Tag Archives: environmental management

Crabbing: A Sustainable Livelihood in the Coasts of Magsaysay

Crabbing is an exciting activity I happen to witness during my recent trip to the remote island of Cuyo, a volcanic island between the islands of Palawan and Panay in the Philippines (Figure 1). This article describes the activity and provides insights for conservation and management of natural resources.

Cuyo Islands
Figure 1. Cuyo archipelago

Dodokon: The Intriguing Crab Species

As part of my task in a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project, I lectured on the value of biodiversity to human life. A workshop followed the speech where the participants coming from five communities in the municipality of Rizal identified economically important species in their respective barangays. They plotted these resources on maps attached to the walls of the lecture hall.

I noticed several unfamiliar words stuck on resource map of participants coming from Barangay Rizal. They drew and pasted on the map a crab species unknown to even a colleague living in the place and me. It’s remarkable how the locals can discriminate certain species of crabs and give them unique names. They call the crab “dodokon.” Collecting dodokon forms part of their crabbing activity during low tide.

Intrigued how “dodokon” looks like, I told Marge, the director of the campus, that I would like to make a tour along the coast to document the species. It also presents an opportunity to use my newly cleaned Leica D-vario lens that had been kept for years after I inadvertently submerged it in the water while crossing a river during one of my field trips. She arranged for an early morning trip to a nearby sea grape farm about three kilometers away from our quarters.

Crabbing Tour

It was almost seven o’clock in the morning when my colleagues and I made a quick visit of the latô (sea grape) farm in Barangay Rizal, Magsaysay in the island of Cuyo. The school driver brought us in the appointed place in less than 15 minutes. A tour guide met us upon arrival and walked with us to the shore.

We waited a moment and realized that only one raftsman was around to give us a tour of the latô farm. My colleagues suggested that I take the first raft and start the tour as I still have a meeting at 9 o’clock with research coordinators of the extramural campus of our university. As research director, they need my guidance on the new research agenda of the university.

I thought that Elmer, the raftsman, will bring me around the intricate arrangement of latô enclosures. But around mid-way of the trip through the murky waters, he told me to stand back at the other end of the raft, about three meters from the rear end. The purpose is to achieve balance in the flimsy bundle of bamboo poles. He placed a large stone on his side and submerged half his body into the muddy substrate then wore an improvised swim googles to see underwater. I thought he was collecting sea grapes but learned later that he was collecting crabs as he tossed several crabs into a plastic pail while navigating the shallow waters.

What’s inside the pail? It’s the dodokon (see below).

crabs
Crabs (dodokon) collected from the murky waters of Rizal.

Crabbing as a Sustainable Livelihood for Coastal Fisherfolks

Crabbing is a sustainable source of food for the fisherfolks of Rizal as they wait for their latô farms to produce enough volume for commercial purposes. As long as the habitat is undisturbed, the muddy areas next to the mangroves can yield an unending supply of crabs to meet subsistence needs. In mangrove areas next to polluted bays or estuaries, subsisting on such crabs will make one cringe. Crabs are filter feeders and contaminated organic substances may contain toxins that can threaten human life through the process of bioaccumulation.

The residents of Rizal are fortunate because they still have pristine mangrove forests free from pollutants. Houses on stilts just like those found in urban areas are nowhere in sight. One can still enjoy the crunchy, dodokon delicacy just like the one we consumed when we dined back in our base.

crab meal
A crunchy, breaded meal of dodokon concluded our day.

The Economic Loss of Rice Farms Due to Sea Level Rise and Farmer Adaptations

How are research topics arrived at? One of the ways on how to identify a phenomenon worthy of research investigation is to go out on field and ask questions.

This article discusses how research topics in environmental science can be generated through interaction with community members as clients of the research outputs. Specifically, it examined the issue of sea level rise as a pressing issue threatening the rice production capacity of a community living next to Malampaya Sound, a marine biodiversity rich body of water located northeast of Palawan Island. It was once dubbed the ‘fish bowl’ of the Philippines.

The trip yesterday to Abongan, a farming community in the municipality of Taytay located 167 kilometers northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan (Figure 1), was a fruitful one. I discovered an environmental issue that could be a good research topic to explore. The rice farmers in that community experience the negative effects of sea level rise – a manifestation of climate change. This issue arose as our research team conducted a focus group discussion with agriculture stakeholders.

sea level rise
A map showing the location of sea level rise affected farmlands in Abongan (Map source: Wikimapia.org).

Salt water inundated and changed a portion of the farmlands into mangrove stands. The phenomenon started way back in 1994, according to the barangay chairman of Abongan.

