Biodiversity is considered to be the varied combination of different species of plants, animals and other organisms and its preservation is proven to boost the productivity of its ecosystems, where each species, regardless of its size, have an important role.
Both wildlife and us humans depend heavily on the conservation of the planet’s biodiversity, as it is an integral part of some indigenous cultures and identities, it boosts the global economy, and it helps prevent severe disease outbreaks. The most recent proof of the importance of biodiversity can be mirrored in the current Covid-19 pandemic, as research has proven the close link between emerging viral diseases and environmental degradation. The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and Conservation International both agree that biodiversity and its preservation is an essential component to win the battle against climate change, making the conservation of Latin America’s biodiversity a key element to meet global climate goals.
Biodiversity and endangered species
Latin America contains the largest biodiverse regions in the world, accommodating around 60% of global terrestrial and diverse marine life species. Unfortunately, there has been a rapid environmental degradation in these areas, resulting in an abundance of endangered species. The degradation of the biodiversity in Latin America can be attributed to agricultural exploitation and a high dependency on its natural resources, amongst many other things.
Encompassing these biodiverse regions, the Gran Chaco is located in South America’s second-largest forest and distributed largely between Argentina and Paraguay, with Bolivia and Brazil making up 13% and 4% respectively. It is the home of over 50 different ecosystems and three major forests. Rodolfo Chisleanschi’s 2019 article on the Gran Chaco determined that its biodiversity is under threat, with over 2.9 million hectares of its area suffered from deforestation between 2010 and 2018.
A large amount of the Gran Chaco is situated in Paraguay, where the native language- guaraní- is spoken widely across the nation, embracing the local and the indigenous culture, and therefore being very present in the country’s biodiversity. The most common species that can be found in the Gran Chaco include Jaguars (“Jaguarete” in guaraní), Chacoan Peccary (“Taguá” in guaraní), giant armadillos (“Tatu Karréta” in guaraní), the Crowned Solitary Eagle (“Taguato Hovy Apiratí” in guaraní), Giant Anteater (“Jurumí” in guaraní) and Tapirs (“Mborevi” in guaraní). These animals are all listed on the IUCN red list, which includes all endangered species, as they have been one of the main victims of the environmental degradation and deforestation that the Gran Chaco has suffered.
As mentioned above, the preservation of our planet’s biodiversity is becoming increasingly important as nature’s resources are being exhausted. The biodiversity in areas within Latin America, such as the Gran Chaco is being threatened, and if no action is taken to address this issue accordingly, it can be the catalyst of a series of issues that will affect both humanity and the planet. The loss of biodiversity will have severe ecological effects since our planet has a natural system in which species are very co-dependent. Although it may seem insignificant to some, the loss of minor species can lead to greater effects in nature’s ecosystems, with bigger predators losing their prey and putting themselves in danger of extinction.
Effects of biodiversity loss
Humans and society will be equally, if not more, affected by the loss of biodiversity. As we can see now, biodiversity loss can trigger the spread of major diseases. This is due to the fact that our planet’s environmental system is quite sensibly structured, meaning that removing just one species from the food chain can lead to the contamination of some meats that will be consumed by humans. Furthermore, the effects that the loss of biodiversity can have in our food chain can be extended to the excessive exploitation of many natural living spaces.
The current situation at the Gran Chaco can also mirror the effects that the loss of biodiversity may have on our society. Both the Gran Chaco and the country of Paraguay are home to Indigenous Peoples and by destroying the biodiversity that they live in, human activity causing a decline in their livelihoods and resources. Deforestation and the overexploitation of the land can lead to a decrease in biomass of feed, which not only affects the Indigenous Peoples, but can also affect farmers on every scale. Furthermore, biodiversity loss can cause adverse effects in our economy, with possible threats to famine and even the collapse of some nations’ GDP.
Global and local environmental justice is crucial for biodiversity conservation. In order to protect endangered species from becoming extinct and as a consequence, our ecosystems, it is crucial we act quickly. These actions can be divided into three main branches: Social, economic and environmental. They all interact with each other and are co-dependent with one another.
Environmental mitigation, through policies implemented by governments and the private sector, are fundamental to the fight against environmental degradation. These social initiatives can lead to great changes in the way natural resources are utilized, helping to educate the general public and private sector to find eco-friendly alternatives to some of their actions.
Actions and solutions
Innovative actions towards the conservation of biodiversity have been proven to be economically beneficial for most sectors. By halting over-consumption and the over-exploitation of resources, an economically sustainable level could be reached, where the economy would thrive in long-lasting eco-friendly alternatives. Another small action that every day-to-day person could do is saving energy, which is a great contribution to lowering pollution and therefore the loss of biodiversity, while simultaneously benefitting the economy. Furthermore, the British Ecological Society depicted in a study how in regions like the Chaco, half of all birds and around 30% of other mammals will be extinct if no conservation actions are taken against deforestation and environmental degradation.
Lastly, environmental-focused actions, such as the protection of habitats and species have proven to have a tremendous effect in the conservation of ecosystems, biodiversity and endangered species. As previously mentioned, Latin America contains the most tropical biodiverse areas in the world, and about 90% of the current accounted species on our planet live in tropical rainforests. Therefore, deforestation has become a major issue for the conservation of biodiversity. Innovative projects for example, such as REDD+ programs help companies take action towards the conservation of biodiversity and its ecosystems.
The loss of biodiversity is mainly caused by human intervention and the over-exploitation of nature’s resources. Corporations and public entities must ensure deforestation-free supply chains and take rapid action against environmental degradation that is leading to an increasingly high number of endangered species and therefore worsening the planet’s carbon footprint. Taking the necessary steps through social, economic, and environmental actions are crucial for the conservation of the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems. These initiatives are proven to be all interlinked, as the British Ecological Society outlined with the importance of “extinction debt”.