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ENVS504: Society, Economy, and the Environment

Unit 5: Loss of Biodiversity, Cultural Diversity, and Ecosystem Functions   Biodiversity (the number and abundance of different species of organisms) is known to be positively related to ecosystem productivity and perhaps to stability and resilience to disturbances and invasive species.  Recent research has found that cultural and linguistic diversity closely follows spatial patterns of biodiversity, suggesting that human diversity is dependent upon diverse ecosystems.  The extinction rates of both biodiversity and cultural diversity are substantially above background rates, and it is likely that our planet will become substantially simplified before these rates return to normal.  Globally, we are likely to lose many goods and services provided by ecosystems (such as food, fiber, energy production, water purification, and other goods and services that can be thought of as the natural capital of societies).  We will also lose the knowledge of how to use these goods and services effectively and sustainably as local cultures disappear.

This unit will provide a basic overview of the causes of extinction of biological and cultural diversity.  This unit will explain the linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem functions, and natural resources required by human societies.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 22.75 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 9 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.1.1: 1.5 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.1.2: 4 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.1.3: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2: 7 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.2.1: 3 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.2.2: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 5.3: 6.75 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.1: 3 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.2: 1 hour

☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.3: 0.75 hours

☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.4: 2 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Define and discuss terms and concepts such as: ecosystem goods and services, ecosystem productivity and stability, habitat, mass extinction. - Identify the major drivers of both ecological and linguistic destruction. - Predict areas of high biodiversity loss when given information on patterns of language loss, and vice versa. - Infer losses of different kinds of natural and social capital from the loss of particular ecosystems (e.g., wetlands, forests, etc.) - Relate loss of natural and social capital to decreased resilience of human-environment systems. 

5.1 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services   5.1.1 Biodiversity Distribution and Ecosystem Services   - Reading: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystem and Human Well-Being: “Biodiversity Synthesis” Link: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystem and Human Well-Being: “Biodiversity Synthesis” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link select the
“Biodiversity” link under the “Synthesis Reports” section to
download the PDF.  Read pages 17–41, which provide an explanation of
how biodiversity is defined by ecologists and how it is distributed
across the planet.  The reading also discusses the link between
biodiversity and ecosystem functions and provisions (services).  

 Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 1
hour and 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.2 Extinction Rates and Patterns   - Reading: Convention on Biological Diversity: “Global Biodiversity Outlook 3” Link: Convention on Biological Diversity: “Global Biodiversity Outlook 3” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and download the PDF
in the language that you prefer.  This report describes the rate of
species’ extinctions globally and by biome or ecosystem (e.g.,
terrestrial, inland waters, marine, etc.).  Future rates and
patterns of biodiversity loss are estimated based on projections,
which assume the continuation of the processes and forces that are
currently responsible for loss in our current time.  

 Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 3
hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystem and Human Well-Being: “Biodiversity Synthesis” Link: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystem and Human Well-Being: “Biodiversity Synthesis” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link select the “Biodiversity” link under the “Synthesis Reports” section to download the PDF.  Read pages 42–59, which describe the currently observed declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services as well as the causes of these declines.

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.1.3 Future Trends and Opportunities for Conservation   - Reading: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystem and Human Well-Being: “Biodiversity Synthesis” Link: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Ecosystem and Human Well-Being: “Biodiversity Synthesis” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link select the
“Biodiversity” link under the “Synthesis Reports” section to
download the PDF.  Read pages 60–76, which use projections to
illustrate the future losses we might experience given current
trends, and the reading discusses conservation actions that can be
taken to reduce the likelihood that we will see these losses.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1
hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: American Natural History Museum, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation: Madhu Rao’s “Biodiversity Conservation and Integrated Conservation and Development Projects” Link: American Natural History Museum, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation: Madhu Rao’s “Biodiversity Conservation and Integrated Conservation and Development Projects” (DOC and PPT)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and download all materials.  You may have to register a free account by clicking the “register” link at the top of the page to download these files.  The materials will be downloaded into a zipped folder on your hard drive, so you will need to extract the files.  The downloadable files include a synthesis report, a Power Point presentation, and an Exercises file.  The report explains what ICDPs are and how they are meant to mitigate some of the negative impacts that can affect local communities when protected areas are established near them.  This biodiversity strategy is meant to contribute to sustainable development of an area, where social and economic concerns are addressed in conjunction with environmental ones.  The presentation highlights the main points of the report.  The exercise provides descriptions of two cases where ICDPs are slated to be used, and you can answer questions from the perspective of a conservation consultant.  Although answers are not provided for the discussion questions, these questions would be excellent topics for the Saylor Foundation’s discussion forums.

