Life-giving Biodiversity

by Rolando A. Inciong

            Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth – from the smallest organisms to the largest mammals; the different species of plants, trees, fishes; and the places where they live which we call ecosystems.

            The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that fish provide 20 percent of animal protein to about three billion people. “Over 80 percent of the human diet is provided by plants. As many as 80 percent of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant‐based medicines for basic healthcare.”

            Aside from food, we continue to depend on nature, especially for our basic needs such as water, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter, energy, construction materials, and defense against climate change and pollution.

            Unfortunately, Earth is losing its biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. The Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity said that the loss of biodiversity threatens all, including our health. Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66 percent of the marine environment have been significantly altered by irresponsible human activities. One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.

            It has been proven that biodiversity loss could expand zoonoses — diseases transmitted from animals to humans. If we keep biodiversity intact, it offers excellent tools to fight against pandemics like those caused by coronaviruses.

            Given the importance of public education and awareness about the dangers of biodiversity loss, the UN is encouraging governments to promote understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

            We need to learn about the importance of healthy species and their ecosystems and how we can protect and conserve them. While irresponsible human activities contribute to the problem of biodiversity loss, We, humans, are also the solution. Let us all be responsible and take care of our mother nature and its life-giving biodiversity.

Rainforests: Sustaining Life on Earth

by Rolando Inciong

Last June 22, the international community observed World Rainforest Day, an occasion to increase public awareness on rainforests and encourage people to protect them. The Rainforest Alliance Organization (RAO) defines a rainforest as a tropical woodland with an annual rainfall of at least 100 inches and marked by lofty broad-leaved evergreen trees forming a continuous canopy.

Rainforests cover less than 3 percent of the planet. They serve as home to more species of plants and animals than any other terrestrial ecosystem. They are essential to life on Earth as they provide air, water, medicine, food, and shelter to a multitude of living beings. Rainforests also protect humans against climate change as they absorb greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The RAO added that rainforests are also home to insects, spiders and ticks, worms, snakes and lizards, frogs and toads, parrots and toucans, and sloths and jaguars.

According EarthDay.Org, healthy forests are one of the most effective climate change mitigation tools for reducing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, regulating the water cycle, and producing oxygen. In addition to their function as a carbon sink, forests provide social, environmental, and economic benefits to many communities worldwide.

Now that we know how important rainforests are, it is time for citizens to act to save, conserve and protect this very important ecosystem.

The importance of bees

by Rolando A. Inciong

When we talk about honey, we talk about bees. Most of us think that honey is the only important product that bees produce. Bees are pollinators. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), pollinators contribute $20 billion to the American agriculture industry. California, for example, produces over 80 percent of the world’s almond harvest from its 1.17 million acres. California’s almond farms ordinarily require 1.6 million domesticated bee colonies to pollinate the flowering trees and produce the almonds. The USDA reports that the global crop production pollinated by bees is valued at $577 billion.

Like in the US, bees play a very important role in pollinating the plants that we eat all over the world. The Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) reported that a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers in one day. Approximately 75 percent of the world’s crops depend on pollinators.

Aside from plants, many animals depend on pollinators for their survival because their food such as fruits, seeds, berries, and nuts rely on insect pollination. Pollination also promotes the growth of flowers which provide habitats for animals, insects and birds.

The sad news? Bees and other pollinators are in danger of extinction. The USDA said that 45 percent of bee colonies have been lost in recent years. Threats to their survival are pesticides, climate change, habitat destruction and fragmentation, and colony collapse disorder. With the serious situation that the bees and other pollinators are facing, the world could soon be facing failure in food production. So, the next time bees bother you, don’t even attempt to swat them.

Forests and livelihood

by Rolando A. Inciong

            Forests, forest species and ecosystem services play a very important role in sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people all over the world, particularly those of indigenous and local communities with linkages to forests.

The United Nations (UN) revealed that between 200 and 350 million people live within or adjacent to forested areas around the world. They rely on the various ecosystem services provided by forests and forest species for their livelihoods and to cover their basic needs such as food, shelter, medicines and energy.

The UN emphasized that indigenous peoples and local communities, including those in the Philippines, are frontliners in the symbiotic relationship between humans and forest, forest-dwelling wildlife species, and the ecosystem services that forests provide. Some 28 percent of the world’s land surface is currently managed by indigenous peoples. These areas are central to their economic and personal well-being, and their cultural identities.

Today, forests, forests species, and the livelihoods that depend on them are highly threatened by environmental and manmade crises such as climate change, pollution, illegal wildlife trade, irresponsible mining, land conversion, overexploitation, biodiversity loss, and the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As such, we should promote forest and forest wildlife management models and practices that accommodate both human well-being and the long-term conservation of forests, forest-dwelling species of wild fauna and flora, and the ecosystems they sustain. We should also promote the values of traditional practices and knowledge that contribute to establishing a more sustainable relationship with these crucial natural systems.