Reminded of the environmental economics perspective on evaluating environmental issues, a question popped in my mind: “How much in terms of money is the value lost by farmers each year because of the advancing sea waters?”

The Economic Loss of Rice Farms Due to Sea Level Rise

To objectively examine the issue discussed earlier, let us enumerate and assume the value of the different variables at play in this phenomenon:

  1. Area of farmland affected by sea level rise: 200 hectares
  2. Number of cavans of unhusked rice grains (palay) produced per hectare: 100
  3. Percentage of rice (bigas) produced in a cavan of palay: 25% or 1/4
  4. Price per kilogram of rice: PhP42 or $0.92
  5. Kilograms of rice per cavan: 50
  6. Number of croppings per year: 2
  7. Percentage of return from farm investment: 50%

The net loss of income on annual basis, therefore, can be computed by converting the net income from rice produced per hectare to the number of hectares affected. This is obtained by multiplying the number of kilos of rice produced per hectare to current price. This is equal to 25 cavans or 1,250 kilograms times PhP42 ($0.92); that gives a total of PhP52,500 ($1,150) per hectare.

If 200 hectares are affected by sea level rise each year, the total value of rice yield per hectare will be PhP10,500,000 ($48,300) per cropping season. Since there are two cropping seasons per year, total annual loss in income will be double this amount.

The annual loss in income of farms in Abongan, therefore, will be PhP21,000,000 or $96,600. Since the percentage of return from investment is roughly 50%, the annual loss in net income is half this final value which is the same value obtained for one cropping season, i.e., PhP10,500,000 ($48,300).

The value given above assumes that the area of affected farmland is the same. But farmers observed that saltwater goes further inland each year. This causes anxiety among farm owners especially those whose land lie next to rivers.

Adaptation of Rice Farmers to Sea Level Rise

Currently, some of the farmers build dikes to prevent saltwater from flowing into their farms. There’s also a plan to increase the flow of freshwater from the watershed to their farms.

Further reflecting on the issue, three questions came to my mind:

  1. What species of mangroves successfully settled in the upper reaches of the river next to farms?
  2. What are the other adaptations measures did farmers make to mitigate the advancing waters aside from dikes and increased freshwater flow?
  3. What is the salinity of river water next to farms?

Now, can you appreciate the value of having to go out in the field and identify environmental issues that hound communities? In the process of finding answers to questions, the outcome of your study will be helpful inputs that will empower communities.

Figuring out your research topic in the four corners of the classroom will offer you less ideas to pursue. Get up and explore the world.

©2015 January 11 P. A. Regoniel

Malthusians vs. Cornucopians: A Viewpoint on Population Growth

The prospects of human population growth may be viewed using two perspectives: the Malthusian and the Cornucopian. The latter views the growth positively; they believe that the larger the population, the better. On the other hand, if it is viewed negatively, this now take on the Malthusian viewpoint where the growth is associated with problems.

The Malthusian Point of View

This principle was named after Thomas Malthus. He believes that once a population increases, more resources are needed to support the growing demand of people. The food becomes insufficient since production could not keep up with the needs of an increased number of people.

Uncontrolled population is a major reason that causes environmental degradation. The theory looked unto resource depletion; degradation of soil, mineral and fuel; famine, crimes, and wars as a result of increased competition in availing of scarce natural resources.

However, the predicted scenarios through time under this theory have some contradictions with the existing population data. Thus, a new thought arose that explains the economic development despite of population growth. Thus, the Cornucopian’s principle started to develop.

Contrary to Malthus’ expectations, the scholars believe that population increase is neither a problem nor harmful to human life. Indeed, it leads to a more developed economy for there is greater number of people who can think and make new inventions.

The Cornucopian’s Principle

The continuous development of technologies from different areas worldwide and the application thereof is the main foundation of this principle. The Cornucopians believe that advances in technologies can give and sustain the needs of the society. The rapid increase in population is positively viewed: more population produces more ideas. Through these, a lot of high technologies and new inventions of systems and devices are carried in to address the problems with increasing human demands as well as improve life. In addition, this view believes that there are enough sources of matter and energy on the earth to cater the rising number of population around the world. So, an increase in food consumption is not an issue.

People become experts and specialized in their fields of interest thus are able to respond efficiently and effectively in the arising problems of society. For instance, advanced technologies in food production helps a lot since more food are produced using new systems.

The Current Reality: Growing Population Affects the Environment Negatively

Many inventions, technologies and new systems are continuously booming. Yes, these help the human beings to cope with the arising human problems. So, the Cornucopians’ thinking has a point.

