Home‎ > ‎The Challenge Questions‎ > ‎

Week 8: Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Challenge Question:


Look back on your responses to prior challenge questions and list one or two interventions you proposed that are likely to have a negative impact on biodiversity. What ecosystem services might be put at risk? How could this result in decreased human well-being? Propose an intervention to counteract these negative effects.

Two interventions that I have suggested in previous that are likely to have a negative impact on biodiversity are the increased use of coal in electricity production and the increased investment in rebuilding of a national (cattle) herd for agriculture profit.

Coal extraction is not only unappealing to the eyes, its extraction and use are seriously harmful to the environment. The extraction itself requires a mine, which endangers habitats of a variety of flora and fauna. Using coal to generate electricity threatens ecosystem services in that it may detract from other’s provisioning, supporting and cultural services. Acid rain, increased carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the visual harm that comes from coal mines and plants all lead to a decrease in human well-being. To counteract the effects of coal extraction and burning, one could use alternate sources of energy to provide electricity, or ensure that coal extraction and use is limited, and when used, done so following accepted regulations.

Rebuilding and increasing the national herd will have a negative impact on biodiversity and the environment. An increased number of animals grazing on a fixed amount of lands will, if not done appropriately, lead to over-grazing and desertification. It can also lead to an increase in manure used for other agricultural purposes. These three factors combined can lead to a threat to other’s provisioning and regulating services. If cattle over-graze a plot of land, it will not be fit for any other use. Serious over-grazing and improper herd management can lead to desertification, which has serious consequences for farmers in that vicinity. Increased manure supply can lead to an increase in run-off entering rivers and lakes, and threatening the quality of water used for domestic and industrial purposes. To counteract these effects, I recommend that a constraint of head of cattle per acre be established and that a moratorium be placed on herd expansion in ecologically sensitive areas.