Biological Diversity in Forest Ecosystems

Barbaros Cetyn, Ph.D.
Ankara University, Faculty of Forestry,18200,«ankýrý, TURKEY
Email: bcetin @
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 4-5.

The protection of living natural resources has become one of the top issues on the agenda of the world as a result of the gradual reduction of the tropical rain forest area in the Amazon basin particular, over the last 20 years. This has resulted in the extinction of many tree species in these forests, and with them, of other living species, an increase in the numbers of endangered wild plants and animal species in many areas of the world, and the extinction of some of these species.

The earth is losing biological diversity at an unprecedented rate. This loss will have significant economic, social and ecological consequences. It reflects accelerating human demands on natural systems. The solution requires a coordinated, global effort. Deliberate forest management must play a key role in conserving biological diversity.

Biological diversity refers to the variety and abundance of species, genetic composition, and the communities, ecosystems, and landscapes in which they occur. It also refers to ecological structures, functions, and processes at all of these levels. Biological diversity occurs at spatial scales that range from local through regional to global (Salwasser 1990).

Maintenance of biological diversity is essential to sustain production of both commodity and non-commodity forest values. Some elements of biological diversity are more important than the others. It is unrealistic to think that every aspect of a biota can be restored or preserved. Priority must be given to rare species, communities, and ecosystems and, within these levels, elements that are critical to nutrient cycling, energy pathways, and predator-prey relations.

Since presettlement times, human activities have modified forest ecosystems. Rapidly increasing human populations, their technological capabilities, the emergence of an integrated world economy, and demands for higher standards of living have increased both the intensity and the frequency of these modifications. Current forest management practices have both positive and negative effects on biological diversity. Integration of forest management activities over landscape regions is essential to maintain and enhance biological diversity in forest ecosystems. Foresters must view their local management activities in a regional context (Ledig, 1998).

Ownership Responsibilities

The amount and kind of diversity to be saved are tied closely to land ownership. All public and private lands are important to solution of this important issue, but the opportunities available to each differ. Regional biological diversity can be achieved best by coordinated efforts between public and private landowners. These efforts must recognize the different goals, interests, and potential contributions of different landowners.

It is necessary to include biological diversity goals in public forest planning and policy development. In many regions, maintaining relatively large, unfragmented, later successional stage ecosystem will be particularly important. While in most cases this can be accomplished more easily on public lands, private lands should also play an important role. Any strategies to keep land forested will contribute more to biological diversity than if that land was converted to other uses.

Turkey exhibits a considerable degree of biological diversity. This relative richness in diversity is revealed when compared with her neighbours (other than the USSR) and the European Countries. Turkey's richness in biological diversity consist of three aspects: She is a natural passage way between the old continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. Possesses a wide range of geomorphological and geological structure, and is characterized by the co-existence of very different climatic and ecological features. At the same time , Turkey possesses one of the most important gene pools of the world in traditional crops. Each region of the country has a unique mix of ecosystems and mosaic of foresteal landscapes. Unfortunately, there are various problems in the preservation of all these endowments. Human activity affects the occurrence, abundance, and distribution of genotypes, species and, in some cases, ecological community. Although various protective systems like national parks and game reserves serve an important function for the preservation of biological diversity, total protection is inadequate («etin, 1995).

Conservation Strategies

Conservation of biological diversity is a biological and social issue that will probably require changes in current forest conservation and management policies and plans. Overall, the policies and actions for conserving biological diversity in this country are fragmented and uncoordinated. There is a need for both a national policy for biological diversity and clear, concise programs for its protection, restoration, enhancement, and sustainable uses.

To be successful, forest practices designed to accommodate biological diversity will, by nature be evolutionary and should be integrated at the various political, social, and biological scales. Although foresters should lead on this issue, we will not be alone. Furthermore, foresters should come out very strongly in favor of a coordinated, comprehensive conservation strategy.

Understanding the roles of different land ownerships and management objectives is essential. Different owners will have important roles to play. On private lands, the conservation of biological diversity can be accomplished by an appropriate mix of strategies such as tax incentives, land leases, technical assistance, cost sharing, conservation easements, and regulation.

Any approach to conserving biological diversity must recognize that no ecosystem is static. Inevitably , changes will occur from within and from without. Our task as foresters is to manage changes that result from processes inherent to each forest ecosystem as well as changes that may result from our attempts to meet societal needs.

For many years, conservation interests have been concerned with certain aspects of biological diversity such as endangered species, stand structure and composition, and preservation of unique areas. Generally, they have not been as concerned with biological diversity on larger scales. As noted above, it is essential to address biological diversity at many levels.

The necessity for dealing with biological diversity at the continental or even global scale is evident from the fact actions to conserve diversity in one area can have a marked effect on diversity in other areas or regions.

The Society of Turkish Foresters should promote conservation strategies that address local, regional, national, and global levels. The major goal of the strategy should be to arrest further loss of diversity at the regional level. Those elements, whether genotypes, species or ecosystems, which are most threatened must be protected as a first step in the overall strategy. The second step should be to develop a plan to maintain the variety of vegetation types and successional stages common to the regional landscape. This will require a cooperative effort on the part of the landowners involved. Cooperatives, which have addressed problems of genetic improvement of growing stock, regeneration of difficult sites, and growth and yield models, serve as good examples.

In developing plans to maintain the variety of vegetation types as successional stages, consideration should be given to home range requirements and migration behavior of certain species. In some cases, grouping different successional stages of a plant community and protecting migration corridors will be necessary. The conservation strategies for biological diversity must also address opportunities to enhance biological diversity in the landscape through habitat improvement projects and, if appropriate, through reintroduction of extirpated species. Finally, a monitoring plan to measure the success of each strategy must be developed.

Loss of biological diversity is largely the result of human activities. Human population growth has increased demands for all resources, and pollutants have reduced diversity even further (Samson and Knopf, 1982). Extinction of species is the most dramatic effect, but a decrease in genetic, species, and community diversity may be equally important. To the extent that people are the "problem", we must be included in the solution. Human activity has already resulted in the restoration of biological diversity in many areas (Mitchell et all., 1990).

Few environmental issues will affect the future management of forest resources as will the issue of biological diversity. As human populations grow and demands for forest resources increase, further modification or destruction of forest habitats and a loss of biological diversity are certain.

Estimates of the economic consequences, social implications, and potential disruption of ecological processes that can attend reduced biological diversity differ, but all agree on several points that are relevant to forestry;

1. The quality of life and human welfare are inextricably linked to the maintenance and enhancement of biological diversity, but the consequences of losing biological diversity are complex and not easily predicted.

2. To prevent this loss, we must address increasing human demands on natural systems and we must better understand species requirements and the functioning of ecological systems.

Even though every political jurisdiction affects the problem independently, solution requires a coordinated, global effort.

1. Salwasser, H.,1990. Conserving biological diversity: A perspective on scope and approaches. For. Ecol. Manage 35:79-90
2. Ledig, F.T.,1988. The conservation of diversity in forest trees. Bio. Sci. 38 (7):471-479
3. «etin, B.,1995. Biyolojik Áevre ve gelece_imiz, Ankara Valili_i «.K.V.Yay.No:4 1-20
4. Samson, F.B., Knopf, F.L., 1982. In search of a diversity ethic for wildlife management. Trans. N. Am. Wildl. Nat. Res Conf. 47: 421-431.
5. Mitchell, R.S., Sheviak, C.J., and Leopold, D.J.,1990. Ecosystem management: Rare species and significant habitats, New York State Misc. Ball. 740, 314 p.

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