On the other hand, the Malthusian perspective appears more reliable for we observe that increasing global population lead to increased use of natural resources to meet the growing economic demand. This results to environmental degradation as predicted by Malthus.

We have limited resources. Scarcity on food resources becomes common in many developing countries like Africa and Asia. The report of Food and Agriculture Organization, referred to as the 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) from 2008-2012, shows that the global hunger situation has improved since 1990. However, despite the progress made, the level of hunger in the world remains serious in which 870 million people still experience hunger (IFPRI, 2013).

Manila at nightime
Manila at night (©2014 P. Regoniel)

The pollution emitted from  production and consumption of natural resources regardless of technological advantages has negative impacts on the ecological aspects of environment especially on the health of human beings. In addition, due to anthropogenic activities, the climatic condition on a global scale is also affected.

Mobility of people affects the ecological condition of the environment. Encroachments of many lands in rural areas for expansion as identified for commercial establishments and different businesses happen. Settlers, then, in these occupied areas move to higher zones or transfer to other places. Environmental degradation, especially in the forested areas, then happens due to the disturbances brought by new settlers (Grimm et al., 2008; Fragkias et al., 2012).

How’s My City?

Population growth is also observed in the City of Puerto Princesa. The total inhabitants of the City in late 1870s was only 573 while the recorded population in year 2010 based on the latest census of the National Statistics Coordinating Board (2010) was 222,673; an increase of 38,760.91% was observed.

During early 1970s to 1990s, the City has 24 urban and 42 rural barangays. However, the classified urban villages around year 1998 until now increased to 35 barangays, while the classified rural regions decreased to 31 barangays.

Since not all families can afford to have their houses in designated areas of the government, some opted to settle in nearby coastal areas that resulted to squatting. Based from the conducted surveys of informal settlers by the city government during 1993 to 2005, there was a total of 5,326 households in 21 coastal areas of the City and 4,999 from various areas.

In order to solve the problem in housing and squatting, the local government launched a City Housing Program in 1993. One of the identified resettlement sites was Barangay Sicsican (CPDO, 2007).

The traffic situation is worsening in urban areas of the City along Rizal Avenue, Malvar Street and within the National Highway of Barangay San Miguel and San Pedro (CPDO, 2007). In year 1985, the Bureau of Land Transportation, Puerto Princesa Branch (1992) registered a total of 2,989 vehicles generally composed of motorcycles and tricycles. There was an increase of about 1,241.39% or 37,105 in year 2012 (40,094 registered vehicles) from year 1992.

Those are just some of the evidences that the Malthusian Theory may be the right after all.

References:

City Planning and Development Office (2007). Socio-economic and physical profile. Puerto Princesa City. Philippines.

Fragkias, M., et al. (2012) Typologies of urbanization projections, effects on land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services. Chapter 7, p. 30-41.

Grimm, N. B., et al. (2008) The changing landscape: ecosystem responses to urbanization and pollution across climatic and societal gradients. 6(5) p. 264–272. Available: www.frontiersinecology.org

International Food Policy Research Institute (2013). Global Hunger Index. The challenge of hunger: building resilience to achieve food and nutrition security. Available: http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ghi13.pdf. Retrieved on 8 September 2014.

Land Transportation Office-Puerto Princesa City Branch (LTO-PPC)(2012). Number of registered vehicles (2001-2012). Puerto Princesa City. Philippines.

Intangible Things as Institutions Towards Attaining Environmental Sustainability

How can people’s beliefs help keep the environment from destruction? Is there a relationship between intangible things and environmental sustainability? This article shows how indigenous people’s thoughts, beliefs or cultures contribute to environmental sustainability.

The environment is defined as the totality of tangible and intangible things that surround us. Those things that can normally perceive by our five senses are considered as tangible things while things like norms, values, beliefs, culture and traditions are some of the intangible things that greatly influence one’s behavior.

The Pala’wan, an indigenous group of people once living in the hinterlands of Palawan Island in the Philippines, are usually known for these things. They have lots of beliefs and practices that they kept for thousands of years as part of their culture. These beliefs and practices are linked with the environment. Thus, they managed the natural resources effectively.  Their ways are  compatible with the environment as they adopt simple living (Docto, 2008).

The Pala’wan‘s cultural identities, social and spiritual relationships are deeply originated in their area and they believe that the environment is governed by gods and goddesses. In this way, they contribute to the conservation and protection of the environment for they respect their sacred resources (Tauli-Corpuz et al., 2010).

Fear of Owls and Night Herons

The Pala’wans are afraid of birds such as owls and night herons, locally known as “gukgok” and “tikwara,” respectively.

What really are the beliefs of the Pala’wans about these species? What causes them to cringe with terror as they hear the sound of these birds?

