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Global erosion of ecosystem services


A lecture to Issues in Sustainable Environments (University of Adelaide) students on the global trends in ecosystem service provisions.

A lecture to Issues in Sustainable Environments (University of Adelaide) students on the global trends in ecosystem service provisions.

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  • Russia has the most extensive forest cover, followed by Brazil, Canada and USAEstimated area of gross forest cover loss at the global scale is 1,011,000 km2, or 3.1 % of year 2000 forest area (0.6% per year from 2000 to 2005)Gross forest cover loss was highest in the boreal biome, with fire accounting for 60 % of that lossThe humid tropics had the second-highest gross forest cover loss, due mainly to broad-scale clearing for agriculture in Brazil, Indonesia and MalaysiaWhen expressed as proportion lost from the 2000 extent estimates, the humid tropics is the least disturbedThe Amazon interior is the largest remaining ‘intact’ forest, followed by the Congo basinThe dry tropics has the 3rd-highest gross forest cover loss, with Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay accounting for most of thisAlthough the temperate biome had the lowest forest cover (due mainly to forest clearances long, long ago), it had the 2nd-highest proportional gross forest cover lossNorth America has the greatest area of gross forest cover loss, followed by Asia and South AmericaNorth America alone accounts for ~ 30 % of global gross forest cover loss, and has the highest proportional gross forest cover loss at 5.1 %Brazil has the highest gross national forest cover loss of any nationIndonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are next in line for tropical countriesUSA has the highest proportional global forest cover loss since 2000Despite previous estimates suggesting that Canada has had little forest loss, the new estimates place it second in terms of gross forest cover loss only to Brazil
  • The world’s oceans are under huge threat, with predictions of 70 % loss of coral reefs by 2050, decline in kelp forests, loss of seagrasses, over-fishing, pollution and a rapidly warming and acidifying physical environment. Given all these stressors, it is absolutely imperative we spend a good deal of time thinking about the right way to impose restrictions on damage to marine areas – the simplest way to do this is via marine protected areas (MPA).
  • Now, it’s not bulldozers razing our underwater forests – it’s our own filth. Yes, we do indeed have underwater forests, and they are possibly the most important set of species from a biodiversity perspective in temperate coastal waters around the world. I’m talking about kelp. Climate change poses a threat to these habitat-forming species that support a wealth of invertebrates and fish. In fact, kelp forests are analogous to coral reefs in the tropics for their role in supporting other biodiversity.Connell et al. 2008:The Adelaide coastline has experienced a fairly hefty loss of canopy-forming kelp (mainly species like Eckloniaradiata and Cystophora spp.) since urbanisation (up to 70 % !). Now, this might not seem too surprising – we humans have a horrible track record for damaging, exploiting or maltreating biodiversity – but it’s actually a little unexpected given that Adelaide is one of Australia’s smaller major cities, and certainly a tiny city from a global perspective. There hasn’t been any real kelp harvesting around Adelaide, or coastal overfishing that could lead to trophic cascades causing loss through herbivory. Connell and colleagues pretty much are able to isolate the main culprits: sedimentation and nutrient loading (eutrophication) from urban run-off.Second, one might expect this to be strange because other places around the world don’t have the same kind of response. The paper points out that in the coastal waters of South Australia, the normal situation is characterised by low nutrient concentrations in the water (what we term ‘oligotrophic’) compared to other places like New South Wales. Thus, when you add even a little bit extra to a system not used to it, these losses of canopy-forming kelp ensue. So understanding the underlying context of an ecosystem will tell you how much it can be stressed before all hell breaks loose.
  • It’s amazingly arrogant and anthropocentric to think of anything in ecosystems as ‘providing benefits to humanity’. After all, we’re just another species in a complex array of species within ecosystems – we just happen to be one of the numerically dominant ones, excel at ecosystem ‘engineering’ and as far as we know, are the only (semi-) sentient of the biologicals. Although the concept of ecosystem services is, I think, an essential abstraction to place emphasis on the importance of biodiversity conservation to the biodiversity ignorant, it does rub me a little the wrong way. It’s almost ascribing some sort of illogical religious perspective that the Earth was placed in its current form for our eventual benefit. We might be a fairly new species in geological time scales, but don’t think of ecosystems as mere provisions for our well-being.
  • The question of whether marine parks ‘work’ is, however, more complicated than it might first appear. When one asks this question, it is essential to define how the criteria for success are to be measured. Whether it’s biodiversity protection, fisheries production, recreational revenue, community acceptance/involvement or some combination of the above, your conclusion is likely to vary from place to place.
