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Saving Biodiversity: Bees, Amazon Forests, and Coral Reefs in Crisis

Saving Biodiversity: Bees, Amazon Forests, and Coral Reefs in Crisis



An Examination of Biodiversity and Its Significance.

The variety of life found on Earth, or biodiversity, is essential to the resilience and health of ecosystems. It includes the genetic diversity of living organisms and the ecosystems they construct, ranging from minuscule microorganisms to the largest mammals. Our planet is sustained by the invaluable services provided by this lush tapestry of life. Pollination, nutrient cycling, and water purification are life-sustaining processes that biodiversity supports, in addition to preserving ecosystem productivity and geochemical equilibrium. Furthermore, it is inextricably linked to the survival and welfare of humanity, as it supplies nourishment, facilitates medical breakthroughs, and introduces cultural diversity. 

1- Bees


Bees are stinging insects with wings. They collect nectar and pollen from different flowers to produce wax and honey. Bees include a large group of insects, and honeybees are one of the most prominent insects in this group. The population of the honey bee is declining day by day due to the increasing population, rapid urbanization, an increase in deforestation, and the use of insecticides and pesticides on crops. A major decline in the honey bee population was observed after the 1990s, as reported by the GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility), due to the above-mentioned reasons. There was a rapid decline between 2006 and 2015; of the few bee species, only 25% were observed as compared to the species known before the 1990s. Bees include almost 20,000 species in their lineage, which are now declared to be endangered species. For example, halictid bees, also known as sweat bees, help in the pollination of crops including alfalfa, sunflower, etc. and are reported to have declined by 17% in population since the 1990s. 

There is an alarming decline in the bee population, specifically, the honeybee, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). According to a case study, conducted in the US, in 2006, the beekeepers found that there was a 30 to 90% decrease in the population of the bees. According to studies by Ohio State University, there is a 30% decline in the honey bee population each winter, which is almost double compared to the loss in the previous few years, which was about 10 to 15% then.

Sustainability MindMap Diagram

The multifaced importance of biodiversity:


Biodiversity means the variety of organisms, for example, different varieties of plants and animals, to keep the balance in the ecosystem. It is important to maintain different varieties of organisms to keep the environment and natural habitat working effectively. For example, an uncontrolled increase in the population of wild rabbits and related animals causes a loss of almost $200 million each year. Biodiversity is crucial to maintaining ecological balance, the economic value of the agricultural industry, medicinal resources, genetic diversity, and resilience to climate change.

The decline of the bee populations


There are more than 20,000 known species of bees known for their role in pollination, honey production, and other purposes. They are grouped under the superfamily Apoidea and Clade Anthophila. These species are categorized into seven recognized biological families. Some species that live in the form of large communities are almost 10%, these species include honeybees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. Meanwhile, 90% of species live in solitude; they include mason bees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, etc. Bee species play an important role in the pollination process, which is necessary for the reproduction process of flowering plants and increasing crop yield. The pollination process is crucial for fruits, vegetables, and seed production of some flowering plants, and different bee species such as honey bees, carpenter bees, feral bees, and long-tongued bees play an important role in this process. The honey bee is another species of bee that produces honey and wax that is used for medicinal, nutritional, and cosmetic production purposes.


Types of bees and their role in the ecosystem:

 Sustainability MindMap Diagram

The bee species are classified into seven bee families, including the Apidae, Halictidae, Megachilidae, Andrenidae, Colletidae, Melittidae, and Strenotritidae families. There are many types of bees being identified based on their habitat, size, and functions, some of them are;

1- Honey bee

2- Garden Bumble Bee 

3- Common Eastern Bumble Bee

4- Violet Carpenter Bee

5- Hairy-footed Flower Bee

6- Southeastern Blueberry Bee

7- Squash Bee

8- Sweat Bee

9- Mason Bee

10- Tawny Mining Bee

These bee types play an important role in the pollination and fertilization of the different flowering plants and crops and in the production of useful products such as honey by honeybees. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a third of the world’s food production is contributed by bees. According to the reports of IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), the Western honeybee is one of the major contributors to the pollination process globally, and 80 million hives of this species produce 1.6 million tons of honey per year. Bees are an important factor in the production of high-quality food, beeswax, propolis, and honey bee venom.


Importance of Bees in Pollination and Agriculture:

 Bees in Pollination and Agriculture:

Pollination of plants is contributed by animals up to 30%, mainly insects and bees. The crops pollinated by the bees provide one-third of the world's food. Bees carry the pollen grains from one plant to another and cause the fertilization of the flowering plants necessary for their reproduction, bringing good genetic variations that result in a good yield for the crops. For example, a study conducted in Burkina Faso (an African country) revealed that the pollination of crops by honey bees and wild bees has increased the yield by up to 62%, meanwhile, in the absence of pollinators, there was a 37% decrease in cotton yield and 59% in sesame yield.

