A healthy functioning ecosystem and biodiversity depend on the interconnected nature of all forms of life, from the smallest single-cell organisms to the largest trees and mammals.

Look at one of man’s worst enemies, the mosquito. In 1987, malaria was one of the leading causes of mortality in Madagascar. The World Bank and other helping hands took a stand to eradicate mosquitoes on the island by using Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). The efforts to eradicate the mosquitoes were relatively successful, and malaria cases became less and less, but removing mosquitoes from the ecosystem had severe adverse effects. Various reptiles on the island were dependent on the mosquitoes as a primary food source. With that removed from the food chain, various reptile species subsequently started dying off. The death of reptiles led to the further death of predatory animals dependent on the reptiles as a source of food. The knock-on effects led to one of the most significant declines in animal life on the island, other than deforestation.

Agriculture has similar effects on biodiversity. Agriculture thrives when monoculture crops can be planted in large quantities to ensure high yields and financial gains. However, the monoculture farming approach does not allow other plants or even animals to live within orchards or fields. Therefore, agriculture not only removes certain foods from the food chain, but it also removes habitat, soil additives degrade the content of the soil where microorganisms used to thrive, and wildlife is forced to relocate or suffer the consequences.

A change on the horizon 

Understanding the effects of biodiversity disturbances might cause panic, but it should, in fact, do the opposite. The Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) focuses on the interconnected nature of biodiversity and assists agri-business owners in understanding what can be done to ensure that biodiversity disturbances are kept to a minimum.

Biodiversity management starts with the responsible usage of all agrochemicals, planning of orchard development and planting to allow for biodiversity to live alongside farming activities, the management and preservation of natural areas to ensure that wildlife will not be dependent on agricultural crops, and controlling invasive plant and animal species to ensure that natural fauna and flora can thrive and support ecosystems surrounding farms.

Working with SIZA will assist suppliers to ensure that both existing and developing farms can incorporate sustainable biodiversity management practices.