Let us take a deeper look on these unfounded fear among the indigenous peoples (IPs).

Do not Touch, Catch nor Even Mimic the Calls! You Better Hide Instead!

Through an interview with my dad, I’ve found that the Pala’wans who generally live in the remote areas of southern Palawan, particularly in Quezon and Rizal, harbor the fear of the Rufous Night-heron and the Palawan Scops-owl.

They should not touch, catch or even mimic the calls of these birds, particularly the owl, for they will suffer once they do. They should hide whenever they hear these creatures.

Although my dad is a Pala’wan, and of course I’m a Pala’wan too, we do not subscribe to this belief. However, the IPs in Quezon and Rizal still adhere to this belief; and I know that these beliefs helped conserve the natural resources of the place.

What is the Belief about the Rufous Night-Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus)?
Night Heron
Night heron. Picture modified from Frank Schulenberg@Flickr.com (cc)

The rufous night-heron, locally known as “tikwara,” is believed to be owned or is a pet of an unseen person. Anyone who dares touch, catch or even imitate the sound that this bird makes will get sick, and even die as a result.

A curse befalls a person if he violates this rule. To be relieved of this curse, he needs to consult an albularyo (a local medicine man) to humbly ask for forgiveness. He goes through a series of rituals; and this is the only remedy to stop the evil consequences.

Balabac Mousedeer: Is it a Mouse or a Deer?

Have you heard about or seen the Balabac mouse deer lately? How does it look like? Is it really a mouse or a deer? For those who are not familiar with this unique species of animal, this article is for you. Read on to find out answers to these questions.

In one of the remote islands of the Philippines, there exists an animal called pilandok or the Palawan mouse deer. Pilandok looks like a deer, but its small size at birth approximates that of a mouse. This may be the reason people call it a mouse deer. When mature, however, it’s way too large to be called a mouse. It can grow to 50 cm from the head to the base of the tail, five times bigger than the biggest mouse.

The term “mouse deer” is a misnomer because, in reality, this mammal belongs to the Chevrotain family. In French, chevrotain literally means “little goat.” Thus, it is neither a mouse nor a deer although the latter gains more semblance.

Judge by yourself where this animal should be classified by the way it looks below.

mouse deer
A mouse deer in captivity shown with its food, a fig species locally called tubog. The owner said the animal was captured while browsing for food near the coast. Photo © 2014 P. A. Regoniel

Do you agree that it looks more like a goat than a deer? Or would you rather call it a mouse?

Notice that the pupil of eye of the mouse deer is oriented horizontally. This feature characterizes goats, hence, confirming the observation that it should not be classified as a deer but to another family, i.e., the Chevrotain. This eye orientation indicates that the animal is active at night.

The mouse deer in the picture was captured way back in 2006 in Balabac Island. Allegedly, a group of locals cornered the confused mouse deer while trying to find food along the seashore amidst large stands of the firefly mangrove, Sonneratia alba. Its favorite food is a species of fig called tubog shown in the picture above.

The animal was difficult to find even while some people say it is commonly encountered along the road. In fact, the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Palawan mouse deer as an endangered species. Being endemic to islands of Balabac, Bugsuk and Ramos Islands at the southwest part of Palawan Island (see map below), its remaining population is threatened by encroachment to its habitat as well as human consumption of its delicious meat.

mouse deer distribution
Population distribution range of the Balabac mouse deer in the Province of Palawan.

Another threat is that nobody has done a population study yet as far as I am concerned. Nobody exactly know how many of these animals are still in the wild. Further, according to IUCN, research is needed on its habitat requirements, threats and conservation needs.

A comforting fact is that the mouse deer are r-strategists, meaning, they reproduce fast once allowed to do so. By the time I get back to Balabac Island again, I hope to see more of them and take better pictures and videos.

Do you have additional information you want to share about the Balabac mouse deer? Write me and I’ll feature your contribution.

Reference

Oliver, W., Matillano, J. & Widmann, P. 2008. Tragulus nigricans. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 10 September 2014.

© 2014 September 10 P. A. Regoniel

Three Simple Facts About Jellyfishes

How long does it take for the jellyfish to stay alive out of sea water? Do jellyfishes melt in the rain? What ecological role do jellyfishes play in the marine ecosystem? These are three questions answered in this article. Read on to find out.

The trip to Kitu-Kito, a tourist destination north of Puerto Princesa, on board a raft made of large PVC tubings, appeared to be uneventful until tiny blobs of jellyfishes of different sizes gained our group’s attention. While a scourge to swimmers, the jellyfishes became a subject of photographic interest for me.

