Biodiversity is vital to keep all life on Earth healthy, balanced and thriving. Biodiversity is the different number of life forms on planet Earth. It is important to understand it and conserve it at all cost if we humans are to survive.
The theme for this year World Environment Day is “Celebrating Biodiversity” to spend “Time for Nature. We at Rolling Nature have our Environmental Arm “Initiative Earth” and under it we are oraganizing #LoveNature Campaign 2020 in parallel to the theme of United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
These are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature.
It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices.
It’s time to build back better for People and Planet.
This World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature.
What do we mean by biodiversity?
The term Biodiversity which literally translates to biological diversity was first coined by Walter G. Rosen in 1985. Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. It refers to the different kinds of living organisms within a given region or ecosystem. Biodiversity includes plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and every other living being. It can include everything from the single-cell bacteria to the giant whale, from the rose plant to the Eucalyptus tree. Biodiversity can be classified at different levels: genetic diversity, species diversity & ecosystem diversity.
Genetic diversity is the variety of genes in a single species. Genes can be compared to the smallest units of biological information that are passed from the parents to their offspring. Most of the genes are same for all individuals within a species. It is what makes a cat’s progeny a cat and a squirrel’s progeny a squirrel. However, some genes within a species are different and this is why some dogs are pit bulls and some German Shepherds. Genes are the reason why your friend has got a blue eye while you have a black one. Greater the genetic diversity, more are the plants and animals resistant to diseases. Genetic diversity allows the species to better adapt to a changing environment.
Species diversity is the variety of species in a given region. The regions like tropics which have favorable conditions for life has greater biodiversity. While regions with extreme conditions like polar regions or deserts have the least biodiversity. Endemic species are the ones that exist only in one particular region and can’t be found anywhere else on the planet. There is a whopping 8.7 million species of plants and animals that exist on earth. However, only 1.2 million species have been identified and described so far.
Ecosystem diversity is the different ecosystems in a given region. Ecosystem is the community and interactions of living things with their physical environment in a region. Some example of ecosystems are rain forests, grasslands, deserts, savanna, steppe, coral reefs, lakes, etc. It is the largest scale of biodiversity as there are huge amount of both genetic and species diversity within an ecosystem.
So why is biodiversity important to us?
Almost all species on our planet are interconnected and are dependent on each other. For example, a cattle feeds on the grass. The cattle then provides manure which returns nutrients to the soil which then helps the grass to grow. When the cattle dies microbes, fungi decompose it that keeps soil fertile. This helps many plants to grow which then provides food to different animals. This is just a simple example of biodiversity at play in an ecosystem. When we explore different ecosystems we find innumerable such interactions. Countless such interactions has kept our planet sustainable and habitable for millions of years. As the biodiversity decreases, these interactions can weaken or even break that can harm all the species in an ecosystem. However, ecosystems with lot of biodiversity are stronger and more resistant to disaster.
From a human perspective, biodiversity has plethora of benefits for us. We, the people of cities and towns, of AC rooms and cars; for us wildlife is something that exists in televisions and computers. We may not realize it, but the air we breathe, food we eat, water we drink, the clothes we wear all ultimately depend on biodiversity. Everybody knows that plants are important, for they provide oxygen. Many of us might know that trees root systems prevent flooding. Some might know that trees absorb air pollutants in cities. However, very few might know that spider monkeys and tropical tortoises also help in cleaning air. Shocked, right? The carbon dioxide removing hardwood trees, depend on these fruit eaters to disperse their seeds.
Biodiversity contributes at least 40% to the world’s economy and 80% to the needs of the poor. Millions of people depend on biodiversity for their day-to-day livelihoods. For them their high-biodiversity ecosystem is a source of food, fuel, medicines & many other products made from natural materials. By selling them it becomes a source of income too for them. Hundreds of industries depend on biodiversity. Agriculture, medical, pharmaceutical, fashion, tourism all depend on plants for their success. Biodiversity is a reservoir of resources which are useful for humans. Perfumes, fibers, rubber, resins are all derived from different plant species. Many plants have medicinal value. Aspirin, one of the most popular pain relievers was originally made from bark of willow trees. Rosy periwinkle, a flower that grows on the island Madagascar can treat some forms of cancer.
