Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



Biodiversity refers to the multitudes of unique species of living things that collectively make up Earth’s ecosystems. Scientists agree that some level of biodiversity is essential for stable ecosystem functioning because within an ecosystem living things are interdependent. Biodiversity is also valuable as a genetic library of resources for agricultural and pharmaceutical research. For cultures around the world, biodiversity also has intrinsic spiritual value. The greatest threat to biodiversity is species loss caused primarily by habitat destruction and non-sustainable harvesting.

Main Idea

The value of the world’s rich assortment of life

Key Concepts

      • Importance of biodiversity
      • Threats to biodiversity
      • Considerations for protecting biodiversity


Knowledge of

      • The importance of biodiversity
      • Threats to biodiversity
      • The considerations for creating protected areas

Ability to

      • describe a biodiversity conservation strategy and how that strategy involves other sustainability issues

Core Readings

  1. “Species Loss, the Environmental Problem”
    Brief description of the biodiversity issue with several key global statistics
    (2 pages)
  2. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 7: Biodiversity
    Africa’s wealth of biodiversity, major ecosystem services, trends in habitat destruction, and conservation (10 pages)
    1. “Regional Synthesis,” pages 226-229
      Overview of ecosystems and biodiversity in Africa
    2. “Environmental Goods” and “Environmental Services,”
      pages 232-235
      Definition and description of ecosystem services
    3. “Biodiversity Policy” and “Improving Science,” pages 239-240
      How to create sound conservation policies and improve scientific research

Sustainability Strategies

  1. World Resources 2005—The Case Studies, “Nature in Local Hands: The Case for Namibia’s Conservancies,” pages 6-9
    Describes the national community-based conservancies program in Namibia (4 pages)
  2. Rejuvenated Bananas Pass Muster
    Banana and plantain plants are being returned to their native fields
    (2 pages)
  3. Arid Lands Resources Project
    Exploiting gum arabic to increase incomes and reduce tree cutting for charcoal
    (1 page)
  4. Marimba River Integrated Biodiversity Action Programme
    Urban project demonstrating how river ecosystems can be restored and protected from degradation caused by human activities (2 pages)

Supplemental Readings

  1. The Future of Agriculture Depends on Biodiversity
    Summarizes need for genetic diversity for agricultural selection (2 pages)
  2. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 10: Invasive Alien Species,
    pages 331-348
    Summarizes incidence of alien invasive species in Africa and describes the impacts of some of the worst invaders (17 pages)
  3. Global Environment Outlook 4, Chapter 5: Biodiversity, “Global Overview,” pages 158-189
    Overview of biodiversity as a resource for livelihoods, health, and culture; rates and causes of extinction; responses and opportunities for various challenges
    (32 pages)

Assignment Questions

  1. Biodiversity: Define biodiversity. What are some major threats to biodiversity worldwide?
  2. Biodiversity: Explain the link between ecosystem services and biodiversity. Give some examples of ecosystems services in Africa.
  3. Biodiversity: Setting aside protected areas is the most common policy for preserving biodiversity. How should protected areas be designated?
  4. Biodiversity: Find and explain an example in the readings of biodiversity preservation other than setting aside protected areas.