Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable forest Management.
ASEAN and Biodiversity
Biodiversity of the Similan Islands, Thailand.
Biodiversity means variety of living organisms on Earth and the natural structures resulting from that variety. Biodiversity as we see today is a product of billions of years of continuous evolution under natural conditions. Lately, human influences have interfered the evolution process. Biodiversity creates a web of life of which human is a part. All parts of the web need each other for their livelihood. For example, taking different plant varieties, each with particular strengths, and cross breeding them into a new variety which combine all the strengths as required can lead to food security and medicine for human use. More examples include obtaining fuel oils from Oil Palm, Jatropha, and Castor Bean; fibers from plants and animals (cotton, silk, and furs) for textile. In addition from utilizing plants and animals, microorganisms are also exploited for many purposes including using yeasts for alcohol production, and using bacteria in yogurt production.
The fertile tropical rain forest filled with diversity of species and ecosystem complexity.
ASEAN has the highest biodiversity on Earth because its location in the tropical zone with various types of ecosystems, and a large area covering land, rivers, lakes and seas. Ten ASEAN countries account for 3% of global land area, yet it contains 20% of the world’s living species plus 284,000 square kilometers of coral reef. Equally importantly, ASEAN has highly diverse ethnicities and cultural identities which are significantly interdependent with the biological resources.
At the present, ASEAN biodiversity is threatened. The region contains 16% of the world’s tropical forest, but also has one of the highest rates of deforestation at 31,000 square kilometers a year. Guinness’s Book of the World Records verifies that Indonesia sees the fastest deforestation in the world. Moreover, other biological resources are declining including marine and fresh water animals. Out of 64,800 species recorded in ASEAN, 1,312 species are listed as endangered. If there is nothing done to prevent deforestation, eventually the forest area will only be a quarter of what it used to be, and we will lose 42% of the existing biodiversity (1)
Baby orangutan. Sumatra. Indonesia
Biodiversity loss will lead to smaller gene pool which results in lessen capacity of organisms to adapt to the changing environmental conditions. It will also cause in-breeding in a small population leading to higher risk of extinction. In addition, this will further affect the ecosystems’ mechanisms which is the origin of erratic climate changes (flood, drought, and storms), and pest and disease epidemics threatening sources of food, medicine, and energy.
As for the biodiversity conservation approach s, people and governments of all ASEAN countries must collaborate in sharing genetic resources, knowledge about breeding improvement and biological resource utilization, as well as mobilizing for a framework for conservation and utilization of biological resources under the principles the respect the rights of local communities and ethnic groups, fairness, equality, and sustainability.
- (1) ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity