Loss of Biodiversity and Its Impact on Natural Resources Which Have Monetary Value

Living nature is an important supplier of natural resources which have monetary value, such as fuel, materials (e. g. rubber, aloe gel, wax, tannins, wood, thatch and broom grass), food, medicines and ornamental plants (Carr et al. 1993; Brown and Rosendo 2000; Brennan et al. 2005; Mutimukuru et al. 2006; Shackleton et al. 2007). Poor people, especially, often depend directly on the natural resources pro­vided by living nature (Shackleton et al. 2007; Vedeld et al. 2007). An estimated more than 1.6 billion people depend for their livelihood to varying degrees on forests, and about 60 million people are fully dependent on forests (World Bank

2004) . Vedeld et al. (2007) analyzed 51 case studies regarding rural dwellers from 17 developing countries in Africa, East Asia and Latin America and found that in­come from forests represented, on average, 22% of total income. Main contribu­tors to income were the collection of food, fodder, fuelwood, thatch and medicine. When food prices are high, collection of wild foods has added importance for the poor (e. g. Delang 2006). In the studies reviewed by Vedeld et al. (2007), medicines from forests contributed about 7% to the income of rural dwellers. Also, natural ecosystems other than forests, such as savannahs, are important providers of natural medicines (Shackleton et al. 2007).

Currently, three-quarters of the world population depend at least partly on natu­ral remedies (Sukhdev 2008). In China alone, 5,000 of the 30,000 recorded higher plant species are used for therapeutic purposes (Sukhdev 2008). Natural medicines have been found especially important to urban poor, for instance in countries such as South Africa and Brazil (Shanley and Luz 2003; Shackleton et al. 2007). An exam­ple of people currently affected by biodiversity loss are the city dwellers in Eastern Amazonia (Shanley and Luz 2003). Medicinal plants in this region are negatively affected by repeated cycles of forest burning and cutting and even more by the re­placement of forests by biofuel crops. This, in turn, affects the availability and price of such medicinal plants, which for plants with pharmacologically demonstrated effectiveness tended to be cheaper than their counterparts from the pharmaceuti­cal industry (Shanley and Luz 2003). There may also be a long-term effect on the availability of medicines produced by the worldwide pharmaceutical industry (Grifo et al. 1997). More than half of the medicines prescribed in the USA in 1993 con­tained at least one active compound ‘derived from or patterned after compounds derived from biodiversity’ (Grifo et al. 1997). With many species not investigated as yet as to their potential medicinal value, it may well be that the decrease of bio­diversity negatively affects the future availability of new medicines.

Finally, the case of the Mabira Forest, mentioned at the beginning of this chap­ter, illustrated the monetary importance of tourism. Nature-oriented tourism now accounts worldwide for about 10% of international tourism expenditures and ap­proximately 1% of total employment. It is increasingly important as a source of revenue for a wide variety of countries, accounting in some for 40-60% of all inter­national tourists (Carr et al. 1993; Watkins 2002; Nyaupane et al. 2004; Mowforth and Munt 2005; Cochrane 2006; Shackleton et al. 2007).

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