Biodiversity is a term that is commonly used when referring to mother earth and all its inhabitants. Bio, in its simplest form, means life. That’s why biology is usually defined as the study of living things. Diversity comes from the adjective ‘diverse’, meaning variety.
Biodiversity, therefore, describes the diversified nature of all life-forms on the planet. It’s used to refer to the different living things that inhabit similar environments and also interact in one way or another.
A biologically diverse environment has various species of animals, plants, and micro-organisms. These species interact in the ecosystems within which they live. Biodiversity also takes into account the genetic differences that occur within species.
Impacts of biodiversity
Some of the impacts of biodiversity on earth, human, animal, marine and plant life as well as agriculture and environment include the following:
Earth: The planet earth is home to many microorganisms, plant, animal and human life. All these are interdependent and affect the state of the planet in one way or the other. Loss of biodiversity would impact the earth negatively while a lot of it would make it thrive. It is, therefore, important to increase and protect biodiversity on the planet.
Human life: A healthy ecosystem also means healthy human lives. Mankind greatly depends on the ecosystem within which he lives and loss of biodiversity impacts human lives negatively. It can lead to bad weather, lack of food and inhabitable ecosystems. Agriculture, which heavily depends on biodiversity, plays a very important role in the lives of humans. An increase in biodiversity would, therefore, impact human lives positively.
Animal life: Animals also thrive when there is more biodiversity in the ecosystem. Loss of biodiversity, on the other hand, would see them unhealthy and contribute to a reduction in their numbers. Lack of biodiversity has led to the extinction of certain species of animals and the opposite is true.
Marine life: Just like humans and animals, marine life generally thrives where there is much biodiversity. It leads to a favorable habitat and maintains the natural order of things in the ecosystem. Loss of biodiversity would impact marine life in a bad way and contribute to a reduction in the number of species available.
Plants: Biodiversity is also important for plants. Loss of it would make their habitats unfavorable due to the imbalance in the ecosystem. A high amount of biodiversity would make plants healthy by spurring growth and increasing their number.
Agriculture: This heavily depends on a well-balanced ecosystem. Crops rely on rainfall for water, insects for pollination and microorganisms for fertile and well-aerated soils. Loss of biodiversity would there impact agriculture negatively.
Environment: The environment also thrives and is much better when there is a great amount of biodiversity. Loss of it would lead to pollution and harsh climates among other negative impacts.
Importance of Biodiversity
A biologically diverse ecosystem has several benefits not only to the species living within it but also to the planet earth as a whole. There is a reason why renowned environmentalists, as well as world leaders, have for a long time been pushing for environmental conversation. So why is biodiversity so important?
Healthy ecosystem: Earlier on, we explained how different species living within an ecosystem interact with one another. A biologically diverse ecosystem is healthy because the plants, microorganisms, and animals will play their natural roles to ensure that the ecosystem remains vibrant. An ecosystem that is less diverse has many disadvantages because the species within it will experience different limitations. As a result of that, there will be competition for the scarce resources available. Having a variety of species increases productivity and keeps the ecosystem healthy.
Environment: There have been a lot of concerns raised about climate change and global warming. A large contributor to this is the destruction of natural habitats in the environment that in turn affect biodiversity and contribute to climate change. Trees create ideal climates and attract rainfall, leading to an increase in the amount of rainfall experienced in a place. Water is equally important for the existence of marine life. Micro-organisms found in the soil increase fertility, making it easier for plant life to thrive. Dead organisms lead to the formation of fossil fuels such as oil which has several industrial uses. Plants also clean up the air, reducing the levels of pollution and global warming in the process. All these show just exactly why a diverse ecosystem is very important for the environment that we live in.
Sustainability: A diverse ecosystem ensures survival for all the species that inhabit it. This is because such an ecosystem has the ability to sustain the different life forms present. Every species that lives within an ecosystem has a role to play. So in a situation where there is a variety, and for one reason or another a species disappears, the impact will not be that big, and the remaining species will still contribute to the normal functioning of the ecosystem. At the end of the day, the ecosystem is sustained.
Inter-dependence: Species living within an ecosystem greatly depend on one another for survival. Birds depend on plants for food, plants depend on birds and insects for pollination while micro-organisms eat decaying matter and also provide nutrients for plants. Human beings too consume oxygen released by plants and give out carbon dioxide to be used by the plants. This is even reflected in the food chains and cycles. It is this interdependence between species that makes it very necessary to preserve the diversity of nature and the various ecosystems. No one species can survive on its own.
Reserve for the future: Biodiversity is important since it secures the future. Because of sustainability, the younger generations and those yet to come can rest easy knowing that their world is habitable. There are certain types of species that have become extinct because their ecosystems were not conserved. It, therefore, became difficult to survive and, as a result, they ceased to exist. When there are a variety life-forms, continuity and thus the future is preserved.
