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‘Maintaining Biodiversity at Its Present Level Is Impossible If People Are to Achieve a Reasonable Standard of Living in the Near Future.’ Discuss This Statement with Reference to a Tropical Biome That You Have Studied.

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‘Maintaining biodiversity at its present level is impossible if people are to achieve a reasonable standard of living in the near future.’ Discuss this statement with reference to a tropical biome that you have studied. (40 marks)

Biodiversity is the variety of species in an ecosystem, and there is a large biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest, which is the tropical biome which I have studied. The Amazon covers 40% of the South American land mass, passing through countries such as Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and Chile. It is one of the most biodiverse regions on earth, homes to about 1 million different plant species, over 500 species of mammals, and over 2000 species of fish. There are also a few endangered species in this biome, including the black caiman, which is a reptile and a pirarucu, which is a fish. The standard of living is simply the degree of wealth and material comfort available to a person or community. For the standard of living to improve for generations today and for future generations, it is often necessary for development to occur. And for development to occur, it is almost inevitable that the biodiversity in the area will be affected in one way or another.

There are currently some threats to the Amazon rainforest, mainly being deforestation, overhunting and overfishing. If these activities are done in abundance, then it is not possible for people to achieve a reasonable standard of living in the future. So measures must be taken to sustainably develop the Amazon biome, which I will elaborate on later. Deforestation is definitely the biggest threat to the rainforest – 13% of the original forest has been cleared, which is a massive amount if we remember that the Amazon rainforest is huge. 13% of the amazon rainforest is around 70,000km2. There are various reasons for why deforestation is occurring in the Amazon rainforest. Commercial agriculture is one reason, where space is created from deforestation to plant crops to sell such as palm oil and soya. Commercial logging is when the wood from the trees is used for timber and paper. Road building for logging also makes new areas of forest accessible for agriculture. Mining also occurs in the Amazon to find medicines and cures for diseases. However, the main reason for deforestation in the Amazon is cattle ranching, where the forest is being cleared to make space for cattle grazing. Cattle ranching was responsible for more than 60% of all deforestation between 2000 and 2005.

Most of the people living within or close to the Amazon Rainforest still rely on hunting, fishing and farming for food to survive. Hunting primates for bushmeat is a big problem in the Brazilian Amazon, where local people consume between 2.2 and 5.4 million primates each year. This is unsustainable because primates reproduce slowly and therefore many species are endangered. If species become extinct, this will affect other species. Both deforestation and hunting are increasing rapidly due to the fact that the population in the Amazon is also increasing rapidly, so more people are requiring these needs.

These activities will never stop completely, but they can be made more sustainable. The Central Amazon Conservation Complex aims to protect the biodiversity of the Brazilian Amazon mainly, covering an area of 49,000km2. It aims to main ecosystems but allowing local people to use the rainforest sustainably also. Activities in the areas covered by the complex are controlled. In certain heavily restricted areas, only researchers and authorised visitors are allowed in. In areas of sustainable use there are quotas to limit logging, hunting and fishing. Two Sustainable Development Reserves have been created where hunting and logging is only allowed for survival, and there are limits to how many animals and fish can be caught. Also, some sustainable schemes are run by local people which they get an income from, involving in ecotourism and sustainable agriculture. Education projects have been set up to educate people about the rainforest and how to manage it sustainably. These sustainable development initiatives have been successful. There are no damns, pipelines, mines or commercial logging activities and none are planned for the future. The

Sustainable Development Reserves are sustaining the biodiversity in the area, and the population of species that were endangered, such as the Black Caiman, have increased. The population of the Black Caiman has increased by 100% since the Central Amazon Conservation Complex has been implemented. Ecotourism provides a source of direct income for locals and also promotes conservation and sustainable development. In Mamiraua an ecotourism lodge has been built, which recycles waste and uses solar power. 80 teachers from local schools have been trained to educate children about the environment and around 1800 children have had lessons on conservation. Local people have also been trained as health workers allowing local communities to have access to clean drinking water, which have improved the quality of life of the local population, dropping infant mortality by 53%.

As these sustainable development initiatives have been successful, the statement is contradicted. The statement says that maintaining biodiversity at its present level is impossible, however if the initiatives are working, then it evidently is possible. The maintained biodiversity means that local people who rely on hunting and deforestation to survive, will be able to do so, thanks to the Sustainable Development Reserves. This supports the fact that people will be able to achieve a reasonable standard of living in the near future, if the Central Amazon Conservation Complex continues to control certain areas for sustainable development.

On the other hand, protecting such a large area like the Amazon biome is difficult. First of all, the Central Amazon Conservation Complex is only situated in the Brazilian Amazon, which is a total area of 49,000km2. However, the amazon is 5,500,000km2 in total, which is just a small proportion which is being controlled. More organisations such as this complex need to be implemented in other parts of the Amazon so the whole of it is made sustainable and not just certain areas. However, difficulty still arises in the areas which are under control. The reserves are large and there is not enough staff to monitor and control illegal activities. More staff are needed to cover the large area more effectively. Population growth in the area puts strain on the ecosystem and some areas still suffer from intensive and hunting.

To conclude, I believe that biodiversity at its present level can be maintained to achieve an acceptable standard of living for future generations. It is not ‘impossible’ because the Central Amazon Conservation Complex has had positive and successful impacts which have made certain areas more sustainable. However if we want to make the whole of the Amazon more sustainable to maintain its biodiversity more organisations must be set up in all parts of the Amazon and they must do things like the Central Amazon Conservation Complex are doing. Governments need to understand and promote it as more staff is also needed.

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