Shopify API - 09. December 21
Biodiversity: why biodiversity “pays off”
Biodiversity: why biodiversity "pays off"
Forests are the most biodiverse terrestrial ecosystems on earth. However, for some time now, biodiversity in forest ecosystems has been declining worldwide. This increasing loss has been discussed for decades. Because the resulting negative ecological consequences and social consequences are becoming increasingly clear - both for the creatures living in and from the forest, as well as for all regions and economies around them.
At the same time, the area of monocultural plantations, such as for the production of wood and energy, continues to increase. Above all for economic reasons. As far as the ecological advantages and disadvantages of monoculture are concerned and also why we need biodiversity, we have already discussed in the blog post “ Biodiversity! Because monocultures don't do it.
But there are also economic questions. Like how do monoculture forests compare to mixed forests in a calculation that includes ecological impacts? Is industrial, monocultural afforestation actually still worthwhile?
“BIODIVERSITY”, WHAT IS THAT EXACTLY?
First of all, it is important to clarify the term “biodiversity”. After all, what does “biodiverse” even mean? “Biodiversity” is synonymous with the diversity of life on our planet. For species, individuals, cultivated plants - or for entire ecosystems and their complex interactions. The term "biological diversity" was first used by the US National Research Council in 1986 and was later abbreviated to "BioDiversity". "Bios" comes from the Greek and means "life", "diversitas" is Latin and means "difference". The more descriptive but narrower concept of "species diversity" is often used as another name.In German-speaking countries, too, “biodiversity” is often translated as “species diversity”. In fact, this is only true to a limited extent, because in addition to the variety of different species, the expression also includes the various variations within a species in the "biodiversity".
BIRTH OF “MODERN”, MONOCULTURAL FORESTRY
Forests are home to the most species compared to any terrestrial ecosystem on earth. Old, unused forests are particularly rich in species. However, this variety is rarely found today. Due to intensive management, the stock is more homogeneous and fewer species.
Really old forests are mostly long gone. Globally, around 36 percent of forests are still primary forests, i.e. primeval forests that continue to exist without any visible human influence. Around 13 million hectares of forest – often primary forest – are lost every year. In Germany there are no longer any primeval forests. As early as around 4,500 BC, people in Europe began clearing forests and converting them into commercial forests. Forests emerged, which were used intensively, but only on small plots. The small-scale structural change thus continued to provide a habitat for many organisms.
In the Middle Ages, for example after catastrophes or deforestation, people began to create a pure monoculture so that people could get back to the forest more quickly. Around 100 years ago, the traditional forms of use were then largely completely abandoned. Since then, the forests have mostly been planted with trees of one species and a uniform age.
In order to achieve greater and faster profits with forestry and agriculture, trees of just one species were often planted in this country, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Increased emphasis was placed on monocultures such as spruce or pine. This is how forests with fast-growing trees were created, which produce renewable raw materials in a short time. They are still cultivated in this way today, for example to meet the wood requirements for industry.
MONOCULTURES: ALSO A PRICE TOO HIGH ECONOMICALLY?
The fact that this profit calculation, viewed holistically and sustainably, is a big mistake, emphasizes a team of scientists led by Prof. Pretzsch from the Chair of Forest Growth Science at the Technical University of Munich. If the monoculture continued like this, annual damage of 166 to 490 billion US dollars would occur with a long-term loss of tree species of around 99 percent. Losses, which consequently weigh more than twice as much in terms of costs as the global expenditures for the preservation of biodiversity. Costs for, for example, protective and recreational functions of the forests. As well as for reduced wood production, which can increase again when forest monocultures are converted into mixed stands.
The monetary valuation of "natural capital", i.e. the stock of physical and biological resources and the ability of ecosystems to provide goods and services as a kind of "dividend", was the goal of one Study that repeatedly showed that the costs of biodiversity loss due to failure to take protective measures are usually far higher than the costs of effective nature conservation. Enormous costs are therefore incurred as a result of the often gradual deterioration of these ecosystem services in the forests.
In 2014, the University of Zurich proved that healthy plant communities – based on the example of mixed cultivation and mixed cultivation – ensure even higher yields than monocultures. In the Study Summary It says: “Despite their disadvantages, monocultures are still the agricultural form of cultivation par excellence and are considered the only way to achieve higher yields in plant breeding. Wrongly so, according to Bernhard Schmid, professor of ecology at the University of Zurich.” Prof. Schmid sees “in the untapped potential of biodiversity [even] the chance for future human nutrition”.
The number of tree species is therefore in direct correlation with the productivity of the forests. According to the studies, biodiversity makes forests more productive and resilient. Commercial timber production can thus also benefit from species richness in forests.
BIODIVERSE REFORESTATION ON THE MOVE – ALSO IN ECUADOR!
In the meantime, many countries are also rethinking silvicultural guidelines – away from monocultures and towards species-rich forests. According to the "Adaptation Strategy to Climate Change" and the "Forest Strategy 2020", the goal in Germany, for example, is to increase the diversity of tree species in German forests. Reforestation has also increased in recent times, so that the forested area has increased by a million hectares since the 1970s has increased to eleven million hectares. About 32 percent is now forested.
There are 4 billion hectares of forest worldwide. Exactly 10 of them have been reforested by GUYA since July 1, 2021. Since then we have our first “ own afforestation ” in Ecuador. For this we have teamed up with the non-profit Ecuadorian foundation YAKUM. One of our main goals is to increase the biodiversity in the forests again. With the cultivation of 100 types of fruit, nut, palm, medicinal and useful plants, the soil should heal and the degraded ecosystem recover. We, YAKUM and the indigenous community living there believe that the planting of this “Food Forest” will be of great benefit to the community as well as to the forest and local wildlife.
Monocultures predominate in forestry. Breeds are used that are optimized for high short-term yields. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the costs resulting from deteriorated ecosystem services are often much higher than the gains.
Researchers around the world are investigating the connection between biodiversity and productivity of forests and their economic benefits. The more tree species there are in a forest, the more biomass is produced. This is an increasingly important conclusion.
The fact that monocultures in the forest are not exactly ideal from an ecological point of view is not new. As a result, mixed forests are also the better and more profitable alternative from an economic point of view. Sure, the requirements are high, the short-term returns are rather low. However, the sustainable income is all the higher. And also much more worthwhile, in our opinion.
The possibilities are there. They just have to be used consistently. That could create a lot of improvements in a short time, especially when it comes to the diversity of nature. The higher the biodiversity, the more stable and productive the ecosystem. This seems to make itself felt in the wallet. And increasingly in the public eye.
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