Gary Snyder, a well known poet, once said, “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” Today, we hear a lot about many species of animals are being endangered or threatened. People don’t realize how they are negatively affecting the habitats which is home to numerous number of species. The increasing human interaction in the homes of several animals is threatening their population. The cost of degrading the habitats are hidden and indirect, therefore, the consequences are usually disregarded. One of these threatened species include the leopards which are found in sub-saharan Africa and many parts of Asia. Leopards are stated as threatened on the IUCN red list and to help protect them, the government should double the number of protected areas in sub-saharan Africa and Asia which will lead to increased economic benefits, reduced poverty and will aid the local communities.
Firstly, doubling the protected areas will lead to more environment benefits such as conserving biodiversity. Dr. Bernard Coetzee, from the School of Biological Sciences stated, “in general, plant and animal populations are larger and more species are found inside rather than outside protected areas”. The protected areas are maintained properly resulting in less human interaction which therefore, protects the ecosystem. There are several economic benefits which occur from having more protected areas. According to the Nigel Dudley et al., the approximate economic value of ecosystem services is “tens of trillion of dollars every year… yet the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment estimates that 60 percent of these services are being degraded or used unsustainably” (Dudley, Nigel, et al.). The economic profit given by the total ecosystem services would be greater than the total Gross Domestic Product of the world. Many don’t realize this, as it takes time to squeeze the economic profits and most of these profits are earned in the long term. Instead, people degrade the ecosystem which leads to fewer profits earned. The ecosystems that are currently present around the world provide us with “efficient, successful and cost-effective tools for sustainable ecosystem management” (Dudley, Nigel, et al).
Degraded ecosystems are very hard to sustain in the short term but if they are maintained, they can be very efficient. India makes large investments to preserve its ancient temples and sites of its cultural heritage. They recently unveiled the tallest statue in the world which cost them $430 million to build according to the British Broadcasting Corporation. According to Vanessa M. Adams et al., to add and maintain an additional 12 million hectares of protected land in Queensland Australia, it would cost a minimum of $250 million (Adams, Vanessa M et al.). If India has enough funding to build a statue, there shouldn’t be any excuse arguing that they have limited funding to double the protected areas. The biggest national park in India is 1.14 million hectares, therefore, it wouldn’t cost more than $24 million to double the protected area and maintain it.
Furthermore, ecosystems are also beneficial because they help increase the amount of water as they contain the water more efficiently. This is helpful for societies where water might not be readily available. Since, the ecosystem contains more water, the animal population prevails and the human population is benefitted as well. This is a by-product of maintaining or conserving ecosystems but the industrial sectors ignore this. Carbon is most wanted by the economic sector as it is profitable but there are some unintended consequences associated with the profits. Heavy machinery is used to extract carbon which degrades the land and it becomes harder to restore the ecosystem. The land is being used for large scale infrastructure, roads being built for transportation or new gas or oil pipelines. Usually, the industrial area doesn’t pay attention to the environmental impacts that might occur from their actions which creates barriers for leopards to migrate and deviates them from their general migration path. The land is degraded which results in habitat loss. Another problem that is threatening the leopards is overgrazing of land. Since, land is being overused by famers, it leads to erosion and less nutrients in the soil resulting in less vegetation for animals such as deer, impala, or rodents. The consequence of less herbivores is that there is less food for the leopards to feed on which causes them to change their migration routes. This results in a large loss of habitats and the ecosystem is unable to sustain itself. If business industries are more careful about extracting carbon, and help restore the ecosystems after the extraction process, it can be very beneficial in the long run such as raw materials like carbon being more widely available. The UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre has calculated and stated that “15 percent of the world’s stored carbon is already within protected areas”.
Moreover, the protected ecosystems also help remove natural hazards which is very cost-effective. We waste a huge amount of money to get rid of natural hazards and use inefficient ways to do it. If ecosystems are maintained or protected, the removal occurs for free. The only cost involved would be time as it takes a long time to remove natural hazards from the soil. The ecosystems also provide services such as the purifying and detoxifying of water, air and soil. “[In] Florida’s cypress swamps, 98 per cent of all nitrogen and 97 per cent of all phosphorus entering the wetlands from wastewater were removed before this water entered the groundwater reservoirs” (Dudley, Nigel, et al.). Since, more than 97 percent of toxic material entering the water was removed because of the swamps , we can conclude that it is cost-effective and an efficient way of removing harmful materials from air, water and soil. This service is important as high pollution levels are a major threat to protected areas. In any case, all these benefits can be received if we double the protected areas which will help the leopard population to prevail and will lead to less human-leopard conflicts.
