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Ecosystem services

Describing and quantifying the benefits that healthy ecosystems provide to humans. Video by California Academy of Sciences. Created by California Academy of Sciences.

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  • purple pi pink style avatar for user PERCE-NEIGE
    This video is almost all about the money we can make with environment, I disagree for instance with , where they say the most valuable tomato is the hybrid tomato. In my opinion, the most valuable tomato is the wild tomato, because the genes are "wild". We hybrid everything to have a maximum profitability. There was so many wild tomatoes before, and now, only the profitable hybrid tomatoes are sold, and the wild ones are almost extinct. I also disagree with the fact you can count the value of the wild mangrove, you can't. (you can estimate it, but you surely wrong, because it's wild, it's balanced, you can discover further benefits maybe later, it's priceless.
    (10 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Doran Rahne
      The whole point of putting a dollar value on is to show people that there are direct and indirect benefits and they are measurable to some degree. Of course the dollar value is debatable. Of course the dollar value is highly subjective. Of course the dollar value varies by variables that are hard to measure. And of course to some degree a hard core dollar value detracts from the ethics of environmentalism.
      (12 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Ralph Stokes
    at to : Why didn't New York simply stop putting the chemicals in the water in the first place. Surely that would be the best and most efficient solution?
    (12 votes)
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  • purple pi pink style avatar for user PERCE-NEIGE
    A great danger for biodiversity is the biological patents, or patents of living organisms. These kinds of patents lead some rich country to steal resources from developing countries, Sadly, America is very involved in this.

    The "Enola" bean case:
    The Enola Bean is an alleged case of biopiracy, where Larry Procter, a Colorado executive in the bean industry cultivated yellow beans he bought in Mexico on vacation for which he received a US patent two years later on all yellow beans of this variety. Larry’s company, Pod-Ners, admits that its Enola bean, (named after Larry Proctor’s wife), is a descendant of the traditional Mexican bean from the Andes, the Mayacoba, but that it has a better yellow color and a more consistent shape. By obtaining a patent and a U.S. Plant Variety Protection Certificate, he secured what amounted to a legal monopoly over yellow beans sold in the United States. Under the terms of the patent, he can therefore sue anyone in the United States who sells or grows a bean that he considered to be his particular shade of yellow. Procter also profits from yellow beans imported from Mexico by imposing on them a six cent-per-pound royalty. As a result, both farmers in the United States and particularly in Northern Mexico have suffered great economic hardship. The case has stimulated great debate over whether traditional knowledge and/or genetic resources should be patentable in the first place. As the number of patents filed by large corporations for native crops increases, activists become more concerned about the adverse effects of these patents on developing countries and particularly indigenous people."

    Source: http://www1.american.edu/TED/enola-bean.htm

    Problem with bio patents: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/genetic-engineering/ge-agriculture-and-genetic-pol/patents-on-life
    (5 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Ari Mendelson
    I understand that ecosystems provide various services.

    But isn't it also fair to say that ecosystems also impose certain disservices as well? Anopheles mosquitoes kill people in their millions with malaria. Parasites of all kinds maim and kill horribly, and often in the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world.

