Biodiversity and ecosystems

Biodiversity and ecosystems, encompassing the vast variety of life on Earth and the natural systems they inhabit, are fundamental to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Their importance is acknowledged explicitly in several SDGs due to their critical role in maintaining environmental balance and supporting human life and well-being.

SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) are directly focused on the conservation and sustainable use of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, respectively. These goals recognize the intrinsic value of biodiversity and the vital services ecosystems provide, such as habitat for wildlife, carbon sequestration, and soil formation. The preservation and restoration of ecosystems like forests, wetlands, and coral reefs are essential for maintaining biodiversity, which in turn supports ecological resilience and the sustenance of human life.

The role of biodiversity and ecosystems in achieving SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) is significant. The variety of life forms, including plants, animals, and microorganisms, underpins agricultural productivity. Pollinators, soil organisms, and genetic diversity of crops are all crucial for food production and agricultural resilience. Ecosystems support agriculture not just in terms of crop yield but also in sustaining the natural resources like soil and water, upon which agriculture depends.

Similarly, SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) is closely tied to the health of ecosystems. Natural habitats such as forests and wetlands play a key role in filtering and purifying water, maintaining the water cycle, and regulating water flow. This natural filtration process is vital for providing clean drinking water and supporting sanitation systems.

Biodiversity and ecosystems are also crucial for SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being). Natural environments regulate diseases by supporting a balance among species that, in turn, can control pest and disease outbreaks. Additionally, a vast number of medical discoveries, including medicines and treatments, have their origins in biological resources, underscoring the potential of biodiversity in contributing to human health and well-being.

Moreover, biodiversity and ecosystems play a significant role in addressing climate change, linking to SDG 13 (Climate Action). Ecosystems such as forests and oceans are major carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems are vital strategies for climate change mitigation. Additionally, healthy ecosystems provide crucial services for climate change adaptation, such as protecting against extreme weather events and helping communities adjust to changing environmental conditions.

However, achieving these goals requires addressing threats to biodiversity and ecosystems, such as habitat destruction, pollution, overfishing, and invasive species. It also involves balancing the needs of human development with environmental conservation, ensuring sustainable use of natural resources.

Biodiversity and ecosystems are integral to achieving multiple SDGs. Their conservation and sustainable use not only benefit the environment but are essential for food security, water purity, human health, and combating climate change. The protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems are therefore crucial steps towards sustainable development and ensuring the well-being of current and future generations.

Elsevier,

TrAC - Trends in Analytical Chemistry, Volume 112, March 2019

Plastics are a frequently observed component of marine debris and there is growing concern about microplastic (MP) ecotoxicity, and the impacts of additives, sorbed hazardous organic contaminants, heavy metals, and biofilm on MP surfaces. The relative importance of MP from different terrestrial and freshwater sources is poorly understood and limits our ability to develop best management practices.

Elsevier,

Materials Today Sustainability, Volume 3-4, March 2019

The built environment is responsible for large negative ecological impacts due in part to the vast amount of materials used in construction. Concurrently, construction and demolition activities result in vast amounts of materials being buried, burnt, and dumped. It is essential therefore to analyze the impact of building materials acquisition, use, and transformation on the ecosystems people inhabit and rely upon for well-being. Typically, this is examined in terms of material use, energy use, and emission of pollutants including greenhouse gases.

Elsevier, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Volume 34, February 2019
There is worldwide concern about the environmental costs of conventional intensification of agriculture. Growing evidence suggests that ecological intensification of mainstream farming can safeguard food production, with accompanying environmental benefits; however, the approach is rarely adopted by farmers. Our review of the evidence for replacing external inputs with ecosystem services shows that scientists tend to focus on processes (e.g., pollination) rather than outcomes (e.g., profits), and express benefits at spatio-temporal scales that are not always relevant to farmers.
Characterising microplastics based on spectroscopic measurements is one key step of many studies that analyse the fate of microplastics in the environment. Over the years, many potential sources of error were identified, which can be seen by the implementation of anti-contamination protocols, measuring laboratory blanks or using less aggressive chemicals for sample purification. However, the identification process itself in the meaning of a traceable and transparent documentation is hard to find in many research studies.
The presence of plastic debris in the ocean is increasing and several effects in the marine environment have been reported. A great number of studies have demonstrated that microplastics (MPs) adsorb organic compounds concentrating them several orders of magnitude than the levels found in their surrounding environment, therefore they could be potential vectors of these contaminants to biota. However, a consensus on MPs as vectors of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) has not been reached since are opposing views among different researchers on this topic.
Elsevier, TrAC - Trends in Analytical Chemistry, Volume 111, February 2019
Following a decade of research on the environmental impacts of microplastics, a knowledge gap remains on the processes by which micro and nanoplastics pass across biological barriers, enter cells and are subject to biological mechanisms. Here we summarize available literature on the accumulation of microplastics and their associated contaminants in a variety of organisms including humans. Most data on the accumulation of microplastics in both field and lab studies are for marine invertebrates.
Interest about interactions between microplastics and organisms is on the rise. Accessing organisms’ responses to these chemically “inert” compounds plays an important role in determining their potential toxicity. Microplastics from the environment tend to accumulate and move through living organisms, inducing a variety of biological effects, such as disturbances in energy metabolism, oxidative balance, antioxidative capacity, DNA, immunological, neurological and histological damage.
Common soil characteristics, nutrients and microbial activity at deeper soil depths are topics seldom covered in agricultural studies. Biogeochemical cycles in deep soils are not yet fully understood. This study investigates the effect of different mineral and organic fertilisation on soil organic matter dynamics, nutrients and bacterial community composition in the first meter of the soil profiles in the long-term maize cropping system experiment Tetto Frati, near the Po River in northern Italy.
Elsevier, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Volume 34, January 2019
Global biodiversity targets have far-reaching implications for nature conservation worldwide. Scenarios and models hold unfulfilled promise for ensuring such targets are well founded and implemented; here, we review how they can and should inform the Aichi Targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and their reformulation. They offer two clear benefits: providing a scientific basis for the wording and quantitative elements of targets; and identifying synergies and trade-offs by accounting for interactions between targets and the actions needed to achieve them.
The current regime governing Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) as a global commons has resulted in overutilization of fisheries resources and patchwork attempts to regulate resource extraction. States are looking to expand resource extraction in ABNJs, including marine genetic resources, creating pressures to regulate these activities. As a result, since 2004, the United Nations has been holding preparatory meetings to lay the groundwork for a new international legally binding instrument (ILBI) to address the gaps left by UNCLOS.

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