Various sizes of jellyfishes bob out of the water, from 5-inch diameter ones with venomous tentacles to the cute, half-inch juveniles. Here are two of them:

jelly fishes
Two jellyfishes swim about in the food container filled with water.

How Long Can Jellyfishes Stay Out of the Water?

Taken by curiosity and instinctively, our boatman caught one of the jellyfishes and placed it on the front edge of the raft. The transparent jellyfish helplessly throbbed just like a heart on the wooden surface indicating that it is alive. Its gelatinous bell (its head) looks edible.

The taste of nata de coco flashed in my mind. I had that urge to slice and eat the chewy head.

I wonder if it tastes like nata de coco? Are jellyfishes edible? The boatman said, “Yes, it is.”

The jellyfish, in fact, is a delectable delicacy in Asia. These are dried, preserved and shipped to restaurants in Japan, China, and Thailand. But I never had the chance to taste it and will not venture to do so unless everybody is eating it.

jellyfish with tentacles
The jellyfish looks like nata de coco, a chewy, translucent, jelly like foodstuff produced by the fermentation of coconut water.

“How long can jellyfishes survive out of the water?” asked one of my friends. Being a biologist, and, not knowing exactly how long it will take for these animals to stay out of the water, I retorted, “Let’s use a timer to find out.” And so we did.

Glancing once in a while and observing the jellyfish for its tell-tale throb of life somewhere in the middle of its body, we waited until no discernible movement to indicate life is evident. After a while and looking at my watch’s timer, I blurted out to the group: “48 minutes.”

Now we learned that jellyfishes could survive that long out of sea water. If it does not return within that period to the deeper parts of the sea during the rush of sea water towards low tide levels, then it gets isolated and fried under the sun or get dehydrated. Thus, it somehow distributes nutrients along the coastline as it becomes a part of the beach ecosystem food chain.

Do Jellyfishes Melt in the Rain?

Another question sprang up. “Is it true that jellyfishes melt when out of the water and exposed to the rain?”

Honestly, I could not think of a good reason why jellyfishes will melt in the rain. They’re not ice cream or made of ice. I have heard this wrong notion on many occasions. And so I simply said, “I don’t think so,” explaining a bit about the composition of animal tissue.

As if to confirm my point, by sheer coincidence, it rained that afternoon despite the generally fair weather in the morning. The raft shook with every gust of wind that pass our way and alarmed almost everyone. I have been through this situation many times in the field and I feel confident that the wind will settle in a few moments.

The raindrops fell on the jellyfish, washing it through and through. The jellyfish, of course, did not melt. It’s still there.

3. Ecological Value of Jellyfishes

Jellyfishes form part of the marine food chain. They prey mainly on the zooplankton. In turn, they are favorite diets of sea turtles. Thus, they help stabilize the marine ecosystem.

Transparent plastics thrown into sea water sometimes get mistaken for jellyfishes. This is the reason many sea turtles die as plastics block their gut and keep them full when, in reality, they are without food in their stomachs.

© 2014 September 8 P. A. Regoniel

Solution to World Hunger: Eat the r Strategists

How can world hunger be resolved? The answer: through eating the r strategists! What are r-strategists and how can these animals help relieve pressure on animal populations that traditionally serve as human food? This article explores the possibility of consuming alternative food sources. 

The increasing demand for food of 7.2 billion people in the world puts pressure on conventional food sources. Thus, there is a need to explore alternative food sources. Scientists recommend the consumption of animals called r-strategists.

What are r strategists?

The so-called r-strategists are animals that reproduce so fast that chances for their populations to get depleted is much lower compared to other animals. These animals can live in unstable environments, meaning, situations and conditions where animal populations are under threat. The adaptive evolution is to have so many of their own kind. Thus saith the r/K theory that became popular in the 1970s.

For better understanding, let me define the r and the K in the r/K theory.

The r/K Theory

The r in the theory refers or comes from the word “rate.” This word reminds us to think about the rate of reproduction by which animals of this group propagate. These animals rapidly reproduce to compensate for their small size which easily become prey to other animals in the higher echelon of the food chain. And each of the offspring get less or no parental care. They can also easily adjust to environments that fluctuate. This adaptation strategy increases their chance to survive as a species.

aphids and ants
Ants and aphids are r-strategists because they rapidly reproduce and are small. These two organisms exhibit mutualism: the aphids provide the sugary honeydew they obtain from the guava to the ants while the ants provide them protection from their predators like the ladybugs (see an interesting ant defense here: http://www.pbase.com/antjes/lady_bug)

Meanwhile, the K in the theory refers to “carrying capacity.” In contrast to the r-strategists, animals that belong to this category undertake controls to their population by remaining close to the carrying capacity of their habitat. They adopt efficiency in resource use to maintain sustenance or adequate resources for each of the individuals in the face of scarce resources.