Biodiversity also helps in combating climate change. 11% of global greenhouse gases are emitted because of deforestation, so conserving forests would stop the release of these gases into the atmosphere. Trees and plants also store carbon in their tissue which makes it even more important to protect them. Ecosystems like mangroves, are particularly good at keeping carbon out of the atmosphere by storing it. Forests and wetland ecosystems provide crucial buffers to extreme storms and flooding related to climate change. These ecosystems function best when all the pieces of the ecosystem are in place, i.e. the biodiversity is intact.
Many researches prove that disease outbreaks are closely linked to the loss of biodiversity. 70% of emerging viral diseases have spread from animals to humans. With the ever increasing urbanization, agriculture & wildlife trade, humans are venturing deeper into forests. This is exposing humans to the many diseases that wild animals in these forests may carry. From all the sources we can find, the COVID-19 pandemic can likely be spread to humans from some wild animal. Deforestation also accelerates climate change, which may boost the spread of disease by allowing vectors like mosquitoes to extend their reach to new regions and infect vulnerable populations of humans. With COVID-19, we’ve seen that diseases can damage not only human health, but also the global economy. By protecting biodiversity, we can prevent future pandemics from claiming lives and money.
Biodiversity also helps in preserving social & cultural diversity and identity. Species are integral to religious, cultural and national identities. All major religions include elements of nature. 231 species are formally used as national symbols in 142 countries. Preserving biodiversity is also ethically & morally important for us. Humans are not the only species existing on this planet. All organisms have right to live & we should not overhunt & overexploit other species.
One example will sump up how important is biodiversity for us:
On May 5, 2000, CNN reported that “one-third of our food-fruits & vegetables would not exist without pollinators visiting flowers.” As German bee expert Professor Joergen Tautz from Wurzburg University adds “Bees are vital to bio diversity. There are 1,30,000 plants for example for which bees are essential to pollination, from melons to pumpkins, raspberries and all kind of fruit trees — as well as animal fodder — like clover. Bees are more important than poultry in terms of human nutrition.”
Two scientists studying the crucial connection between plants, bees, and human agriculture, summarized with this warning: “Humankind needs to act quickly to ensure that the ancient pact between flowers and pollinators stays intact, to safeguard our food supply and to protect our environment for generations to come. These efforts will ensure that bees continue to provide pollination and that our diets remain rich in the fruits and vegetables we now take for granted.”
We believe, each one of us should understand what biodiversity is and how important it is to us. Through this post we will also look into how we have been destroying it, the impact of biodiversity loss and what we can do to protect it from further loss.
Biodiversity is one of the most complex features of our planet and is equally vital for our survival. Because of the huge biodiversity losses across the globe, it has become one of the major concerns for the future of our planet. Human-induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions Take cues from wildlife trade & emergence of COVID or such viruses which jump from animals to humans. Our future depends on biodiversity. As of now biodiversity & its conservation is a growing topic of interest not only to scientists, but also to policymakers across the globe.
This article is by Vandana Chaudhary, Co-Founder of Rolling Nature & Initiative Earth.
We will keep continuing to inform & update you about the biodiversity and its impact & how we can protect it in upcoming blogs. This time due to the Pandemic the normal ground campaign will not happen and we are really sad about it. Still we look forward to each of you to participate & get involved from comforts of your homes and spread the message of love for earth & its biodiversity.
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About Initiative Earth: Initiative Earth came into being after 7 yrs of contribution & campaigns of Rolling Nature for the welfare of environment & Earth & through this initiative we will proactively work with individuals, organizations, policymakers for crucial actions for mother earth. We also aim to spread awareness to all masses and make this a revolution. Your support now, will pave way for better future for coming generations.
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