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Bioresources, biocapacity of ecosystems, and related terms.

Biological resources are life generated materials and processes which are naturally and sustainably renewable and biodegradable. As such, biological resources fulfil man’s essential, fundamental needs : food, feed, bioactive molecules, fuel, shelter, fiber, bio-remediation etc. They play a key role in present and future socio-economic evolutions (also see Knowledge-based bio-economy concept, KBBE ; [1]).

The Cartagena Protocol on biodiversity (1992) specifies “the genetic resources are organisms or parts of them, populations or any other biotic element of ecosystems having an effective or potential use or value for mankind” [2].

The EU thematic strategy on the sustainable use of natural resources defines them as « raw materials such as minerals, biomass and biological resources ; environmental media such as air, water and soil ; flow resources such as wind, geothermal, tidal and solar energy ; and space as land area ». The EC communication « Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe » defines natural resources as « raw materials, energy, water, air, land and soil, biodiversity, stable climate and ecosystem services » [3]. For WTO, natural resources consist of “the materials stores that can be found in their natural environment which are both rare and economically useful either at a raw state or after a minimum transformation.” [4].

Biocapacity (Biological capacity) :

The capacity of ecosystems to produce useful biological materials and to absorb waste materials generated by humans, using current management schemes and extraction technologies. The capacity of a given territory reflects its specific natural potential in terms of available resources under given management skills. Expressed in hectares per capita. Degradation of biocapacity generates high level of social and environmental vulnerability (also see carrying capacity and resilience) [5-6].
Carrying capacity : the carrying capacity of a biological species in a given environment is the maximum population size of this species that the environment can sustain indefinitely, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available. If the population size of the species is over its carrying capacity, the environment will be degraded more or less quickly and consequently will not sustain the population which in turn will decrease. Moreover, if the environment itself has its resources decreasing in reason of an abiotic cause, the carrying capacity will decrease [7].

Ecosystem :

a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their physical environment.
Species diversity : the total number of species in an area ; also, the proportional distribution of species in a given area.
Functional diversity : the number of functional roles represented in an ecosystem.

Ecological footprint :

A measure of how much biologically productive land and water an individual, population or activity requires to produce all the resources it consumes and to absorb the waste it generates using prevailing technology and resource management practices. Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste [8].
Ecological deficit : the difference between the biocapacity and ecological footprint of a region or country. An ecological deficit occurs when the Footprint of a population exceeds the biocapacity of the area available to that population.

Ecological reserve :

an ecological reserve exists when the biocapacity of a region exceeds its population’s Footprint. Also consider terms as biodiversity buffer / ecosystem buffer : the amount of biocapacity set aside to maintain representative ecosystem types and viable populations of species (related to resilience of ecosystems).

Ecosystem services (synonym : Life support systems) :

“The benefits people obtain from ecosystems” [9]. Resources and processes supplied by natural ecosystems (including clean drinking water, decomposition of waste). Divided into 4 types : provisioning, such as the production of food and water ; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease ; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination ; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.
Some of the services provided by ecosystems include the components used in fabricating food, clothing, medicine, and energy production. Recreation and passive ecosystem services are significant as well. These include fishing, hunting, hiking, birding, camping, water filtration/purification, climate moderation, flood mitigation, erosion prevention, and pest management.

Natural Capital :

stock of natural ecosystems yielding a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future ; the key is the function of the whole system.
Resilience : the return time of a perturbed system to the equilibrium ; the shorter the return time is, the more stable the system is [10].

Sustainability :

implies the use of (bio)resources at rates that do not exceed the capacity of the Earth to replace them. In other words, maintaining ecosystem services and biodiversity while feeding the world [11] implies limiting the deleterious impacts of conventional agriculture through the proper and intensive use of the natural functions and services the ecosystems provide. This is called sustainable intensification, i.e. “producing more food from the same area of land while reducing the environmental impacts “ [12-17].

1. Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE) []
2. Convention on Biological Diversity - The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety []
3. Resources efficiency in Europe, European Environment Agency report []
4. World Trade Report 2010 []
5. Global Footprint Network - Glossary []
6. WWF - 2010 Living Planet Report []
7. Carrying capacity []
8. Global Footprint Network - World Footprint, Do we fit on the planet ? []
9. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Reports []
10. Pimm SL : Number of trophic levels in ecological communities. Nature 1977, 268:329-331.
11. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills []
12. 21st Century Vision and Action Plan for the Ecological Society of America []
13. Godfray HCJ, Beddington JR, Crute IR, Haddad L, Lawrence D, Muir JF, Pretty J, Robinson S, Thomas SM, Toulmin C : Food security : the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science 2010, 327:812.
14. Griffon M : Nourrir la planète. Paris : Odile Jacob 2006.
15. Palmer M, Bernhardt E, Chornesky E, Collins S, Dobson A, Duke C, Gold B, Jacobson R, Kingsland S, Kranz R : Ecology for a crowded planet. Science 2004, 304:1251.
16. Koshel P, McAllister K : Transitioning to sustainability through research and development on ecosystem services and biofuels : workshop summary. Natl Academy Pr ; 2008.
17. Sciences TNAo : Valuing Ecosystem Services : Toward Better Environmental Decision Making. In Book Valuing Ecosystem Services : Toward Better Environmental Decision Making (Editor ed.^eds.). City : The National Academies Press Washington ; 2004.

Publié ou mis à jour le 14 juin 2012