Why Is Biodiversity Important?
When we think of biodiversity, probably the first thing that comes to mind is a lush rainforest teeming with all sorts of animals and insects. However, biodiversity does not apply strictly to distant lands that host exotic species. Biodiversity can also be found in our homes, on a small and microscopic level. From the fungus that might develop in the bathroom, to little birds nesting on our window sills. It is a broad term that encompasses several other subclasses. Biologists speak in terms of species diversity, genetic diversity and ecosystem diversity. All are important aspects of Earth’s biodiversity. In this article, we’re going to look at why is biodiversity important to the health of our planet and what can we do to preserve it.
Biodiversity and Humans
Scientists suggest that nearly 10 million different species exist on Earth if not more, out of which they only studied and named nearly 2 million. It might seem like such a great number that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter if some disappear. However, it is a great importance to us as humans if we think in terms of why is biodiversity important to us.
Humans constantly interact with their surrounding environment for their survival. From bacteria to plants and animals, they provide us with raw materials that we can then transform into objects that are useful to us. The great variety of organisms in nature is extremely beneficial to us.
On a larger scale, think about the meat the animals provide us with. Not only that but also the clothes we make might come from animal fibers. The food crops we harvest are part of our dietary needs. Plants are also a necessary part in order to maintain an animal’s health. Plant fibers yet again are a raw material for our clothes. In agriculture, farmers use organic compounds to break down waste and keep the soil rich in vital minerals.
On a smaller scale, single cell organisms like bacteria are part of the manufacturing process in the pharmaceutical industry. Almost half of the prescription drugs sold on a global scale contain compounds naturally found in plant and animal species.
Nurturing the Cycle
Evidently, humans are not the only species relying on biodiversity. In truth, it is a cycle that benefits all organisms when maintained. Species need to interact with other species in a different ecosystem, and the ecosystems can then expand and breed other organisms. This is a crucial reason why biodiversity is important to us.
Take the example of pollination. Honeybees are a well-known pollinator that helps plants spread their seeds and sprout new flowers. Today, there is a crisis concerning these species, with beekeepers reporting losses of 30-90% of their hives. Pesticides and other pathogens might be the reason the bee population is dwindling, now at a faster rate than any other times. Scientists named this rapid disappearance colony collapse disorder. As a result, specialty crops might suffer greatly from this loss.
USAID lists just a few of the benefits of maintaining biodiversity:
At least 1.6 billion people depend on forests for some part of their livelihood.
About 2.6 billion people in developing countries depend on wild fisheries for protein and income.
Billions of people use forest goods and services daily, from timber and fruit to clean air and water.
It is a cycle that needs to be preserved in order to keep a balance in nature. It benefits us humans, as well as other species, even those that still elude discovery.
Threats to Biodiversity
Currently, it seems that Earth’s biodiversity is still rich despite the risks scientists threaten us with. Ecotourism is a popular industry for those who want to escape the troubles of the big city. Biofuels have been adopted to maintain a healthy agricultural biodiversity even in production systems. Yet, we are not out of the dark. The consequences of these threats will show you why biodiversity is important to our survival.
Plants are an important mitigator between life on Earth and toxic atmosphere. The effects of global warming are very much felt by us humans. But plant life helps with the absorption of carbon dioxide, which has been increasing in volume since the Industrial Revolution. In addition, nearly two-thirds of the plant species on Earth depend on pollination. Coupled with the colony collapse disorder and the heat-trapping gases that affect our atmosphere, plant life could suffer greatly. Climate change is also forcing species out of their natural habitat in order to find more temperate regions and some might not survive the change.
It is part of history how settlers brought with them non-native species to new lands. Invasive species introduced by humans can drive the native ones to extinction. Invasive plants and fungi can also disrupt the biology of the native land. Some examples of invasive species that represent a hazard to the native environment are the malaria mosquito, which is invasive in North America, the field mouse, invasive worldwide, Dutch elm disease which devastated entire populations of elms in America in Europe and avian malaria, highly invasive in Hawaii.
In the United States alone, invasive species provoke damages between $125 billion and $140 billion every year.
A major issue in today’s world, deforestation poses a serious threat to ecosystems worldwide. Tropical rainforests are the most affected by logging and mining and because the soil can be so badly damaged, recovery might not come so easily. This is especially important since the rainforests host more than half of the world’s species. Deforestation leads to shrinking of the environments so species have to compete with each other for the remaining space. Those that cannot survive will eventually go extinct.
Moreover, deforestation mainly occurs in countries that do not have the necessary sources to combat the issues. These countries can benefit from the industry that generates jobs and drives the economy. Disruptions from the outside will also impair indigenous people from making their homes in the rainforest. Serious efforts must be made to stop reckless deforestation before it’s too late.
Final Words – Why is Biodiversity Important?
Biodiversity is vital to the survival of all members of the cycle. Human interventions have accelerated the pervasiveness of these threats and immediate, sustained efforts must be made to undo however much is possible. Heat trapping gas emissions and deforestations have already had their say in nature. We need to stop it from happening any further.
You can read more on the biodiversity hotspots on the globe and the impact of deforestation on the world’s ecosystems. Try to look for eco-friendly materials in your daily lives and invest in a green lifestyle.