Secondly, doubling the protected areas will be beneficial for local communities as it can raise the local housing values and provide various economic benefits. Local businesses will be able to perform well and they can receive increased funding from the government to maintain the protected areas. One of the reasons why the leopard population is threatened is because the human population living around the leopard population has a minimal income. This gives them an incentive to kill leopards to earn money. If they can earn money by maintaining the protected areas, it will incentivize them to not poach leopards. A research was conducted by the Forest Department in Northern India on the leopards’ migration paths and human-leopard conflicts in Northern India and Bengal. This research was recently summed up in 2017. All of the human-leopard conflicts arose in the northern Pauri Garhwal where the majority of the population is situated (figure 1). There were no conflicts in the south because the area is stated as a national park which means it is a protected ecosystem. Based on the forest department records, in Pauri Garhwal, a total of 159 attacks on humans were registered between 2006 and 2016 and 121 leopards were killed in Pauri Garhwal because of retaliation by the local community or were declared as man-eaters and therefore, shot.
More protected areas will lead to less human-leopard conflicts as the leopards would not have to go in the populated areas to search for food. When an ecosystem is managed properly, it helps people living in poverty by providing them with food. Many times the ecosystem can provide the population living under poverty with fruits and vegetation. It also provides the community with raw materials such as timber for carving or firewood. In areas where electricity is not available is dependant on firewood. Ecosystems also help control “aspects of climate, hydrology and the water cycle” (Dudley, Nigel, et al.). With the increase in global warming, protected areas can help decrease the severe increase in the greenhouses as it converts carbon dioxide, a major contributor of the greenhouse gases, to oxygen. “The tourism industry is world’s largest single industry, and ecotourism in protected areas is growing all the time and is already the largest foreign currency earner in countries such as Tanzania” (Dudley, Nigel, et al.). The tourism industry is growing around the world and it is especially beneficial for developing countries as it helps stabilize their economy. Some countries take advantage of this but the ecosystem is not maintained to a sustainable level.
Thirdly, doubling the size of the protected areas in sub-saharan Africa and Asia will help the people living in poverty and give them the ability to earn. “Governments and other beneficiaries have started to pay landowners and stewards to maintain ecosystem services” (Dudley, Nigel, et al.). Since, governments are already paying landlords to maintain the ecosystems, it gives an incentive to others as well to maintain the ecosystems. The protected areas are beneficials because they produce sustainable harvest and receive income from sales. This is beneficial for the government as well as the local community because they “provide major sources of employment for local people as managers, rangers, wildlife biologists and through providing direct and indirect ecotourism services. Such employment can also sometimes provide additional education opportunities” (Dudley, Nigel, et al). That being the case, doubling the protected areas can provide the local communities the ability to earn while maintaining the ecosystem.
A complication arises when the protected areas are not properly managed leading to the degradation of the ecosystem. A study conducted in 2010 by wildlife experts revealed that the protected areas in United Kingdom such as nature reserves and national parks are “failing to protect species, being poorly managed, too small, too publicly accessible and not interconnected enough” (Rees, Eifion). The solution to this problem has already been tested where the government have paid landowners to maintain the ecosystem. As stated earlier, this provides an incentive for the people to maintain the ecosystem. People tend to look at protected areas as a source of monetary loss and are not able to see the implicit profits earned from maintaining the protected areas. The government of several countries prefers not to invest money to protect the ecosystem as it puts a financial burden on them. This is the reason why conservation agencies try to advertise the positive effects of protected areas so people can learn about the unseen benefits the protected areas provide and how it can be a significant move to fight against the declining population of numerous endangered species. Illegal human activities are prevalent in protected areas which is a high cost to maintain. The cost of maintaining the protected areas are high but the economic profits earned is even higher as stated previously. With this in mind, if the government starts paying landowners to maintain the ecosystem globally, more people would want to maintain the ecosystem and will provide income and employment for the local community.
Finally, due to habitat loss, as well as poaching in many areas of the sub-saharan Africa and Asia, the leopard population is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list and to help fight against this decline of population, the protected areas should be doubled. This will not only benefit the leopards or various other threatened species but as well as the local community and the economy of a country. There are numerous benefits received from maintaining an ecosystem but are harder to see these implicit profits. To battle against the declining population of endangered species, more areas should be stated as protected areas and should be heavily maintained. The government of various countries need to play a big role in protecting these habitats and help the population of threatened species flourish. This will need to be done before it is too late and before a larger number of species are extinct. There are complications and and many costs involved in maintaining the ecosystem but if done well, it can be very beneficial for the human population as well as the animal population.
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