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Importance of ecosystems for social development

The writer discusses the importance of ecosystems for sustainable social development. The writer further stresses how it is very important to understand the social, economic, and environmental values of ecosystems.

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Today, we are talking about a number of issues related to ecosystem degradation all over the world. Amidst a worsening situation, not much of an attempt has been taken to find solutions to the issues being discussed and debated. First and foremost, we need to understand the value and the importance of the ecosystem as a fundamental unit for the existence of life on Earth.

An ecosystem is a “Community of plants and animals interacting with each other in a given area, and also with their non-living environment”. This definition brings to focus on two aspects relating to the ecosystem. Firstly, about the interactions between plants, animal species, and their geographical environment, and secondly, about the fact that each and every ecosystem operates within its own boundaries.

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Importance of ecosystems

People are part of the natural system, and our existence depends on how we interact with the ecosystem. Disruptions to essential ecosystem functions will disrupt the sustainability of levels of organisation in nature.

Individual organisms and their environment build up the ecosystem, and it is a part of a biome. All the biomes on Earth create the biosphere.

An insurmountable number of benefits are provided through their structure and functions including micro-climate stabilisation, carbon uptake and storage, soil, and watershed protection, groundwater recharge and discharge, sediment accumulation and nutrient retention, etc.

It is observed that development policies have constantly failed to recognise these potentials when they are formulated and implemented. The valuation and accounting of ecosystem benefits in national accounts and decision-making processes seem rare occurrences.

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Ecosystem management for sustainable growth

There is a major requirement to embrace and capture the economic values of ecosystem services in mainstream decision making for effective policies for sustainable growth and social wellbeing.

Ecosystem management will be more effective with the participation of the full range of stakeholders. There are three types of communities that must be considered in ecosystem management such as communities of place; communities of identity; and communities of interest.

It is required to carefully design strategies to harness the potential economic value and benefit-sharing of ecosystems with people while conserving them. Ecosystem-based adaptations provide long-term benefits for people and lead to the social transformation towards sustainable growth.

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Maintenance of biodiversity is the key principle of ecosystem management. Any change in species composition causes severe impacts on the entire ecosystem, irrespective of its level. Some species are also more useful to manage the ecosystem, such as keystone species.

It is also necessary to accept the inevitable natural changes in the ecosystem. It is important to make the right decisions at the right time by considering social, economic, and environmental factors.

Much attention needs to be given to ecosystem services; knowledge on ecosystem management; cultural, ethical, and spiritual values while deriving material benefits. At the same time, enhancing the environmental literacy of communities is vital.

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Although people are an integral part of the ecosystem, they are also the greatest threat to ecosystem functions. As such, without their co-operation and contribution, ecosystem management will be a huge challenge in the future as well.

It is very important to understand the social, economic, and environmental values of the ecosystem and use them as a tool for achieving sustainable development.

The writer is a political analyst and an independent researcher. He can be reached at mechizharhussain@gmail.com. The views expressed in the article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.