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Ilonggo Network

Biodiversity for sustainable development

Last May 26, the whole world once again commemorated the International Day of Biodiversity, on the theme “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.”

The message of this year's celebration underscored the importance of pursuing development paths that will not compromise the ability of our biological diversity to provide and sustain the benefits it offers to the people.

Oftentimes, biodiversity conservation is being viewed as a stumbling block in economic development, when, in fact, it is vital in ensuring the sustainable use of our natural resources. Conservation doesn't mean the permanent preservation of our natural resources, but rather utilizing them, not beyond the limit of their abilities to naturally regenerate.

It should be understood that when we talk about biodiversity, we are not only referring to species, but also including the different ecosystems. Each of our ecosystems is likewise serving as habitat to numerous species of flora and fauna, many of which are endemic only in the Philippines. A good number of our species is restricted in a particular island or location.

It is worth noting, too, that our ecosystems are offering numerous ecological services that we tend to ignore in terms of their vital roles in our economy. For instance, the different ecosystems found in our coastal and marine environment are the very base of our fishery industry.

It is therefore necessary that such ecosystems shall be protected to ensure the continuing supply of economically-viable marine resources. Unfortunately, a large track of our coral reefs is already in poor condition, while our mangrove forests are getting limited. Destructive and unsustainable fishing, mangrove conversion, and pollution, among others, are key factors affecting the productivity of our fishery resources, which are all components of our biological diversity. On the other hand, our terrestrial forest ecosystems have been gravely affected with logging, mining, agriculture, settlement and other conversions into other purposes.

Negros Island demonstrates the kind of deforestation that occurred in the country, since its natural forest is barely four percent of its total land area. One of the major impacts of deforestation is the weakening ability of our forest to sustain its watershed function. We all know that our freshwater resources emanate from watersheds and once they are already deforested, their capacity to store and release the much needed water resources for agriculture, industrial and even household requirements, would be affected, and in return affect our economic productivity, too.

Our forest ecosystems are also home to assorted species of wildlife, and deforestation has been known to primarily cause the endangerment of our endemic species, which is a catastrophic scenario, since many of these species are already at the brink of extinction in the wild. The different species of plants and animals are vital components of our biological diversity, and they are very crucial in mitigating pest infestation that would affect our agriculture, and in maintaining the natural processes occurring in our environment, aside from their aesthetic and socio-cultural values.

There are still numerous benefits that we can hardly account for from our biodiversity, and it is, therefore, imperative that it must be considered in decision-making, in formulating and implementing local and national development agenda and priorities.

Sustainable development, after all, will not come if we will continue to plunder our biological diversity, to the extent of impairing natural cycles and creating irreversible damages to our natural environment. *

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