    If this is the case, would it be fair to say that eradicating parts of certain ecosystems (like purposely driving to extinction the anopheles mosquito) would be a good thing to do? Whatever "services" this mosquito does for the ecosystem, isn't the cost of millions of lives per year too much to pay for that "service"?
    (3 votes)
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    • mr pink green style avatar for user leemans9
      Also, to eradicate mosquitos from the ecosystem would currently involve using pesticides that have a widespread negative effect on other species. An example would be the use of DDT to prevent the spread of malara in the 1940's, 50s and 60s. It was believed to be a universally successful treatment for mosquito control until the negative effects were observed much later on, such as the effect of DDT on apex predators such as birds of prey. Scientists are exploring methods for genetic control of the mosquito population, but are still determining the hidden functions of mosquitos in the ecosystem. Thus they cannot yet be sure that their niche will be replaced by another species.
      (5 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Anthony Natoli
    Why does the speaker dismiss the current generation from benefiting from the aesthetic value of diversity? At and again at , the speaker stresses that the aesthetic value is not for us in the present, visiting a park or soaking in the environment, but instead is for future generations. I completely disagree ... the current generation definitely gains and benefits from the current aesthetic value of nature and biodiversity. It is unfair to focus only on the future and forget us in the present and what value biodiversity has to us right now.
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Karthik S
      The speaker does not say that it's 'not for us in the present'. It's not 'just' meant for the present. That's what he conveys. Consider having a bowl of soup. We enjoy the soup, and we pass the bowl to the next person who deserves the soup. We should stop thinking of the 'aesthetic value of diversity' as the soup but treat it more like the bowl in which it is served. We can enjoy the soup, not the bowl. We can cherish in diversity and enjoy it, without destroying it. Because it is meant for the future generations too.
      (5 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user magnumboyer
    how do you get clean water from the wet lands
    (2 votes)
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  • leafers tree style avatar for user Mickey🦤
    If you filter toxic water through wetlands (), doesn't that harm the life in those wetlands?
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user lovejjd
    why are ecosystem very important when we can make our own plant and animals with science?
    (2 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Doran Rahne
      Because the cost of creating a new species is far more than the cost of saving an 'old' species. Besides, any new species will not have the same ecosystem links as the old species. Any new species will have both good and bad links, most of which will be unknown. Analogies are classic examples of introduced species to areas where they did not exist before. The rabbit has caused massive amounts of environmental and agricultural damage in Australia, estimated at least $113 million a year to agriculture in 2004 alone.
      (3 votes)
  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user dawon
    how do you make medicine
    (3 votes)
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  • scuttlebug purple style avatar for user holly
    ok but why did he use an elephant to show a transportation device at 😭
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Narrator] We're talking about why biodiversity is important specifically to us as humans in the form of ecosystem services. Given that we'll lose about 20% of the present species richness by the middle of the century it's crucial to ask why that should matter to any of us. Should be worried about that loss? And why do so many of us care so much about it already. There are three main ways in which biodiversity is crucial to humans. The first is by direct services, the second is by indirect services, and the third is the aesthetic or ethical effect. We get so many things directly from biodiversity on this planet, food, clothing, housing, transportation, many medicines and medical supplies, and even energy in some cases. These things are derived directly from various ecosystems. Food goes without saying, all of our major food types, as diverse as they might be, originated in diverse ecosystems. Turns out, that they're a wild types of tomatoes still growing in Peru. These Peruvian tomatoes are a different species from the kind of tomato we typically eat and hold some of the genetic diversity within them. When bred with some of the tomatoes that we're using as our own food now, the yield from the hybrid tomatoes can go up almost as much as 50%. And, we wouldn't have that productivity if we'd let that wild type of Peruvian tomato go extinct. If we didn't have that as part of the biodiversity out there today, there's no way that we would have access to that genetic diversity. Another direct service provided by biodiversity is shelter. Originally, we built housing out of all kinds of biological materials and even today, we're still building houses out of trees. What about medicine? Almost all the medicines that humankind has developed have come directly from studying the way that organisms live in their environment, how they interact and the chemicals that they use during those interactions. The rosy periwinkle is a very famous example of a plant that grows in some very secluded environments in Madagascar. And it turns out that this plant produces a couple of very interesting chemicals that are now used to treat childhood leukemia. Again, we wouldn't have those medicines if the