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Biodiversity and Human Livelihood Crises in the Malay Archipelago

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The unprecedented destruction of tropical habitats is precipitating a catastrophic biodiversity crisis (e.g. Brook et al. 2003) and adversely affecting humanity through the loss of nature’s services including climate regulation flood protection and crop pollination (Balmford & Bond 2005). The close link between human well-being and healthy ecosystems has recently been demonstrated by the devastating Asian tsunami El Nino-induced fires and ˜ the emergence of noxious zoonotic diseases (Danielsen et al. 2005; Sodhi & Brook 2006). Nevertheless the conservation of tropical biodiversity has been difficult to achieve as witnessed by the serious shortfall in protectedarea coverage (Rodrigues et al. 2004). Most areas with exceptionally rich but imperiled biodiversity are inhabited by rural people who are among the poorest in the world. The communities they comprise often extract natural resources from protected biodiversity-rich areas disputing the legitimacy of protection. The apparent conflict between protection of biodiversity and development of rural livelihoods has fueled long-standing debates be tween conservation biologists and social scientists (e.g. Wilkie et al. 2006). Biologists often consider some human activities as compromising biodiversity protection whereas some social scientists view certain biodiversityprotection efforts as infringing on the rights of local peoples and jeopardizing their livelihoods (Terborgh 2000; Brechin et al. 2003). The tropics include many postcolonial emerging nations where the failure of governments and their institutions to address environmental degradation and social injustices exacerbates the conflicts (Sodhi & Brook 2006)

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