Lessons from COVID-19 crisis with respect to biodiversity and livelihood

Lessons from COVID-19 crisis with respect to biodiversity and livelihood

Positive lessons of Covid-19 vis a vis biological diversity
From the biodiversity perspective, China’s action to ban the consumption, farming and sale of wild animals looks as though it could become permanent, and if this could be scaled up globally (HIV, Ebola, SARS have come from similar sources in other places) then there could be huge benefits for wildlife.

COVID-19 leads to increased breeding of species sensitive to human activity, reduced roadkill, less hunting and greatly reduced pressure on fisheries. This pandemic might cause policy-makers and decision-makers to re-think our relationship with nature and the environment.

Those who had forgotten that we are part of nature, and don’t control it, have had a shocking wake up call. It turns out that we don’t own nature after all – and we aren’t at the top of the pyramid.

Another positive has been the impacts of lockdown on air pollution, sound pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The biggest positive emerging from this crisis, though, is the realisation that we humans are capable of global, collective action. If the stakes are high enough, we can take on these challenges together and, most importantly of all, rapidly abandon business as usual.

As human activities continue to disturb ecosystems worldwide, we are likely to see more pathogens crossing from wildlife to humans in the future. This should serve as a call to better manage our relationship with nature in general, and wildlife in particular.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is shocking the world, strong measures are likely to be taken globally to avoid the next pandemic.

Negative lessons of COVID-19 vis-a -vis biological diversity
The quarantine policies, established in most countries, have led consumers to increase their demand for online shopping for home delivery. Consequently, organic waste generated by households has increased. Food purchased online is shipped packed, so inorganic waste has also increased.

Medical waste is also on the rise. Hospitals in Wuhan produced an average of 240 metric tonnes of medical waste per day during the outbreak, compared to their previous average of fewer than 50 tonnes.

In other countries such as the USA, there has been an increase in garbage from personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

Recycling is a common and effective way to prevent pollution, save energy, and conserve natural resources, but as a result of the pandemic, countries have stopped recycling programmes in some of their cities, as authorities have been concerned about the risk of COVID-19 spreading in recycling centers.

Also, the industry has seized the opportunity to repeal disposable bag bans, even though single-use plastic can still harbor viruses and bacteria. The laboratories, which are related to breeding programme, are closed, which affects the biodiversity.

All these points are responsible for negative impact of COVID-19 on biodiversity, and necessary action should be taken by the responsible authorities to minimise the negative impact.

Implications of COVID-19 on livelihood
People depend on biodiversity in their daily lives, in ways that are not always apparent or appreciated. Human health ultimately depends upon ecosystem products and services such as availability of fresh water, food and fuel sources which are requisite for good human health and productive livelihoods. Biodiversity loss can have significant direct human health impacts if ecosystem services are no longer adequate to meet social needs. Indirectly, changes in ecosystem services affect livelihoods, income, local migration and, on occasion, may even cause political conflict.

Biodiversity changes affect ecosystem functioning and significant disruptions of ecosystems can result in life sustaining ecosystem goods and services.

Biodiversity plays a crucial role in human nutrition through its influence on world food production, as it ensures the sustainable productivity of soils and provides the genetic resources for all crops, livestock, and marine species harvested for food. Access to a sufficiency of a nutritious variety of food is a fundamental determinant of health.

Human activities are disturbing both the structure and functions of ecosystems and altering native biodiversity. Such disturbances reduce the abundance of some organisms, cause population growth in others, modify the interactions among organisms, and alter the interactions between organisms and their physical and chemical environments.

Biodiversity provides numerous ecosystem services that are crucial to human well-being at present and in the future. Climate is an integral part of ecosystem functioning and human health is impacted directly and indirectly by results of climatic conditions upon terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

(Views expressed in the article are authors’ own.)

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About Abhijit Das and Bidyut Pritom Gogoi

Abhijit Das is conducting PhD Research at Division of Dairy Economics, Statistics & Management, ICAR- National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, Haryana and Bidyut Pritom Gogoi is pursuing M.Sc at Department of Extension Education, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Samastipur, Bihar. (Updated on October 05, 2020)

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