rosy periwinkle had gone extinct. Some of the more interesting things that I think people forget about when thinking about the value biodiversity fall under the category of indirect services that are delivered to us by healthy ecosystems. If you think about mangrove swamps which hare these fantastic places along the coastal margins of some tropical countries where specific types of trees, trees called mangroves grow. Mangroves can grow in salt water, so they form a semi-marine forest at the edge between land and sea. There are many species of mangrove trees and they're all really tough, resilient plants that provide tremendous services to us and to the natural environment. They protect the coastline from wave action and erosion, they're nurseries for all kinds of different types of organisms, and some of these are very important food types for us. Unfortunately, in certain parts of the world people are destroying the mangroves in order to make shrimp fisheries. They remove the mangroves and set up shrimp farms with the idea that they're adding economic value to that part of the coastline by putting in a shrimp farm that's going to produce a commercially viable product. But if you look at a graph of the value of these things then value of the shrimp farm is really only one third, maybe even only one quarter of the value of the original, undisturbed mangrove swamp because of the protection that the mangroves give against storms and erosion and the food sources they produce such as fish. You can actually attach a dollar value to these things which is sometimes the only way that people really come to grips with ecosystem value. It's the only way that people really understand the value of ecosystem services to humanity. Economic value of intact biodiversity has also been determined for ecosystems far from mangrove swamps, much closer to home. Some years ago, a large city on the east coast, which shall remain nameless, except that it's New York, had an issue with the quality of its source water. There are rivers feeding into the New York City area and the sources of that water were being compromised by pollution and environmental degradation to the point where biodiversity was being lost in some of those areas. So, city officials had a question in front of them, how do we deal in a cost effective way with this problem of declining quality of our water. It turns out that to build treatment plants to deal with cleaning the water up was gonna cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 billion just to build the treatment plants. Then another $300 million per year to maintain those plants and make sure that they were doing the things they were supposed to by removing the harmful chemicals that were being introduced through environmental degradation upstream. Then they looked at what it was gonna cost to clean up and restore the environments to make sure that the ecosystems and the biodiversity in those ecosystems were maintained to the point where they were doing what they would naturally do by removing chemicals from the water, basically filtering it through wetland habitat. Wetlands are tremendous, tremendous places for the recycling of dangerous chemicals and for the removal of chemicals from water and for clarifying and cleaning water. The cost for this restoration was gonna be about $1 billion, spread over 10 years. Much, much lower costs. So the answer was pretty clear, you're gonna go and spend that billion dollars over 10 years. Not only do you enhance the quality of the water in a very cost effective way but you do something else, too. And that addresses the third and final aspect of biodiversity value. The ethical and aesthetic services or value provided by biodiversity. These services may in fact be, in some ways, the most important ones. Sure, we can attach dollar values to the direct and indirect costs of a decline in biodiversity and the decline environmental services and ecosystem services but the ethical and aesthetic value is something that's very, very difficult to put a price on. You might say, okay, well, it costs so much to go visit a park or you might enjoy the views so much that you'll put a quarter into the telescope and soak in that environment but that's not really what we're talking about. The value here comes in what we leave for the future. A drop in biodiversity, removal of biodiversity, the extinction of species, those are things that we can't repair. Lost biodiversity is something we cannot bring back. So our children are gonna inherit a depleted world. The ethical and aesthetic quality of the environments that they're going to experience in their future, is gonna be decreased. How do you put a dollar value on that? We are the stewards of the environment but we are also the major influence on environmental quality and certainly on ecosystem function these days through our activities that result in pollution, over fishing, habitat destruction, loss of certain species from the environment. No one wants a world that's filled with nothing but wheat, corn, dandelions, some cows and us. That's a very simple ecosystem that's fraught with future difficulty and instability. If you reduce biodiversity to the point where the loss of species in the ecological food web causes an ecological collapse of that system, we won't be just standing by watching that collapse, we're going to be part of it. Clearly, biodiversity ecosystem are great places to live and to visit. There's much to see and make you feel happy, restful, appreciative, full of awe, reminded of what a remarkable and unique plant this is. After all, it's ours. I think there's a deeper sort of societal psychology at work here. And it behooves us to pay attention not just to the economically measured direct and indirect services and benefits provided by diversity rich, healthy ecosystems. But also to the ethical and aesthetic value of those amazing environments that are the inheritance we will leave for future generations.