    Reading these materials taking notes, and completing the exercises should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.2 Ecosystems   5.2.1 Marine Systems: Cycles, Functions and Ecosystem Services   - Reading: The Encyclopedia of Earth: Jorge Brenner and Sandra Arismendez’s “Large Marine Ecosystems” Link: The Encyclopedia of Earth: Jorge Brenner and Sandra Arismendez’s “Large Marine Ecosystems” (HMTL)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this short
review article.  The authors describe how ocean ecosystems are
defined (both ecologically and geographically) and the main stresses
that are deteriorating these ecosystems.  You are welcome to follow
any of the hypertext links provided to learn more about specific
terms, or to read about one or more specific large marine
ecosystems.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: The IRMACS Centre: Ken Denman’s “How Will Marine Ecosystems Adapt to a Future Ocean That Will Be Warmer, More Stratified, More Acidic, and Less Oxygenated?” Link: The IRMACS Centre: Ken Denman’s “How Will Marine Ecosystems Adapt to a Future Ocean That Will Be Warmer, More Stratified, More Acidic, and Less Oxygenated?” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch this video.  Ken Denman describes how the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affects oceans, physically and ecologically.  Increasing global temperatures are moderated by the heat that the ocean can absorb; however, this heat also has negative consequences for ocean ecosystems.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Current State and Trends Assessment: “Chapter 18: Marine Systems” Link: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Current State and Trends Assessment: “Chapter 18: Marine Systems” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and then select the link for “Chapter 18: Marine Systems” to download the PDF.  This chapter describes the different regions of our oceans and seas, the current forces leading to degradation of these systems, and legal and management approaches to preserving their services (particularly fisheries).

    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.3 Relationships between Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity   5.3.1 Linkages between Cultures and Ecosystems   - Reading: UNESCO: Ana Persic and Gary Martin’s “Links between Biological and Cultural Diversity – Concepts, Methods, and Experiences” Link: UNESCO: Ana Persic and Gary Martin’s “Links between Biological and Cultural Diversity – Concepts, Methods, and Experiences” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this report. 
The report not only gives background and real world examples of
linkages between biological and cultural systems, but also discusses
potential risks to both and where more research and better-informed
policy is needed.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 2
hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Conservation & Society: Jules Pretty et al.’s “The Intersections of Biological Diversity and Cultural Diversity: Towards Integration” Link: Conservation & Society: Jules Pretty et al.’s “The Intersections of Biological Diversity and Cultural Diversity: Towards Integration” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this article; you can also download a PDF version if you click on “Download Article (pdf).”  Pretty and her coauthors provide a summary of how biodiversity and cultural diversity follow similar patterns and are linked in many ways.  These links are reflected in the growing number of professional sub-disciplines related to cultures and their environments (e.g., ecological anthropology, environmental history, etc.).

    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

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5.3.2 Language Diversity and Correlation with Biodiversity   - Reading: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Gorenflo et al.’s “Co-occurrence of Linguistic and Biological Diversity in Biodiversity Hotspots and High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas” Link: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Gorenflo et al.’s “Co-occurrence of Linguistic and Biological Diversity in Biodiversity Hotspots and High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this
article.  The article discusses the closely related patterns of
biodiversity and linguistic diversity (that is, areas with many
species also have people speaking many languages) and considers
different possible reasons for why these patterns are so similar. 
The article also issues a call for conserving both biological and
cultural diversity.  

 Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30
minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Lecture: TED Talks: Wade Davis’ “Dreams from Endangered Cultures” Link: TED Talks: Wade Davis’ “Dreams from Endangered Cultures” (MP4)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and watch Wade Davis’ TED Talk.  In this lecture, Davis describes the relationship between cultural and biological diversity and the threats that these biological and cultural communities face in the modern era.  Try to follow the broad theme of the talk (the influence of cultures by their environments) as Dr. Davis discusses the examples and case studies.

    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

5.3.3 Cultural Vulnerability to Ecological Changes   - Reading: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Current State and Trends Assessment: “Chapter 6: Vulnerable People and Places” Link: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: Current State and Trends Assessment: “Chapter 6: Vulnerable People and Places” (PDF)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and then select the
link for “Chapter 6: Vulnerable People and Places” to download the
PDF.  This chapter discusses the close linkages between societies
around the world and ecosystem health.  Three case studies
illustrate the ways that humans can be vulnerable to environmental
changes.  

 Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 45
minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

5.3.4 Traditional Environmental Knowledge   - Reading: American Natural History Museum, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation: K.A. Landrigan et al.’s “Biological and Cultural Diversity: A Case Study of the Solomon Islands” Link: American Natural History Museum, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation: K.A. Landrigan et al.’s “Biological and Cultural Diversity: A Case Study of the Solomon Islands” (DOC)

 Instructions: Please click on the above link and download all
materials.  You may have to register a free account by clicking the
“register” link at the top of the page to download these files.  The
materials will be downloaded into a zipped folder on your hard
drive, so you will need to extract the files to see them (you may be
able to right click on the folder icon and follow the extraction
instructions).  The report gives a general description of the
biological and cultural diversity on the islands, and it then argues
that the linkages between these two types of diversity must be the
dual focus of any conservation programs.  There are several
“community-based conservation” programs ongoing on the islands that
the report discusses.  Provided at the end of each section,
discussion questions will guide your learning.  Although answers are
not provided, these would be good questions to pursue in the Saylor
Foundation’s [discussion forums](http://forums.saylor.org/).  

 Reading these materials and taking notes should take approximately
1 hour and 30 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz’s “The Importance of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation” Link: United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues: Victoria Tauli-Corpuz’s “The Importance of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this short communiqué from Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  She briefly describes the link between biodiversity and cultural (and linguistic) diversity, and she explains why biodiversity is important to the survival of many cultures around the world.  She argues that indigenous communities must be included in any discussions involving the use of natural resources and biodiversity.

    Reading this communiqué and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: United Nations Environmental Program, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity: “Traditional Knowledge, Innovation and Practices” Link: United Nations Environmental Program, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity: “Traditional Knowledge, Innovation and Practices” (PDF)

    Instructions: Please click on the above link and read this short report, which describes the importance of traditional knowledge of local species and ecosystems for themselves and many other societies around the world.

    Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.