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Sustaining Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functions

Economic Issues

Clement A. Tisdell

This innovative book identifies socio-economic processes which transform the stock of genetic resources and ecosystems and discusses sustainability issues raised by variations in this stock. It focuses subsequently on the socio-economics of the conservation and change in the stock of human developed germplasm and ecosystems. Particular attention is given to crops, livestock, GMOs, reduced economic value due to biological erosion, alternative agroecosystems, and property rights in germplasm. The book concludes with an exploration of the economic topics dealing with changes in the stock of wild germplasm and natural ecosystems, and discusses the associated valuation problems.
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Chapter 3: Socio-economic processes transforming the genetic stock and altering ecosystems

Clement A. Tisdell


Homo sapiens has become the major source of global environmental changes as a result of growing populations of humans, increasing economic production and greater man-made capital accumulation, as well as new techniques of production associated with the expansion of knowledge. While environmental changes due to natural phenomena still occur independently of human action, they pale in significance compared to the impact of humans on the natural environment. Such impact arises as a direct result of human actions (for example, the removal of natural vegetation to grow crops) and indirectly (as in the case of global warming and climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity). Particularly, since the beginning of agriculture in the Holocene era, humans have increasingly changed the global genetic stock and altered ecosystems.

Genetic material has been selected and developed by human beings in order to increase the economic value of the genetic stock. Natural ecosystems have been transformed to enhance their economic productivity from a human point of view. In addition to that, ecosystems and environments previously developed by humans for economic production have themselves been subject to alterations with the passage of time. For example, several hundred years ago, shifting agriculture (swidden agriculture) was practised in Europe but was eventually replaced by the more permanent use of cultivated fields for the growing of crops. Crop rotation and the application of fertilizers helped to maintain yields.

Human beings usually decide to alter the genetic stock and...

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