Effects of ecosystem changes on Earth
Many discussions are going on regarding the changing ecosystems and how it is affecting the economy of the earth in many ways. The most interesting and useful paper in this regard has been published by Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA). The report was published in 2009 and was prepared by 1300 scientists who were commissioned by the UN to comprehensively study and analyze the state of global environment and the changing ecosystems. The report took a human point of view by looking at the planet’s ability to provide the services we take from it to nourish our lives, from basic requirements like food to the various resources we need to feed the global economy, like water and fiber.
The report published by the MEA became widely regarded because it assessed very clearly the ecosystem as the underpinning of human economy and society. While making the study, MEA identified 25 ecosystem categories of activities used by humans. They then analyzed the state of these services in the changing ecosystems around the world and showed how sustainable our level of use was. These included recreational services like tourism which gives us the pleasure we get from nature. A brief look into the report shows how the direct services like the fish to eat, land to grow food on, forests to provide fiber, regulation of climate, cleaning and provision of water are getting affected in the present days. The report shows that 16 out of 25 services are being used unsustainably. Human activity is putting so much strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystem to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.
Consider the case of fisheries. With the current increase in demand of fishes, all global fisheries are on the path to collapse. Every type of fish consumed by people is expected to collapse by 2048. So, it is expected that by 2050, the global fishing industry is going to come to an end. You will be surprised to know that around 500 million families depend upon the fishing industry globally and hence one can easily realize that the social and economic implications of this collapse is going to be immense. (Paul Gliding, The Great Disruption, 2010, pg 38-39)
Take another example. One of the four largest lakes of the world was located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Severe level of over irrigation during the Soviet era literally drained out the once massive lake and by 2007, it was reduced to 10% of its original capacity. When the lake was full, around 35 million people were dependent on the lake for water, fish and transport and these services are no longer available now. Not only financial loss, it has been seen that the loss of water has also changed the climate of the region and is fast turning the area into a desert type. Because of this change in the ecosystem, a wide range of diseases has attacked the area because of frequent dust storms. (Paul Gliding, The Great Disruption, 2010, pg 39-40)