  • The question of whether marine parks ‘work’ is, however, more complicated than it might first appear. When one asks this question, it is essential to define how the criteria for success are to be measured. Whether it’s biodiversity protection, fisheries production, recreational revenue, community acceptance/involvement or some combination of the above, your conclusion is likely to vary from place to place.
  • Canada’s boreal zone has recently shifted from a C sink in the 1990s to a C source in 2001 as warmer temperatures reduced over-winter mortality of tree-killing insects, resulting in an increased frequency and severity of outbreaks and subsequent mass tree mortality insect disturbance was responsible for a greater loss of stored C than was fire from Canadian forests in the late 20th century [42], and the estimated annual C release due to the current mountain pine beetle outbreak in western Canada is 50 % more than rates attributable to fires during even the most severe fire years
  • 1990-2000: nearly 100 000 people were killed and 320 million people were displaced by floods, with total reported economic damages exceeding US$1151 billion
  • END


  • 1. Global Erosion of Ecosystem Services
    Corey J. A. Bradshaw1,2
    1THE ENVIRONMENT INSTITUTE, University of Adelaide, Australia
    2South Australian Research & Development Institute
  • 2.
    • What is biodiversity?
    • 3. What are ‘ecosystem services’
    • 4. Pollination
    • 5. Mangroves
    • 6. Fisheries
    • 7. Carbon sequestration
    • 8. Fire & insect disturbance
    • 9. Role of predators
    • 10. Forests and flooding
    • 11. Human health
    • 12. Principal drivers
    • 13. Economics
  • 14.
  • Bradshaw et al. 2009 Trends Ecol Evol24:541-548
    Bradshaw et al. 2009 Front Ecol Environ 7:79-87
    • 1,011,000 km2 lost 2000-2005 (3.1 %; 0.6 %/year)
    • 24. highest in boreal biome (60 %)
    • 25. humid tropics next (Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia)
    • 26. dry tropics next highest (Australia, Brazil, Argentina)
    • 27. N.A. greatest proportional lost by continent
    • 28. Nationally, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, DR Congo
    Hansen et al. 2010 PNAS
    Barson et al. 2000 Land Cover
    Change in Australia, Bur RurSci
  • 29. Halpern et al. 2008 Science 319:948-952
  • 30.
  • 31. Connell et al. (2008) Mar Ecol Prog Ser 360:60-72
  • 32.
  • 33. Diaz & Rosenberg (2008) Science 321:926-929
  • 34. corrosive
  • 35. Brook et al. 2008 Trends Ecol Evol25:453-460
  • 36. 99 % of ALL species that have ever existed...
    species lifespan = 1-10 M years
    Ordovician (490-443 MYA)
    Devonian (417-354 MYA)
    Permian (299-250 MYA)
    Triassic (251-200 MYA)
    Cretaceous (146-64 MYA)
    extinction rate 100-10000× background
    © Tiantian Zhang, Good50x70.org
    Crutzen 2002 Nature 415:23; Bradshaw & Brook 2009 J Cosmol2:221-229
  • 37. IUCN RED LIST OF THREATENED SPECIES www.iucnredlist.org
    • 21 % of all known mammals
    • 38. 30 % of all known amphibians
    • 39. 12 % of all known birds
    • 40. 35 % of conifers & cycads
    • 41. 17 % of sharks
    • 42. 27 % of reef-building corals
    threatened with extinction
  • 43. intact biological communities and functioning species interactions provide humanity with a host of ‘services’ that support or improve our quality of life
  • 44.
    • ~ 80 % of all wild plant species require insect pollinators for fruit & seed set
    • 45. ~ 75 % of all human crops require pollination by insects (mostly bees)
    • 46. domestic honey bees declined in USA by 59 % since 1947 & in Europe by 25 % since 1985
    Potts et al. 2010 Trends EcolEvol25:345-353
  • 47.
    • bees (& other pollinators) require more than just crops to complete life cycle
    • 48. decline mostly from habitat loss, fragmentation & degradation
    • 49. other insects, birds, bats also in decline
    Potts et al. 2010 Trends EcolEvol25:345-353
  • 50.
    • protect inland human communities from damage caused by coastal erosion and storms
    • 51. provide critical habitat for variety of terrestrial, estuarine & marine species
    • 52. ~80 % of fish catches globally depend on mangroves
    • 53. source & sink for nutrients & sediments for other inshore marine habitats (seagrass beds, coral reefs)
    Polidoro et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10095
  • 54.
    • protect coasts from floods?
