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Biology LibreTexts

47.4B: Changing Human Behavior in Response to Biodiversity Loss

  • Page ID
    14260
  • Human responses to climate change and species loss include national and international legal measures, as well as the creation of preserves.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Detail the benefits and limitations of different human responses to climate change and species loss, such as using preserves to conserve species

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Legislation throughout the world has been enacted to protect species; the legislation includes international treaties as well as national and state laws.
    • The international response to global warming has been mixed; the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that came out of the United Nations climate change convention that committed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, was ratified by some countries, but spurned by others.
    • Many nations have laws that protect endangered species: for example, forbidding hunting, restricting land development, or creating preserves (purchased land for the explicit purpose of attempting to protect species and ecosystems ).
    • Preserves protect biodiversity in many ways, two of which are captive breeding and private farming.

    Key Terms

    • endangered species: a species which is in danger of becoming extinct

    Changing Human Behavior

    Human Responses to Climate Change and Species Loss

    Legislation throughout the world has been enacted to protect species and include international treaties as well as national and state laws. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty came into force in 1975. The treaty (and the national legislation that supports) it provides a legal framework for preventing approximately 33,000 listed species from being transported across nations’ borders, thus protecting them from being caught or killed when international trade is involved. The treaty is limited in its reach because it only deals with international movement of organisms or their parts. It is also limited by various countries’ ability or willingness to enforce the treaty and supporting legislation. The illegal trade in organisms and their parts is probably a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Illegal wildlife trade is monitored by another non-profit, the Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC).

    Within many countries there are laws that protect endangered species and regulate hunting and fishing. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is required by law to develop management plans that protect the species listed as at risk in the Act in order to bring them back to sustainable numbers. The Act, and others like it in other countries, is a useful tool, but it suffers because it is often difficult to get a species listed or to get an effective management plan in place once it is listed. Additionally, species may be controversially taken off the list without necessarily having had a change in their situation. More fundamentally, the approach to protecting individual species rather than entire ecosystems is inefficient as it focuses efforts on a few highly-visible and often charismatic species, perhaps at the expense of other species that go unprotected. At the same time, the Act has a critical habitat provision outlined in the recovery mechanism that may benefit species other than the one targeted for management.

    The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is an agreement between the United States and Canada that was signed into law in 1918 in response to declines in North American bird species caused by hunting. The Act now lists over 800 protected species. It makes it illegal to disturb or kill the protected species or distribute their parts (much of the hunting of birds in the past was for their feathers).

    In relation to global warming, The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that came out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that committed countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, was ratified by some countries, but spurned by others. Two important countries in terms of their potential impact that did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol were the United States and China. The United States rejected it as a result of a powerful fossil fuel industry, while China did so because of a concern that it would stifle the nation’s growth. Some goals for reduction in greenhouse gasses were met and exceeded by individual countries, but worldwide, the effort to limit greenhouse gas production is not succeeding. The intended replacement for the Kyoto Protocol has not materialized because governments cannot agree on timelines and benchmarks. Meanwhile, climate scientists predict the resulting costs to human societies and biodiversity will be high.

    Using Preserves to Conserve Species

    The private, non-profit sector plays a large role in the conservation effort both in North America and around the world. The approaches range from species-specific organizations to the broadly-focused groups mentioned above.

    Many nations have laws that protect endangered species: for example, forbidding hunting, restricting land development, or creating preserves. Preserves are purchased land for the explicit purpose of attempting to protect species and ecosystems. They also protect biodiversity in many ways, such as through captive breeding and private farming.

    Captive breeding is the process of breeding rare or endangered species in human-controlled environments with restricted settings, such as wildlife preserves and conservation facilities. Captive breeding is meant to prevent species extinction and to stabilize the population of the species so that it will not disappear. This technique has worked for many species for some time, such as for Pere David’s deer. However, captive breeding techniques are usually difficult to implement for such highly-mobile species as some migratory birds (e.g. cranes) and fish (e.g. hilsa). Additionally, if the captive-breeding population is too small, then inbreeding may occur due to a reduced gene pool, which may also reduce immunity.

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    Captive breeding: Père David’s deer is a species of deer that is currently extinct in the wild: all known specimens are found only in captivity. This species was successfully saved through captive breeding programs after almost being hunted to extinction in China.