Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rural Community Aids Biodiversity

Certain rural communities in Oaxaca, Mexico have been shown to increase biodiversity by farming forest lands sparingly and letting the land lay fallow for as long as 40 years before returning to the same plot. The secondary forest growth that occurs after crop cultivation contains different species than the primary forest growth that surrounds it, increasing local biodiversity. It is therefore a growing concern that as migration to urban areas increases, forest biodiversity may start to suffer; fewer people will remain on the farmlands, resulting in the cultivation of fewer and less diverse crops.

In order to protect the floral and faunal forest species, laws restricting the territory available for farming have been put into effect. Though well-intentioned, the preservation of larger areas of land does not automatically equate to the preservation of more biodiversity. In this case, the rural farms add to the number of species that are present in the forest ecosystem, and limiting the amount of land that farmers can utilize, paired with urban migration, will ultimately lower biodiversity. We must therefore consider, when passing new legislation, the relative importance of conserving a larger area of land versus protecting a larger number of species. Rural Oaxaca may have to choose one over the other.

Robson, James P. and Berkes, Fikret. “Exploring some of the myths of land use change: Can

rural to urban migration drive declines in biodiversity?” Global Environment Change 21: 884-854. August 2011.

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