In the United States, the pollination process aided by the honey bee provides $15 billion to $20 billion to the country’s economy. Different plants are grown for food, spice, medicine, and fiber purposes, and their yield is improved by cross-pollination; for example, coffee, peaches, almonds, blueberries, apples, peaches, etc. are being produced to meet dietary needs and to generate revenue.


Causes of the bee population's decline

Habitat loss and fragmentation: 

Habitat loss and fragmentation have largely affected the population of bees. Increasing population and urbanization have destroyed the natural habitats for bees and divided the agricultural lands into fragments. It is difficult for the bees to travel across distant agricultural areas to collect the nectar and promote pollination. 

Pesticide use and its impact:

Pesticides are the major factor in declining the bee population. They disturb the body functions of bees and cause their deaths. Bees exposed to the pesticide have 44% fewer offspring, which also affects their growth rate.


Climate change effects:


Climate changes such as global warming, reduction of water resources, and weather changes are also reasons for the decline in bee populations. These changes drive the bees to migrate to areas with favorable conditions. The severe weather changes cause difficulties for bees in managing their nutritional requirements and the aging structure of the colonies. The foraging behavior of bees for the search for food and the memorization of food source locations are also disturbed by these changes.


Diseases and parasites affecting bees:


Different brood diseases, such as American foulbrood and European foulbrood, are the major contributors to the killing of honeybees at the larval and pupil stages. There are some diseases caused by parasites, such as nosema, which is caused by the deformed wing virus, and the chronic bee paralysis virus, which is caused by viruses. Varroa mites are the largest parasites that cause the death of honeybees. They feed on the hemolymph of adult bees and also on larvae and pupae. Other examples include acarapiosis and tropilaelaps.


Sustainability MindMap Diagram

 Impacts on Global Agriculture and Economy:

 The decline of the bee population has severe effects on global agriculture because pollination, which helps increase yield and reproduction, depends on insects and bees. There would be an estimated 90% decrease in pumpkin production and 80% in the case of blueberries. The production of different food items such as chocolate, almonds, coffee, tomatoes, melons, etc. is dependent on the bees for the pollination process. According to the research conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the reduced pollination has reduced fruit, vegetable, and nut production by 3–5%. The research also found that there was a 10–30% decrease in overall agricultural production in the lower-income countries.

If the bee population kept on declining at the present rate, there would be the following consequences:

1- The reproduction of wild plants will be badly affected.

2- Decreased production of fruits and vegetables

3- lower food production and high prices of food

4- shortage of products like honey and beeswax

5- Ecological imbalance

Sustainability MindMap Diagram

Conservation efforts and solutions:


Sustainable farming practices can be a source to avoid the decline of the bee population and promote their growth. These practices involve the plantation of diverse varieties of flowering plants and the limited and controlled use of pesticides and insecticides. Reforestation and limiting habitat fragmentation can also be sources to improve the bee's growth and increase their population. In May 2018, three insecticides known as neonicotinoids were banned by the European Union to avoid their harmful impacts on bees and the pollination process.

Provision of bee-friendly habitats, which include areas with abundant water, bee shelters, diverse varieties of native and wild flowering plants, nectar-rich flowers, etc. Research and technology are helping beekeepers to monitor the requirements for better bee farming and to increase their population. Sensors are being developed that monitor the condition of the hives to reduce losses and improve the health of bees. A technology start-up in Ireland named Apisprotect launched a sensor that measures temperature, humidity, and movements to keep the bee colonies in balance. Another startup named Pollenity, working in Bulgaria, and Arnia, in the United Kingdom, are also working to achieve the same purposes. The Beebot sensor developed by Pollenity is being used by beekeepers to improve bee farming.

Sustainability MindMap Diagram


2-Deforestation in the Amazon

 Deforestation in the Amazon

The Amazon Rainforest: A biodiversity hotspot;

Amazon is an ecosystem with the most biodiversity on the planet Earth. There are more than 3 million species living in the Amazon, and there are over 2500 tree species there. These plant species account for one-third of all tropical trees present on the earth. There is a vast diversity of different species, including insects, animals, and plants, which make up almost 10% of the world’s known species. Amazon is being declared the carbon sink as it consumes most of the carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the environment. There are approximately 390 billion individual trees in the Amazon, which are a major source of the earth’s oxygen. We emit almost 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year, 2 billion of which is absorbed by the Amazon, which is almost 5%. The Amazon forest also has a great impact on the global water system; it regulates rainfall patterns through the evaporation of water (almost 20 billion tons per day) and the overall earth’s water system. The Amazon River contributes 209,00 cubic meters of water per second to the Atlantic Ocean, which helps with global water circulation.

