieving broad societal aspirations such as ecosystem health.

For example, who are the stakeholders for deciding policy on national forests? Are they local, regional, or national citizens; some weighted combination; or all citizens equally?

Obviously, local residents are most directly affected by policy decisions about national forests in their area, but the forest belongs to everyone; thus, urban voters several time zones away may have the controlling political power. For example, defining stakeholders as those most directly affected would result in national forests being managed primarily for the benefit of adjacent residents. Conversely, defining stakeholders as all members of society would most likely result in different policy priorities.

What role should science and scientists play in defining ecosystem health? Scientific information is important, even essential, but it is only part of what is needed Gaudet et al. Most important ecological policy issues involve coarse scales. Unfortunately, most scientific information is of a fine scale and narrowly focused and thus only indirectly relevant to many ecological policy questions.

Furthermore, political institutions legislative and regulatory agencies must balance competing values and preferences, a process in which the role of scientific information is limited.

biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

For the political process of adjudicating conflicts over value and preferences, science offers no moral or ethical guidance Kapustka and LandisLancaster An argument is sometimes advanced that, because the inexactness of ecosystem health shrouds difficult and painful tradeoffs, use of the term actually obscures societal values and preferences by not forcing an explicit selection from competing policy options.

In evaluating various attempts to implement ecosystem health, Suter observes the following: Use of unreal properties particularly unreal properties with imposing names in environmental regulation obscures the bases for decision making; increases the opportunity for arbitrariness; and decreases the opportunity for informed input by the public, regulated parties, or advocacy groups.

Most concepts of ecosystem health require a benchmark i. Often, the implicit assumption, or benchmark, is that an undisturbed or natural ecosystem is superior, thus preferred, to an altered one Anderson An ecosystem altered by human influences is obviously different from the previous state, but there is no scientific basis for a specific ecological state to be considered better more healthy and thus the benchmark. Lele and Norgaard caution those searching for scientifically derived benchmarks for ecosystems: However, the concept is misused when professionals, usually operating from bureaucratic positions, effectively determine, based on their preferences, what healthy i.

Ecosystem health is normative because someone must decide what ecosystem condition or function is good Sagoff Ecosystems display no preferences about their states; thus benchmarks must come from the individuals doing the evaluation Jamieson One common approach is to arbitrarily select reference sites to serve as the benchmarks e.

biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem health integrity

However, Kapustka and Landis argue that the principal mistake scientists make in attempting to define healthy ecosystems is incorporating beliefs, morals, values, and ethics as properties of ecological systems. Assuming that higher biological diversity is inherently superior to lower biological diversity is an example.

Another, less obvious misuse is defining a public policy goal in vague terms, labeling it ecosystem health to engender broad political support but camouflaging the ramifications of its adoption. Indeed, there is general public support for the idea of maintaining ecosystem health, but few grasp the consequences of such a policy approach, including the possible implications for democratic processes or the autonomy of nation-states.

Westrafor example, candidly stated some far-reaching political consequences: A deceptive, but often effective, use of the concept of ecosystem health is pejoratively categorizing opposing policy choices.