Poor Places Are More Diverse
Eucalyptus is an amazing species. Grows on tough terrain where nutrition and water are low. After plantation you will get 300 KG of woods for the finest paper production in just 5 years. If you plant one in your backyard, it will keep the mosquitoes away. If you plant few of them in the farmland with crops, it will maintain water and salt balance of the soil.
But, due to great commercial value, people mass plant eucalyptus and the industrial plantations ultimately lead to deforestation. How? Well, no one wants to plant eucalyptus commercially on farmlands where they grow foods. In solidarity, this species may not pose any threat to others, but, in community, numbers like 1000 of them together will kill almost all species of plants and insects in that area breaking the cycle of biodiversity completely. Moreover, even after harvest they will leave the ground so dry, nothing will grow on that soil. Together, they are like a nuclear bomb. It takes several decades for the land to heal. In Indonesia and Australia some of the lands never recovered after commercial farming.
It is confusing, because, in Australia there are naturally grown forests of eucalyptus where they grow in mass and house the cutie koala bears. They do not threat the biodiversity. Then, why commercial farming of this species is devastating? The answer is monoculture. During, commercial plantation people clear the area first. Replace, diverse group of plants with the single plant species.
Monoculture is the term that we are all familiar with in Bangladesh. We also think monoculture leads to barren lands, because, a certain plant consume nutrient from a certain level of soil. Which is true, but, actual danger lies underneath the soil. Shallow rooted plants like most vegetables and crops help rise of water level in soil which increases salinity and deep rooted plants like eucalyptus decreases water level of soil leaving the land completely dry.
Diversity balances the ecosystem of the naturally grown forests; rain or no rain. Take rainforests and shrub lands for example.
Rainforest soil is not rich or fertile, it is highly acidic. Moreover, the high temperature and moisture of rainforest causes dead organic matter in the soil to decompose more quickly than in other climates, thus releasing and losing its nutrients rapidly. Still, rainforests are so green. May be because, rainforests have 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 known plant species to complement each other.
Similarly, a shrub land’s diversity is equal to a rainforest by area where only 200mm of rain falls a year.
Human society is not so different from that of plants. Competition for resources is the basic rule of nature, but, it is not only the resources that keep us alive. How weird it is that our competitors actually fulfill us.
Nature is a great teacher. But, her patterns are so repetitive, it is like sound of raindrops. After a while, our brains do not register them anymore.