By Venter Mwongera
The conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services is critical for sustaining life on earth. However, the loss of wildlife species and their habitats is a major threat to this conservation effort.
Wildlife plays a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem balance and functioning, as well as providing numerous benefits to humans, such as food, medicine, and recreation.
Therefore, partnerships for wildlife conservation are essential to protect and restore biodiversity and ecosystem services. In this opinion piece, I will discuss why wildlife is crucial for biodiversity, and ecosystem services, and how partnerships can help to achieve their conservation.
Wildlife is a key component of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on earth, including genes, species, ecosystems, and the interactions between them. Ecosystem services are the benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems, such as food, water, air, climate regulation, and cultural values. Wildlife species, from insects to mammals, are critical for maintaining the structure and function of ecosystems, such as pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, and pest control.
For example, bees and other pollinators are responsible for fertilizing crops and wild plants, which contributes to food sovereignty and ecosystem resilience. Moreover, wildlife species provide many benefits to human societies, such as cultural values, spiritual beliefs, and recreational opportunities, which enhance human well-being and quality of life.
According to a study by Cardinale et al. (2012), biodiversity loss can reduce the productivity and stability of ecosystems, and the provision of ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and water regulation. Moreover, wildlife species can act as indicators of environmental health, by reflecting the effects of pollution, habitat degradation, and climate change.
For example, the presence of certain species, such as amphibians and birds, can indicate the quality of water and air in an area. Furthermore, wildlife can contribute to the resilience and adaptability of ecosystems to changing environmental conditions, by providing genetic diversity, ecological functions, and evolutionary potential (Harrison et al., 2014).
However, wildlife populations are declining rapidly due to various factors, such as habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, overexploitation, invasive species, climate change, and pollution.
According to the Living Planet Report 2020 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), global wildlife populations have declined by 68% since 1970, mainly due to human activities. This decline is alarming, as it has profound implications for the functioning of ecosystems and the provision of ecosystem services, for human health, livelihoods, and economies. Therefore, urgent action is needed to prevent further wildlife loss and restore degraded ecosystems.
Partnerships for wildlife conservation are essential to achieve this goal.
Partnerships can involve various stakeholders, such as governments, civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities, academia, the private sector, and international organizations.
They can facilitate the sharing of knowledge, resources, and responsibilities, and develop common goals, plans, and actions. Partnerships can also help to address the root causes of wildlife loss, such as unsustainable development, poverty, and social inequality, by promoting sustainable practices, empowering local communities, and advocating for policy change.
Moreover, partnerships can enhance the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of conservation efforts, by mobilizing diverse perspectives, expertise, and experiences. Hence, wildlife is crucial for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and its conservation requires partnerships between various stakeholders.
The author is a Communications and Advocacy Specialist at the African Biodiversity Network, a mentor at the African Women Leaders in Agroecology-Initiative, Chairperson of National and International Engagements at the Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agrobiodiversity and Agroecology (ISFAA) and Treasurer of the Board at the Association of `media Women in Kenya (AMWIK)