The urgency for ecosystem solidarity

To restore stability to our planet we must restore its diversity, the very thing we have removed. It is the only way out of this crisis that we ourselves have created. We must rewild the world – David Attenborough. Earth has been generous with eco system services to its inhabitants. But their
exploitation of nature is putting these natural resources at peril and global ecosystems and biodiversity are crying out for regeneration. Robust biodiversity and ecosystems are life supports for the human race.
They uplift the quality of life and are critical for human wellbeing. Nature gives us food and food security, medicine to fight disease, provides livelihoods in agriculture, fisheries and tourism to name a few, is a source of energy and endless possibilities to harness its rich flora and fauna for innovation. In addition to these tangible benefits, nature sustains air quality and regulates the climate to say the least. The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in its last report states that the direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact have been changes in land and sea use, the direct misuse of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasion of alien species. The Report highlights that the underlying causes or indirect drivers of change – which in turn are underpinned by societal values and behaviours – include production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends, trade and technological innovations.
Sri Lanka’s biodiversity is facing similar threats. The country’s terrestrial and marine and coastal biodiversity harbour ecosystems that are rich in species concentration and show high levels of endemism. This exceptional biodiversity puts Sri Lanka among 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world, twinning it with
the Western Ghats in India because of similarities in topography, climatic heterogeneity and coastal influence. It is also considered to have the highest biodiversity per unit area of land among Asian countries, surpassing even mega diversity countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and India. But human
population density, habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, pollution, human -wildlife conflict and the loss of traditional crops and livestock varieties and breeds are some of the pressures and drivers that have been identified as leading to the rot.
According to the Convention on Biological Diversity which Sri Lanka became a signatory to in 1992 and ratified in 1994, the country’s unique biological diversity is facing general decline as a result. Twenty seven percent of 240 identified species of birds are threatened, along with 66% of amphibian species,
56% of mammals, 49% of freshwater fish species and 59% of reptiles. One of Sri Lanka’s flagship species, the elephant, has been affected by a population decline in both dry and wet zones. A population of 10,000 at the turn of the century has dwindled to around 3000 today. As for flowering plants, 1,385
species of the 3,154 identified species are classified as threatened, the high majority of which (594) are endemic to Sri Lanka. The area covered by closed canopy dense natural forests declined markedly from 44% to 26.6% and 23.8% of the land area in 1983 and 1992, respectively, and to 22.5% in 1999. Nearly half the recommendations in Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan which provided the framework for conservation work in the country’s forests, wetland, coastal and marine, agriculture have not been implemented or implementation was hampered due to lack of capacities. The complacency with implementation will only result in a failure to arrest the decline in biodiversity. The need of the hour is the need for political will to restore the equilibrium which will also pay off in other ways. For instance, the sustainable use of biodiversity will also pave the way for Sri Lanka to meet her Sustainable Development Goals. Attenborough also once famously said that nature can live without people, but people can’t live without nature. The popular narrative of human animal co- existence must be widened to that of human co-existence with ecosystems and biodiversity to ensure that the legacy which is left behind by current generations will be one where biodiversity is not irreplaceable. As Rilke said if we surrendered to earth’s intelligence we can rise up like rooted trees.

LORIS VOL – 29 ISSUE 4 Editorial

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