    • 55. process nutrient & organic matter
    • 56. control sediment
    • 57. provide at least US$1.6 B/yrin ecosystem services worldwide
    • 58. sequester 25.5 M t C/yr
    • 59. provide > 10% of essential organic carbon to global oceans
    • 60. occupy only 0.12% of world’s total land area
    Polidoro et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10095
  • 61. average trophic level has declined by 0.2 units
    (position in food web relative to autotrophs – primary producers such as phytoplankton)
    trophic unit varies from 1 (phytoplankton) to 4.6 (e.g., snappers)
    Paulyet al. 1998 Science 279:860 - 863
  • 62.
  • 63. Field et al. 2009 Fish & Fisheries 10:323-328
  • 64. Marine Parks
    do they work?
    Increase fisheries yields?
    • total mass catches, mean fish size, # fish species caught decline with distance away from park edge (Kenyan coral reefs) McClanahan & Mangi2000 EcolAppl10:1792-1805
    • 65. fish species within park recover after fisher exclusion from park (Kenyan coral reefs) McClanahan & Kaunda-Arara 2002 ConservBiol10:1187–1199
    • 66. spiny lobster 11 ×more abundant & biomass 25× higher in no-take marine park following establishment; no change in partially protected park (New Zealand) Shears et al. 2006 BiolConserv 132:222-231
    • 67. total fish, common pandora, red mullet increased close to reserve (Mediterranean) Stelzenmüller et al. 2007 BiolConserv 136:571-583
  • Spill-over Effect
    • species richness increases linearly with time since reserve establishment, outside of the reserve as well as inside
    • 68. change is not (primarily) due to habitat change
    • 69. effect tapers off with distance from reserve
    • 70. large, predatory fish more common inside and just outside reserves than farther away
    • 71. community composition outside the reserves becomes more like that inside over time
    Russ & Alcala 2010 EcolApplic doi:10.1890/09-1197.1
  • 72.
    • ~ 33 % of extant forests on Earth
    • 73. ~ 50 % remaining large tracts intact forest (31 % world’s primary forest in CAN & RUS
    • 74. WWF Ecoregion map
    • 75. 22 % in Russia (78 % in Siberia)
    Bradshaw, Warkentin & Sodhi 2010 Trends EcolEvol24:541-548
  • 76. Main threats
    • logging
    • 77. urban development
    • 78. deciduous regrowth
    • 79. dam construction
    • 80. peat and other mining
    • 81. increasing fire frequency
    Bradshaw, Warkentin & Sodhi 2010 Trends EcolEvol24:541-548
  • 82. Mollicone et al. 2006. Nature 440:436-437
    Achard et al. 2008 Philos Trans R SocLond B 363:2331-2339
    Sukhinin et al. 2004. Remote Sens Environ 93:546-564
    • 7.5 M ha burnt in 2002; 14.5 M ha in 2003
    • 83. 87 % 2002-2005 started by humans
    • 84. annual average burning rate < 4.5 M ha since 1950s
    • 85. most fires occur near roads and other transportation networks
    • 86. 8× background rates
    • 87. humans directly responsible for most ignitions in non-intact Russian forests
    • ~ 30 % of the Earth’s stored terrestrial C
    • 88. 550 Gt C in combined soil and above-ground pools
    • 89. rate of uptake not be as high as once thought
    • 90. models predict boreal biome most likely to be altered by climate change
    • 91. warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons shifting it from net carbon sink to source
    • 92. fire most important for C flux; changing albedo from  snow
    • 93. plenty of scope for additional sequestration research
  • Kurz et al. 2008 Nature 452-987-990
  • 94. 1990-2000
    • ~100,000 people killed
    • 95. 320 million people displaced
    • 96. total reported damages > US$1151 billion
    Bradshaw et al. 2007 Glob Change Biol13:2379-2395
  • 97. increased host habitat availability & displacement of humans to areas where inadequate sanitation and temporary high-density living promote disease
    Ohl & Tapsell 2000 Br Med J 321:1167-1168; Ivers & Ryan 2006 Curr Op Infect Dis19:408-414
  • 104. Mesopredator Release
    • ecosystems unbalanced by reduction of higher trophic-level predators exerting ‘top-down’ control on abundance of species occupying lower trophic levels
    • 105. based on earlier theory (in 1980s)
    Soulé et al. 1988 ConservBiol2:75; Soulé & Crooks 1999 Nature 400:563
  • 106.
