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Unformatted text preview: land became
uncultivable. When Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, much of the soil was washed away in mudslides that
displaced half the population and reduced agricultural production by 95 percent. Meanwhile, communities in
the area developed a lower immunity to malaria. When the low-immunity population moved north to
rainforests that could support them, they encountered high concentrations of malaria-bearing mosquitoes,
which lead to a rapid rise in the number of malaria cases. This chain of unpredictable events illustrates the
complexity of our environment and its sensitivity to human-driven change. To reduce the potential for
negative “environmental surprises,” we should practice the precautionary principle and minimize how much
change we introduce to the environment.
As an example of ecosystem services and the effects of environmental degradation we will look at forest
ecosystems and the problem of deforestation. Later we will cover most of the ecosystem services listed in Table
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- Fall '14