Sustainability MindMap Diagram


Causes of Amazon Deforestation

Agriculture expansion:

 Agriculture expansion is one of the main reasons for Amazon deforestation. The increased population demands more food and shelter. Agriculture expansion has contributed to almost 20% of Amazon deforestation, which is going to be approximately 27% by the year 2030.

Illegal logging and mining:

 Mining activities in the Brazilian Amazon have contributed more than 10% to Amazon deforestation over the past few years. Mining causes water seepage, soil erosion, and destruction of the top layer of fertile soil, which slowly leads to deforestation near mining areas. Illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest for high-quality timber is another reason for the deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil and Peru. According to the reports of OSNIFOR, illegal logging of 389,000 m3 was reported between October 2017 and November 2018 in Peru only.


Infrastructure development:


To provide facilities such as roads, residences, dams, etc. to the people has led to the deforestation of the Amazon. Large areas of the forest are being cleared for these purposes, and it is destroying the lungs of the earth. Infrastructure has put almost 68% of protected areas of the Amazon at risk, as reported by RAISG. In countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, and Ecuador, the construction of 12,000 km of roads can lead to the deforestation of 2.4 million hectares of Amazon rainforest in the next five years, as reported by the New York Declaration on Forests. 

 Sustainability MindMap Diagram

Species extinction and loss of habitat:


Amazon deforestation is causing the extinction of species and the loss of habitat. Deforestation causes the scarcity of food, climate change, and disturbance in the natural rain circle, and these factors are very important for the survival of any species. Thousands of species of animals, plants, and insects are at risk of extinction, including giant otters, spider monkeys, jaguars, Amazon river dolphins, and orchards.

The Amazon deforestation is causing long-term ecological implications such as increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, disturbed rain cycles, unwanted climate changes, etc. The Amazon, being the lungs of the Earth, absorbs one-fourth of the total CO2 emitted, and deforestation has decreased this CO2 absorption by 30%. The increased CO2 concentration is causing problems like global warming and climate change globally. These changes are unwanted for not only plants and animals but also for humans. The natural rain cycles are also getting disturbed, which is in turn damaging the water circulation system of the Amazon River, which is the source of income for many countries as agriculture is dependent on it.


Conservation strategies and international efforts:


International communities and governments are aware of the importance of the Amazon rainforest, and they have taken some initiatives to preserve its integrity. The Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization is an international organization that was founded to preserve and promote the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon Cooperation Treaty was signed by seven countries, including Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Guyana, Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia, and Suriname, to meet the objectives and goals of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization. In 2007, Ecuador introduced a plan to preserve the Amazon rainforest, which called for the development of heavy oil deposits in the Yasuni rainforest if international communities and the UN provided the necessary funds. However, the government abandoned the plan in 2013, due to a lack of resources. 

The Amazon Region Protected Areas (APRA) was developed by the Brazilian government with the help of the WWF, the German Development Fund, and the Global Environment Facility in the

 year 2002. In 2008, under APRA, 25.3 million hectares of new parks were created as an effort toward Amazon restoration. Reforestation is an important step in the restoration of the Amazon rainforest. Limiting the use of forest land for infrastructure and human residence, sustainable agricultural practices, mining, and illegal logging control are the major factors in controlling Amazon deforestation.

Sustainability MindMap Diagram


            3-Coral bleaching and Marine Biodiversity

Coral Reefs: Ecosystem Underwater:

 Coral Reefs

Coral reefs are massive rocky structures formed in the oceans due to the deposition of the limestone contributed by the sac-like animals known as coral polyps. These animals obtain calcium carbonate from seawater and use it for their hard-skeleton formation; later on, these skeletons get deposited and form these massive structures. Coral reefs support approximately 25% of the marine species. Coral reefs provide food, shelter, and a place of reproduction for different marine species. Coral reefs support almost 4000 species of fish and 800 species of hard corals. Algae that grow on coral reefs are a major contributor to oxygen in the ocean water. 

They reduce the pressure of ocean waves and help marine life protect themselves from marine predators, and also rear their young ones.  They also play an important role in maintaining the carbon and nitrogen cycles to make water healthy for marine life. Coral reefs are home to a large number of species, including fish, crustaceans, sponges, mollusks, and a large number of invertebrates. There are almost 2,000 species of sponges, 14 species of sea snakes, 630 species of echinoderms, and 500 species of marine algae. These species were found in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), which was listed as World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 1981.


Coral bleaching: Causes and mechanisms

 Coral Bleach

Impact of rising sea temperatures:


High temperatures in seawater can result in the bleaching of corals, When the temperature increases, coral polyps release the algae (Zooxanthellae) that contributes to the color of the corals, resulting in coral bleaching. These algae also provide food to the coral polyps. When bleaching occurs, the

Polyps undergo a stress period, and they can’t deposit calcium carbonate properly to form skeletons, which results in low coral formation and coral bleaching.


