Today marks the World Environment day and it’s being celebrated under the theme Restoring Ecosystems.
Ecosystem is simply a specific natural setting where a complex relationship between all the living and nonliving things such as plants, animals, organisms, sun, water, climate, interact with each other. All types of ecosystems fall into one of two categories: terrestrial such as forest, grassland, deserts or aquatic such as freshwater, marine ecosystems. All living beings, including humans depend on ecosystem goods and services to survive. They require it to get the food they consume, the water they drink and to transform raw materials into our everyday products, therefore, in order to keep the living conditions, it’s truly important that we preserve natural ecosystems. Ecosystems support all life on Earth and the healthier the ecosystems, the healthier the earth’s planet and its people.
Reimagine, Recreate and Restore, together, these form the theme of World Environment Day 2021. 5thJune, a day set aside by the United Nations to draw the attention of governments, investors, businesses, communities and individuals on the increasingly urgent need to restore the Earth’s ecosystems.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Ecosystem services make human life possible by providing nutritious food and clean water, regulating disease and climate, supporting the pollination of crops and soil formation, and providing recreational, cultural and spiritual benefits. These have an estimated value of $125 trillion, yet these assets are inadequately explained in political and economic policies, which indicates that there is insufficient investment in their protection and management. For all these to be possible, ecosystems need to properly function but the fact is that all ecosystem services are currently under threat. Ecosystem loss means depriving the world of a lot of goods and services at a time we can least afford to save it.
It has been noted that drivers of threats to ecosystems remain constant and are growing in high intensity in all ecosystems. Globally, the important direct drivers include habitat change, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution. These major causes of threats to ecosystems worldwide can be explained as follows:
Habitat Destruction: Economic activities such as logging, mining, farming and construction often involve clearing out places with natural vegetative cover. Very often, tampering with one factor of the ecosystem can have a ripple effect on it and affect many more or all other factors of that ecosystem.
In terms of Pollution: Water, land and air play a crucial role in the health of ecosystems but when polluted they potentially release destructive agents or chemicals (pollutants) into the environments of living things.
On Eutrophication: is the enrichment of water bodies with plant biomass as a result of the continuous inflow of nutrients particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. Eutrophication of water fuels excessive plant and algae growth and also hurts water life, resulting in the loss of flora and fauna diversity.
With regards to Invasive species: Any foreign species that finds its way into an ecosystem, either by natural or human introduction can have an effect on the ecosystem. If this alien species has the ability to prey on native species of that ecosystem, they will be wiped out, sooner or later.
Reference to Overharvesting: Fish, game and special plants species all do fall victim from time to time as a result of overharvesting or humans over-dependence on them. Overharvesting leads to the reduction in populations, community structures and distributions, with an overall reduction in recruitment.
Back home in Ghana, many ecosystems are suffering from some or all of the above stated issues due to human activities. For example, the forest ecosystems are being deforested through timber and firewood harvesting. Surface miners are also removing top forest soils to mine minerals and as a result, the forest ecosystems are deforested and water quality affected. Overgrazing has not spared the savannah ecosystem from degrading into more desert-like ecosystem resulting into species range shift, introduction of invasive species and even extinction. Climate change is compelling a good number of people to move to colder regions, with the consequences of degrading the mountain ecosystems, which host specific endemic species.Estate development is fast expanding to some ecosystems like wetlands and mountains degrading the values of such ecosystems. On the aquatic ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems have not been spared from the catastrophe of human activities: dumping of solid and liquid waste, mining waste, overfishing, deposition of waste chemicals and irrigation. On the marine ecosystem, plastic waste deposition, illegal fishing, open defecation on the beaches and others tend to destroy the ecosystem and the goods and services are being loss.
To this end, all hope is not lost yet, the theme for this year’s world environment day encourages everyone to reimagine, recreate and restore our ecosystems in order to continue enjoy their goods and services. Fortunately, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean, has also been launched today. This programme can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction, but it will only succeed if everyone plays a part.
The following suggestions can be considered:
• Teach others about the importance of the environment and how they can help save ecosystems;
• Restore damaged ecosystems by planting trees on land where forests have been cut down;
• Encourage people to live in a way that does not hurt the ecosystems and draw their attention to the goods and services;
•Establish protected areas to protect rainforests, savannah, wetlands, coastal and estuaries and police them;
• Get yourself involved with organizations and programmesthat operate in ways that minimize damage to the ecosystems and environment;
• Collaborate with indigenous people to manage their ecosystem goods and services and respect their livelihoods.
• Develop human resource for the management of the ecosystems.
PROF. EDWARD D. WIAFE
Dean, School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (SNES)
University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD), SOMANYA
Tel: 0200600799 Email: email@example.com