    • dingo-cat-marsupial
    • 107. lynx-fox-hare
    • 108. shark-ray-scallop
    Johnson et al. 2007 Proc R Soc B 274:341; Elmhagen et al. 2010 J Anim Ecol; Myers et al. 2007 Science 315:1846
  • 109. Does a sick environment make sick people?
    © http://tropicaltoxic.blogspot.com
  • 110.
    • physician-assessed morbidity declines with more green spaces near Dutch patients
    Maas et al. 2009 J EpidemiolComm Health 63:967-973
    • dioxin-poisoning accident in Milan – increased circulatory disease, lymphoma, pulmonary disease & diabetes 25 years later
    Consonni et al. 2008 Am J Epidemiol167:847-858
    • low water quality, poor sanitation & indoor air pollution from household solid fuels increased child mortality and reduced life expectancy in Mexico
    Stevens et al. 2009 Proc NatlAcadSci USA 105:16860-16865
    • malaria-vector mosquito bite rates 278× higher in deforested sites in Amazon
    Vittor et al. 2006 Am J Trop Med Hyg74:3-11
    • Anopheline mosquito density  after deforestation in 60% of 60 studies over past century; 70 % of cases  incidence of malaria
    Yasuoka & Levins 2007 Am J Trop Med Hyg76:450-460
  • 111. DATA
    Human health: World Health Organization Global Burden of Disease database
    Environment: - Environmental Combination Index (adapted from Yale Env Performance Index)
    - Proportional Environmental Impact rank (Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440)
    - natural habitat conversion proportion (Global Land Cover 2000 dataset)
    - air/water quality (Yale Environmental Performance Index)
    - NPK fertiliser use/area arable land (FAOSTAT database)
    - CO2 emissions (Climate Analysis Indicators tool)
    Control: - human population size (United Nations Common Database)
    - purchasing-power parity-adjusted GNI (World Resources Institute)
    - health expenditure (WHO Statistical Information System)
  • 112. DATA
    Human health: WHO Global Burden of Disease database
    • Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY) - years of life lost due to premature mortality and healthy years of life lost due to disability
    • 113. Infant Mortality (male) – 2004 mortality per 1000 live births
    • 114. Life Expectancy at birth (male) – 2004
    • 115. Diarrhoea deaths among children < 5 years (2000)
    • 116. Malaria deaths among children < 5 years (2000)
    • 117. Deaths due to Cardiovascular Disease (2002 age-standardised per 10,000)
    • 118. Deaths due to Cancers (2002 age-standardised per 10,000)
  • 10 %  ECI   mINFM 7.0/1000 live births
     mLE 1.9 years
  • 119. ALL DISEASE
  • 122. 10 %  water quality   infant mortality 3.4/1000 live births
     > 946,000 extra infant deaths/year§
      1.6 years life expectancy
    10 %  air quality   2.0 cancer deaths/100,000
     > 132,900 extra cancer deaths/year§
    10 %  pcCO2 emissions  infant mortality 0.4/1000 live births
     > 11,700 extra infant deaths/year§
    §assuming 21.2 births/1000 population & human population 6.5 billion
  • 123.
    • natural forest loss
    2005-1990 D/ha
    • natural habitat conversion
    human-modified landcover/total landcover
    • marine captures
    1990-2005 fish, whales, seals/EEZ km
    • fertiliser use
    NPK/ha arable land
    • water pollution
    biochemical oxygen demand/total renewable water resources
    • carbon emissions
    forestry, land-use change, fossil fuels/km2
    • biodiversity threat
    Red List threatened birds, mammals, amphibians/listed species
    Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440
  • 124.
  • 125. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440
  • 126. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440
  • 127. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440
    environmental damage
    per capita prosperity
    Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440
  • 129. Bradshaw et al. 2010 PLoS One 5:e10440
  • 130. reduce desertification
    maintain soils
    crop pollination
    seed dispersal
    food provision
    water purification
    fuel provision
    fibre provision
    climate regulation
    flood regulation
    disease regulation
    waste decomposition/detoxification
    nutrient cycling
    soil formation
    primary production
    pharmaceutical sources
    cultural appreciation (aesthetic, spiritual, educational, recreational…)
    €153 billion/year
    fisheries: €50 billion/year
    • €50 billion lost/year
    • 131. Land-based ecosystem loss €545 billion by 2010
    • 132. > €14 trillion/year lost by 2050
    Cost of Policy Inaction (COPI):
    The case of not meeting the 2010 biodiversity target.
    European Commission
  • 133.
  • 134.
  • 135. © Moronail.net
  • 136. © WWF
  • 137. corey.bradshaw@adelaide.edu.au
    © Tiantian Zhang, Good50x70.org