Pollution and destructive fishing practices:


These are also major contributors to coral bleaching and damaging coral structures. Pollutants and toxic chemicals from domestic and industrial waste damage the coral structure and deteriorate the water quality necessary for the development of coral structures. Increased heavy metals and other minerals increase the growth of damaging algae, which disrupts corals and their biodiversity. Blast fishing and cyanide fishing techniques are also major factors in damaging the coral reefs.


Effects of bleaching on coral health:


1- weakened coral structures

2- corals' vulnerability to diseases

3- an increased mortality rate of coral biodiversity

4- overall disturbance in the marine ecosystem


Effects on marine biodiversity and human societies:


Coral reefs support more than 25% of species in the marine ecosystem in terms of food shelter and reproduction stations. Coral bleaching results in increased diseases, and a lack of shelter and food sources for marine species such as fish, mollusks, and other important invertebrates. Coral reefs are also important for holding the pressure of water waves, weakened coral structures can increase the risks of floods and tsunamis.

Coral reefs are home to species that are an important part of the food chain. Fish, crabs, and other marine species are consumed by humans as part of their food. A large number of human populations are associated with the fisheries for their livelihood, and corals are very important factors aiding this process. More than 4,000 species that reside in corals lose their habitat when coral structures get affected. Almost $30 billion is contributed globally by coral reefs in terms of fisheries, tourism, and protection of the coastal lines. Most of the islands and coastal countries earn 20% of their GDP from tourism and fishing supported by coral reefs. If the bleaching and degradation of corals can’t be stopped, it will result in economic loss, food shortages, and natural disasters such as tsunamis.

 Sustainability MindMap Diagram

Mitigation and Adaption Strategies:


As coral reefs are an important buffer for maintaining marine ecosystems, there is a dire need to take sustainable steps and adopt strategies for the conservation of coral reefs. One of these strategies was the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) by the World Congress on National Parks in 1962. The largest MPA covers 1.55 million km2 squares in the Ross Sea, which was agreed upon by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources held in Hobart, Australia. The aim behind the development of these areas was to conserve marine biodiversity, protect marine species from harmful human activities such as pollution, and lessen their effects on corals and other marine life.

Coral reef restoration involves strategies like the revival of damaged coral reefs through coral transplantation and using artificial structures. Improved water quality is also an important factor in the restoration of coral reefs. Coral reef rehabilitation involves strategies like controlling pollution and mitigating climate change. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we will lose 90% of coral reefs, even if the global temperature increase is kept to 1.5°C by the year 2050. Increased temperature causes coral bleaching and leads to the death of coral polyps. There is a need to manage industrial waste and its disposal in the oceans and also to address climate change to avoid these harmful impacts.


Sustainability MindMap Diagram

Personal action and community involvement guide:

Call to action


Personal actions can play an important role in the development of an ecologically balanced ecosystem. These actions involve:

1- Support sustainable agricultural practices

2- Conservation of the water resources, as water is an essential medium of life for marine life and all other forms of life.

3- Reduce carbon footprint by using energy-efficient appliances and renewable energy resources, to reduce pollution and waste, which is harmful to our eco-system 

4- Adopt responsible tourism ethics while visiting a forest or an ocean to minimize any harmful impact. 

As a community, it is our responsibility to educate others about the sustainability of an ecosystem and to participate in restoration and rehabilitation projects such as plantation of trees

and reforestation. Plantations of flowering plants can help the bee population to grow, and other sustainable practices, such as the use of biodegradable materials in packaging and clothing can help reduce industrial waste. Limiting the use of plastic, conserving water resources, and limiting the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides can be helpful in the development of a sustainable ecosystem.


A future perspective on environmental issues:


Environmental issues such as the decline of the bee population, Amazon deforestation, coral reef bleaching, and marine biodiversity extinction can’t be looked at anymore. For example, bees play an important role in the production of food and other useful products through pollination, and we are contributing much to the decline of their population by increasing climate change and reducing their habitat. The same is the case with Amazon deforestation due to overpopulation, illegal mining, logging, and bleaching of coral reefs with increasing global warming. If conditions prevail like this for a long time, we will face a severe shortage of food, quality air, and oxygen to breathe in, as well as a shortage of marine food sources. Now it is time to take action, both as individuals and as a community, to tackle the above-mentioned environmental crisis.


Our role in a sustainable future:


Being the inhabitants of this planet, it is our responsibility to maintain an ecological balance and bring sustainability into the ecosystem. We can bring durability and hope for a sustainable future by adopting eco-friendly practices such as reducing the waste of water, using energy-efficient appliances, and decreasing the dependency on non-renewable energy resources, etc. It is our responsibility to support sustainable product-making businesses, and governmental policies should also be followed strictly to bring about a green revolution and bring this environmental crisis into balance.



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