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The Status of Ecosystems

Human well-being depends, among other things, on the continued supply of services obtained from ecosystems.  Human actions during HORNBILL smthe last 50 years have altered ecosystems to an extent and degree unprecedented in human history. The consequences for human well-being have been mixed.  Health and wealth have, on average, improved, but the benefits are unevenly distributed and further improvement may be limited by an insufficient supply of key ecosystem services.

Biological diversity is a necessary condition for the delivery of all ecosystem services. In most cases, greater biodiversity is associated with a larger or more dependable supply of ecosystem services. Diversity of genes and populations is currently declining in most places in the world, along with the area of near-natural ecosystems.

Inescapable Link between Ecosystem Condition and Human Well-being

All people depend on the services supplied by ecosystems, either directly or indirectly.  Human well-being, by several measures and on average across and within many societies, has improved substantially over the past two centuries and continues to do so.  The gains in human well-being are not distributed evenly among individuals or social groups, nor among the countries they live in or the ecosystems of the world. The gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged is increasing.

People living in drylands and mountainous areas, both characterized by lower ecosystem productivity, tend to have below-average, and more variable, well-being.

Populations are growing faster in ecosystems characterized by low well-being and low ecosystem productivity than in high well-being, high productivity areas.  Many human and ecological systems are under multiple severe and mutually reinforcing stresses.

Some groups of people are disproportionately likely to experience loss of well-being associated with declining levels of ecosystem services. A large and growing number of people are at high risk of adverse ecosystem changes. The world is experiencing a worsening trend of human suffering and economic losses from natural disasters.

Special Role of Biodiversity in Supplying Ecosystem Services

Variation among genes, populations, and species and the variety of structure, function, and composition of ecosystems are necessary to maintain an acceptable and resilient level of ecosystem services in the long term. For ecosystem functions such as productivity and nutrient cycling, the level, constancy of the service over time, and resilience to shocks all decline over the long term if biodiversity declines. Regulatory services generally need higher levels of biodiversity than provisioning services do.

Changes in species composition can alter ecosystem processes even if the numbers of species present remains unchanged or increases. The integrity of the interactions between species is critical for the long-term preservation of human food production on land and in the sea.

The preservation of genetic variation among crop species and their wild relatives and spatial heterogeneity in agricultural landscapes are considered necessary for the long-term viability of agriculture. A large proportion of the world’s terrestrial species are concentrated in a small fraction of the land area, mostly in the tropics, and especially in forests and on mountains.

Marine species are similarly concentrated, with the limited area of coral reefs, for example, having exceptionally high biodiversity.  Among plants and vertebrates, the great majority of species are declining in distribution, abundance, or both, while a small number are expanding.

The observed rates of species extinction in modern times are 100 to 1,000 times higher than the average rates for comparable groups estimated from the fossil record.  The current rate of biodiversity loss, in aggregate and at a global scale, gives no indication of slowing, although there have been local successes in some groups of species. The momentum of the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, and the consequences of this loss, will extend many millennia into the future.

The Ecosystems of the world and therefore the health and vitality of life on the planet, including human life is at a tipping point. The time for committed action is now, or those of us alive today may begin to see the collapse of the life support systems on Earth.

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Four Trends Retailers are Taking to be Sustainable

leafprints.jpgRetailers face major challenges when it comes to sustainability. They source products made all over the world. They use lots of energy to keep stores well lit and comfortable.  They sells products that could one day end up in landfills.

But a new report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association says many retailers are taking bold steps to reduce their environmental footprints. It looks at some of the green trends and points to some success stories. While the report drew its findings from interviews with 20 major retailers – from IKEA to PetSmart – these practices are likely to affect smaller retailers as well.
 
Here’s a look at four trends:
 
1. Looking closer at supply chains. More retailers are evaluating the sustainability of their suppliers, including energy use, hazardous material, greenhouse gas emissions and water use. Some even require manufacturers to produce an annual report, so they can better gauge their total environmental footprint and be more transparent with their customers. Many big retailers are relying on third-party organizations, including The Sustainability Consortium and the Fair Factories Clearinghouse, to help them conduct supplier reviews.
 
2. Focusing on end of life. Some retailers are getting more active in help consumers responsibly dispose of their products — and that’s because if they don’t, it’s very likely the items will end up in landfills. Target Corp. offers recycling centers in its stores for plastic bags and aluminum, among other materials. The Gap in 2010 collected 360,000 units of denim to be repurposed into home insulation.
 
3. Educating consumers. Retailers have to be careful not to inundate consumers with sustainability information – especially in stores. But they’re finding ways to make it more engaging and transparent. WalMart’s Love, Earth Jewelry collection, for instance, allows people to trace their jewelry’s journey “from mine to market.” Whole Foods and IKEA created their own green labels.
 
4. Engaging employees. Retailers are actively asking their employees to help them lower their environmental footprint – and that’s tough: Retailers tend to have high turnover rates, which means employees don’t feel quite as engaged in the business. But some have been quite successful. Some, like Walgreen,  are forming green teams of employees passionate about sustainability or hosting volunteer drives to help with local environmental nonprofit efforts.

- Article Source: Small Business trends: About the author -
 


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References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:
Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.org 
  
The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 
  

The Cornell Lab
birds.cornell.edu

Small Business Trends
www.smallbiztrends.com              

Sanford Golf Design
www.sanfordgolfdesign.com

Scotland Yards Golf Club
http://www.scotlandyards.com

Technorati
www.technorati.com

Turf Feeding Systems
www.turffeeding.com

Love and Dodson
www.loveanddodson.com              

The Dodson Group
www.thedodsongrp.com      

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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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