The carrying capacity of the habitat must not be exceeded to ensure the survival of these species. Thus, the K-strategists reproduce slowly, nurture their young, have larger bodies, and smaller in number compared to the r-strategists. These animals lie belong to the higher rung of the food chain, serving as “pools of nutrients” that can live in a stable habitat for a long time.

binturong
The bearcat Arctictis binturong is a K-strategist because gestation takes about 90 days and the average number of offspring per year is only two.

While recent theories like the Life History Theory supplanted the r/K theory, the terms r– and K-strategists are still used by scientists as this theory appears to be a necessary step in the study of animal adaptation to their environment. If you try to apply this theory by looking at the way animals propagate, it just makes sense. Small animals tend to produce more of their kind while the large animals reproduce slowly.

There are , however, always exceptions to any rule. For example, the bivalve Icelandic quahog (also known as black clam, Islandic cyprine, or black quahog) can live for more than 400 years! Also, the relatively small fish called orange roughy reproduce only upon reaching 20 years of age. And these fishes are estimated to live 149 years! This is the reason these fishes were not able to easily regain their population when their populations were subjected to intense fishing pressure in New Zealand, Australia and Namibia because of their popularity as food.

r-Strategists as Food?

hen and chicks
A free-ranging mother hen provides protection to its chicks.

Generally, the animals that are found acceptable by society to eat today are essentially K-strategists. These include meat coming from cows, swine, goat, chicken, among others. The last one, however, appears to lean on the r-strategists because of their short life span. Besides, these birds are domesticated and their growth is hastened to serve increasing fast food consumption demands.

We do eat fishes that are mostly r-strategists although we tend to consume too much of the wild populations. Thus, controls towards sustaining the population of these marine organisms are instituted in most countries  with intense fishing efforts.

Other r-strategists that are considered pests because of their great numbers may be considered as general food sources. For example, places like Thailand have exotic foods or foods that are generally regarded bizarre by people from other countries. These include fried crickets, earthworms, scorpions, steamed bugs, cockroaches, ant eggs and all sorts of bugs. These are all r-strategists since they reproduce rapidly but many find unpalatable despite their respectable nutritional value.

These pests are abundant in areas where people suffer malnutrition and lack of food. Is it time that these animals become a normal part of the diet? This may be the solution to world hunger. That is, if hungry people have the guts to fill their stomachs with such wiggly, wriggly and critty creatures.

Anyone ready to eat a crunchy and creamy cockroach?

References

Reznick, D.; Bryant, M. J.; and Bashey, F. ,2002. r-and K-selection revisited: the role of population regulation in life-history evolution. Ecology, 83 (6): 1509–1520. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2002)083[1509:RAKSRT]2.0.CO;2

Schleif, M. 2013. “Arctictis binturong” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 01, 2014 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Arctictis_binturong/

© 2014 September  2 P. A. Regoniel

Environmental Economics: Definition and Approach

Understand environmental economics by reading this article.

There is worldwide recognition that natural resources are finite. Hence, if used improperly, resources become scarce and finally get exhausted through time.

Anything in this world that gets scarce becomes more important, much more valuable than when it was in great supply. There is a need, therefore, to manage scarce resources to maximize their utility. This is the realm of economics.

The same applies to natural resources. As human population increases, more natural resources are required to provide for their needs. Thus, natural resources become scarce. Scarce natural resources, therefore, should be managed to ensure their availability not only for this generation but in generations to come. Environmental economics aims to satisfy this goal.

Environmental Economics Defined

Environmental economics is a branch of economics that uses economic principles in the study of people’s behavior in relation to their environment. It examines the way people make decisions that may either lead to environmental destruction or environmental enhancements. It clarifies options for decision-making by using economic tools.

This goes to say that whatever environmental degradation that results nowadays is a result of man’s deliberate disregard of the value of maintaining a viable store of natural resources. This behavior is considered unethical or immoral as it negatively impacts on other people’s welfare. The question of equity arises.

Examples of Unethical or Immoral Behavior Towards the Environment

What are examples of decisions that threaten environmental integrity? The following is a list of things that people do due to lack of ethical standards and immoral behavior:

  • indiscriminate throwing of wastes into waterways,coastal fishing
  • use of dynamite in fishing,
  • clear-cutting of forests especially in steep mountain slopes,
  • use of fine-mesh nets in catching fish,
  • trading of endangered species of plants or animals,
  • cutting of mangroves for charcoal,
  • mineral extraction without rehabilitation,

… and many others.

