Biodiversity in danger in New Zealand

As we watch the start of the Paris Conference on climate change unfold, it is wise to remember that climate is just one part of a complex ecosystem with numerous natural inputs, throughput and subsequent outputs. However it is a very important one that can profoundly impact on both the natural ecosystem and humanity.

But let us put aside climate change for a minute and focus solely on the state of New Zealand biodiversity and what it means for humanity. This is a problem that should be able to defy political ideologies, partisan politics and what not, but is at very grave risk of being perceived as a “Greenie” thing. We are talking here about the degradation of the basic components of the ecosystem that sustain humankind as well as the vast array of life that we should be be trying to co-exist with.

Biodiversity is threatened broadly across several areas. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Fresh water ecosystems
  • Marine ecosystems
  • Rainforests

Freshwater ecosystems and marine ecosystems are perhaps the most obvious as they have the most visible biodiversity. They also have substantial interconnection vis-a-vis river mouths, estuarine environments and coastal water features such as Lake Ellesmere (Waihora), which are occasionally opened to the sea. These are very important because it provides for whitebait, paua, herring and so forth.

Freshwater ecosystems on their own perform functions, which is not always appreciated by people. The basic health of a river is a good indicator of the fish species, and the aquatic environment they inhabit. Because New Zealand has a large emphasis on farming, there is high demand for water from rivers and from artificial storage created to hold water during dry periods. The basic function of a wetland, many mistakenly think is to take up space and be of no use – the reality is that wetlands are very good at sifting out the pollutants that are discharged into the ecosystem and that by taking away wetlands one is essentially saying that if the health of the ecosystem is to be maintained, then they are prepared to spend significant resources and money that might not be available on remedial works that might not be feasible.

Marine ecosystems sustain entire economies on some of New Zealand’s small island neighbours such as Kiribati. Without a healthy marine ecosystem, these little island atoll nations are dead. And unfortunately, the bleaching of coral reefs from carbon input into the ocean is causing so much damage, it is killing the ecosystem it supports. In doing so, it is killing the economies of these little nations. So, it should not be a surprise that the language of the heads of Government of Kiribati and Tuvalu gets blunter and angrier every time they go to these forums – they are watching over the demise of their nations. And we may have to accept their people as climate refugees before very long.

If Daesh attacking Paris can make people want to support military action in countries about which they know nothing, why cannot the degradation of the biodiversity on which we rely galvanize the world into binding actions for humanity?

Nero fiddled and Rome burnt.

What are we going to do in the 21st Century?

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