While biodiversity is a hot topic, conservation of biodiversity might easily be considered the 800 pound elephant in the room. Defining biodiversity is complicated enough: is it just the animal and plant life of a region, or the actual planet supporting them? Does it include or exclude human beings? Can biodiversity and development coexist?
North America is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world, with ecospheres that vary from deserts to seashores and everything in between. However, North American biological diversity is in great danger. While most of the threats are relegated to one country or another, several of them affect two of the three countries, and their effects and their consequences will potentially affect the entire continent.
The real problem we face, however, is the conservation of biodiversity. While everyone agrees that conserving natural resources is a good idea, there is no consensus on how to go about it.
Every group, from governmental agencies to agribusinesses to concerned individuals has their own idea of what conservation of biodiversity means, and what measures should be taken to achieve it. Further, each group has its own agenda to pursue, and may regard some factors of conservation of biodiversity as threats to those agendas.
Part of the problem is that conservation of biodiversity is quite costly. We are just beginning to develop the technologies necessary to preserve biodiversity hotspots, but trying to restore an area to its original state is not only costly, it is often impossible. Further, no one solution fits all hotspots. What is needed in, for example, the Aral Sea region is not necessarily what will work in the Everglades.
In the first area, what is needed is reworking the irrigation systems to restore proper salinity of the remaining water, and prevent further seepage due to the composition of the irrigation channels.
In the second area, the restoration of the Everglades would require, among other things, reclamation and reflooding of land currently owned privately or by agribusinesses requiring costly and time-consuming negotiations with each of the landowners in question, and, in the case of the agribusinesses, other areas would have to be found to grow their products, lest food shortages arise as a result of the land reclamation.
In other cases, reclamation of the land might include destroying current housing developments or factories, with the collateral losses of jobs in an what might be an economically depressed area.
With so many groups and interests, and the high costs, it is clear that the conservation of biodiversity is a complicated matter. Yet, if it is not resolved during our lifetimes, the problems we leave our descendants will be even more complicated and harder to resolve.