Why do people behave this way?

In the environmental economics perspective, the above behaviors occur because people have failed to see the value, or cost of their actions. This failure prevents them from making sound, rational decisions that work towards their advantage.

For example, had fishers known that if they have caught only the large or moderate-sized fish using the prescribed mesh size for their nets, there will still be enough fish to catch in the future. Enough fish populations are allowed to reproduce and the young allowed to grow to more valuable sizes, instead of just being dumped as by-catch. This means more profit for fishers as they don’t need to go farther away to catch migrating fish.

Why Use the Environmental Economics Approach?

Appealing to people’s morality or adherence to ethics does not usually appeal to many people. Changing people’s attitude and behavior take time. Actions to save the environment may be too late when finally, behavioral change is instituted among those who directly interact with their environment to make a living.

The economic incentive is one of the main reasons why people behave the way they do. If they realize that their action will have long-term consequences on their livelihood, they will voluntarily exhibit behavior towards adopting a better alternative. Thus, environmental economics help make clear the options by offering tools to balance the costs and benefits of their action.

Reference

Field, B. C. and M. K. Field, 2006. Environmental economics: an introduction, 4th ed. London: McGraw-Hill Irwin. 503 pp.

© 2014 June 7 P. A. Regoniel

Four Reasons Why We Should Save Endangered Species

Why do we need to save endangered species? Of what use are wildlife nearing extinction to the human race? This article lists four reasons why we should protect endangered species.

Some people do not understand the importance of keeping a healthy population of animals or plants on the planet. This article, therefore, aims to provide a deeper understanding of the need to preserve endangered species.

Why should we save endangered species? Here are four principal reasons why everyone should do their share in conserving these valuable natural resources:

Four Reasons for Saving Endangered Species

The following are the potential benefits from plants and animals that may be facing extinction:

1. Medicinal value

The drug digitalis, derived from purple foxglove, prevented the death of millions of people. Digitalis is used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF), fluid retention, irregular heartbeat, asthma, epilepsy, tuberculosis, headache, constipation, headache, and spasm. It can also heal wounds and burns. Withering (1785) described the healing properties of the plant as early as the 18th century.

purple foxglove
Digitalis purpurea

This observation means that if one plant species gets extinct, the potential benefits, such as a source of medicine, will be forfeited. However, many plants may be nearing extinction without our knowledge. These plants could contain thousands of important compounds that can lengthen the human lifespan.

Plants are not the only source of medicine. Animals have medicinal properties, too. Here is a list of animals and their medicinal uses:

  • leeches – secretions prevent coagulation and inflammation
  • vipers – elements in their venom control blood pressure
  • scorpion – brain tumor research uses its venom
  • shark – utilized in the study of certain forms of cancer and muscle degeneration
  • bees – honeybee products prevent microbes from thriving
  • lizards – secrete a toxin that may benefit diabetes sufferers
  • frog – produces compounds that prevent infection

2. Agricultural value

Wild species of plants can be a source of vital genes to improve crops that are grown today. Among those genes that scientists splice from the DNAs of plants are pest or disease resistance, salt tolerance, and drought resistance. These properties can help counter the effects of global climate change.

While there are concerns about the products of genetic engineering such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these products helped attain food security. People have had a reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. For example, genetic material from a wild corn species stopped a leaf fungus that previously wiped out 15% of US corn crop. Thus, more crop production ensued.

Animals such as gecko and spiders are also important natural pest control agents. Geckos feed on at least five different kinds of pests while spiders are known to prey on cockroaches.

3. Ecological value

Have you heard the popular quote “No man is an island?” No man stands alone.

Animal or plant extinction can drastically change an ecosystem.

Just like humans, an individual plant or animal could not live by itself. It has to interact with the other organisms as well as its environment to survive. Removing one animal or plant species from the ecosystem will compromise the life of other organisms that interact with it.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one lost plant species can lead to the loss of 30 other insects, plant, and other animal species found in the higher levels of the food chain. These individual species of plant or animal are sometimes called the keystone species. If that species is removed, the whole ecosystem will be changed drastically.

Examples to illustrate this importance of endangered species and how they link with other organisms are the following:

  • northern spotted owl – health indicator of the ancient forest of the Pacific Northwest
  • gray wolf – controls the population of the elk
  • killer whale – affects the diet of bald eagles (see illustration below)
killer whale and bald eagles
Chain of events that show how the killer whale can affect the diet of bald eagles.

Killer whales affect the diet of bald eagles.

