Understanding Humanity’s Impact on Biodiversity

“Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity” by Cardinale et al. focuses on how human actions impact the ecosystems and biodiversity. Furthermore, it investigates and questions how further studies can better serve policy and management initiatives, as well as provide better evidence of the biodiversity loss in order to “reduce our uncertainties” relating to it.

Cardinale discusses BEF (biodiversity-ecosystem functioning) and BES (biodiversity-ecosystem services) research, as well as their differences: “Research on BEF had developed a large body of experiments and mathematical theory describing how genetic, species and functional diversity of organisms control basic ecological processes in ecosystems,” while BES studies were “mostly correlative, conducted at the landscape scale and often focused on how major habitat modifications influenced ‘provisioning’ and ‘regulating’ services of ecosystems.”

Cardinale et. al do a great job at thoroughly explaining the main points made both by BEF and BES research. What the paper stresses is the importance of using the “foundations laid down” by this research for the past 20 years, in order to make it more relative and realistic in today’s terms. In order for people to understand the consequences of biodiversity loss, the BEF and BES research need to be linked up and integrated together; in a sense, the two fields will need to work more closely together in order to support one another’s findings.

Cardinale warns that the “need to explore more realistic scenarios of diversity change that reflect how human activities are altering biodiversity is now urgent.” Essentially, this idea is what I understood and took the most from reading this paper and the findings it discusses. For “regular” people, who have limited understanding of ecosystems and biodiversity, it is necessary to explain the background of the extensive research that has been done for the past two decades. After that, and after successful predictive models have been developed, the problem of changing ecosystem and biodiversity should be presented in manner that is policy-relevant so that necessary changes can take place. Another tool that could be used in order to better understand what loss of biodiversity means to us as humans, is to estimate the value of the services provided by ecosystems, which was discussed in previous papers that we read, as well. Although economists have tools to do so, Cardinale notes that we still do not have a good understanding of the marginal value of biodiversity in providing us with the services.

In conclusion, what we students can take from this paper is that gaining a better understanding of how our activities affect biodiversity of ecosystems is necessary in order to make a change and turn around the biodiversity loss that is sure to affect us as humans if something is not done about it.

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