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Overexploitation of resources
- Biodiversity and development challenges in Africa

If renewable resources are harvested at a rate greater than their regeneration rate, the long-term flow of benefits is reduced, and they are said to be overharvested. When natural capital is drawn down too far, fundamental ecosystem changes can occur which make ecosystem recovery to full service delivery potential very slow or impossible, and degradation is said to have occurred. Degraded ecosystems support half or less of the biodiversity of non-degraded used ecosystems.

Much overharvesting is the unintended side effect of activities aimed at harvesting just one or a few components of the ecosystem. The discarded “bycatch” in fisheries and the habitat destruction caused by logging are examples of this. Regulatory policies that pay no heed to anything other than the target species encourage this kind of damage.

Overharvesting is a problem in many localities. For example, about 9 percent of rangelands south of the equator are grazed by domestic livestock at unsustainable rates. The fish stocks in the Great Lakes (Lake Victoria in particular) show classic symptoms of overfishing, and marine fish stocks in Western and Eastern Africa are at risk of overfishing.

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