The illustration shows the food chain dynamics in Alaska. If killer whales deplete the population of otters, the population of sea urchins will increase. Overfeeding of large algae by sea urchins will leave no place to hide or breeding places for fish that in turn will migrate to other areas. Once the fishes migrate, the bald eagle population switch their diet to marine birds. In this case, it appears that the keystone species are the sea otters.

 4. Bequest value

Leaving out a legacy for the next generation is a desirable value. We would like our children also to enjoy the benefits that could be gained from wildlife species, not only of their mere existence but for the potential benefits that they can provide.

How to Conserve Endangered Species

Endangered animals and plants, therefore, must be conserved by all means possible. Doable initiatives include the following strategies:

  • reforestation,
  • rehabilitation of degraded lands,
  • sustainable harvesting of timber and other natural products,
  • pollution reduction and prevention,
  • waste reduction and management, and
  • development of innovative strategies to conserve endangered species.

Can you think of other ways to conserve endangered species?

References

WebMD, n.d. Digitalis. Retrieved on May 23, 2014 from http://goo.gl/VvlfYD

Withering, W. (1785). An account of the foxglove, and some of its medical uses: with practical remarks on dropsy and other diseases. Classics of Medicine Library.

Zoo Granby, 2014. Why protect endangered species… So what? Retrieved on May 23, 2014 from http://goo.gl/6zFiZn

© 2014 May 23 P. A. Regoniel

Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (May 23, 2014). Four Reasons Why We Should Save Endangered Species. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2014/05/23/4-reasons-why-we-should-save-endangered-species/

14 Uses of Metals, Mining and Its Environmental Impact

What are the benefits of mineral mining and how does it affect the environment? How can environmental management maintain the ecological benefits derived from a healthy environment?

The extraction of valuable minerals from the earth has been a major preoccupation in many countries because of the society’s need for different kinds of metals to sustain economic growth. Metals have become a significant factor in the development of human society as these are closely associated with production of consumer items, facilities, transportation, among others that make life convenient to people.

14 Specific Uses of Metals

Specifically, valuable minerals serve as vital components of the following things that make life easy or convenient to people:

  1. computers that play a very significant role in today’s modern age,
  2. cars that bring people to their destination,
  3. airplanes that transport passengers across places and guard the country’s boundaries,
  4. railroad tracks and trains that bring masses of people from one place to another,
  5. ships that ferry people across the seas,
  6. farm machineries that make possible high volumes of crop production,
  7. cellphones and wires that facilitate communication between people,
  8. satellites that monitor the weather and aid in the study of the earth,
  9. construction materials for sturdy buildings and homes,
  10. appliances that make life convenient in homes,
  11. streetlights that illuminate the streets,
  12. kitchen wares for homes and restaurants,
  13. production of robots for various uses, and
  14. dams to supply the water and electricity needs of populated areas.

The list of the different uses of metals could go on and on among which the computers stand out as these have significantly affected modern living. Although advanced computer technology suggests that glass (fiber optic cables) will replace metals in the near future, currently, these are just indispensable.

Without metals all the above services will not be enjoyed by people. Because of metals, life has become much more convenient to man.

The Need to Mine and Its Environmental Impact

To keep on enjoying the benefits derived from metals, there is a need to mine these minerals from the earth. This is not easy, as it would take a lot of effort and cost to remove the valuable minerals from the metal ore. The ore is a naturally occurring solid material from which metals are extracted. From extraction to processing, mining activities have significant environmental impact.

Many environmental groups are against mineral mining because of its environmentally destructive impact. It spoils the ecological benefits humans derive from the environment like clean water, clean air, productive land, among others. Health-related concerns arise due to mining impacts on water brought about by acid mine drainage and increased soil erosion due to forest removal. Air quality is compromised due to increased emission of particulate matter. Soil quality deteriorates because of increased heavy metal input.

acid mine drainage
A defunct, unrehabilitated copper mine upstream in the remote island of Balabac, Palawan caused this bluish coloration, due to copper sulfate, of the stream bed. Locals noticed this occurring for more than 30 years.

The Need for Effective Environmental Management

While there are negative impacts to the environment as a result of mineral mining, the benefits must be weighed against the cost. Both the environment and metals are important to human life. This is the essence of environmental resource management.

Thus, there is a need to manage the interaction between mining as an important activity of human society and the environment. For this reason, environmental impact assessments are made before starting a mining project so that decision makers are best informed as to what steps to make to sustain the ecological benefits that a viable environment provides. While the mining activities are going on, periodic environmental monitoring is conducted, and finally, when mining is no longer profitable, proper restorative measures are undertaken. These actions will prevent environmental disasters from taking place.

©Patrick A. Regoniel 19 May 2014