Tourism: Many people travel to different places to experience flora and fauna that they don’t typically interact with in their homes. This is the reason why tourism is thriving in areas with many varieties of plant and animal life. An individual will travel to a foreign country on a safari to view different types of wildlife or even plants.
Threats to biodiversity
Several human activities pose a great threat to the environment and in many ways interfere with the existing ecosystems. Some of these activities are usually done with the intention of harming the ecosystems while others are as a result of people who are not conscious of the consequences of their actions.
Cutting down of trees does a lot of harm to the environment. This has several impacts on the existing ecosystems. There are different birds, animals, and microorganisms that use those particular trees for shelter, and cutting them down would mean that they’d have to move and find new places. Leaves from these trees contribute to the formation of soil which is used by insects to hibernate. There is also the important role that trees play in attracting rain, cleaning air and acting as a source of food for various living organisms. Deforestation threatens to put a stop to all these and upset the balance of nature not to mention that it reduces the variety of trees that exist within a forest.
(ii) Construction and Human settlement
Human activities such as the construction of buildings and roads destroy the natural habitats of animals and other species, rendering them homeless and forcing them to move or even worse causing them to die. This is the reason why most wild animals are only found in rural and remote areas, away from human activities that will destroy their habitat and interfere with their ways of life. This has also pushed certain species to the level of extinction.
(iii) Poaching and Game Hunting
By creating dangerous environments for animals through activities like poaching and game hunting, we greatly reduce their number and put an increase in the number of endangered species. Poachers kill animals such as elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns. Presently, the number of elephants globally has drastically gone down and many rhinos have been put in conservancies in order to prevent them from becoming extinct. An example of this is the Nothern White Rhino species which has only a small number left.
(iv) Environmental Pollution
Environmental Pollution is a great threat to biodiversity too. This often leads to increase in global temperatures and unfavorable climatic changes. Global warming, which is a direct result of environmental pollution, has led to many natural disasters around the world. Climatic changes can cause species to move in search of better habitats or even destroy their homes and cause a reduction in their number. An example of this is the melting of ice at the north and south poles. Polar bears and penguins that live in these areas are perishing at alarming rates due to the climatic changes that are also affecting their habitats.
Over-population within ecosystems can lead to scarcity of resources. This will then cause competition for the little available and spark a survival for the fittest scenario. Research theory has it that this is what led to the extinction of dinosaurs millions of years ago. Over-population, especially of humans, can lead to their encroachment into wildlife habitats. This is more epitomized in urban areas where pollution is high and forest covers are very small. It’s definitely another huge threat to biodiversity.
Human beings can sometimes be greedy and with this threaten the existence of the very planet that they live in. The need to accumulate more wealth has seen people setting up buildings in places that have been declared as wildlife habitats. There are areas such as wetlands that should be conserved yet some people still go ahead and erect buildings on them. This destroys the home of many organisms.
(vii) Degradation of Soil Quality
Degradation of soil quality through poor farming methods is another threat to biodiversity. People who employ bad farming tactics leave the soil barren and without sufficient minerals and organic matter. It, therefore, becomes difficult for plants to grow and thrive in such conditions. Microorganisms that live in the soil are also affected by this. Chemical spillage or poor disposal of chemical wastes can also cause a deterioration in soil quality.
(viii) Expansion of Human colonies
Expansion of human colonies to areas that were not previously occupied by people also poses a big threat to biodiversity. The natural order of life in these places becomes upset and that can lead to a reduction in the number of species that exist in the ecosystems.
Protecting Biodiversity in the Modern World
(i) Creation of Natural environment for wildlife
Creating a natural environment for wildlife is an ideal way of ensuring biodiversity and protecting the ecosystem. Some of these include creating wildlife sanctuaries, parks, game reserves and conservancies. Other methods of protecting biodiversity include creating botanical gardens and declaring forest reserves.
This is the intentional restocking of forests that have been depleted. It leads to more trees and restoration of woodlands. Trees play an important role in the ecosystem and their benefits are numerous.
(iii) Environmental Laws
Setting up environmental laws is another important way of protecting biodiversity. Lawmakers can come up with serious and necessary laws to deter poachers, limit the harvesting of timber and curb human encroachment into wildlife habitats. When such policies are put in place, law-breakers become aware of the consequences and desist from environmentally destructive tendencies.
Carrying out civic education to teach people about the importance of biodiversity and the need for environmental conservation also goes a long way in encouraging proactiveness among citizens.
(v) Organic Farming
Less or no use of pesticides ensures that soil remains fertile and therefore plants can thrive. Smart farming methods like using organic fertilizer and rotational farming are also encouraged because they lead to soil restoration.
Planet earth has so many different species that live in it. They live within various ecosystems and depend on one another in many ways. For an ecosystem to thrive, there has to be biodiversity, which simply refers to the diversity of living organisms. Due the interdependence between species and within species in ecosystems, it is important to protect biodiversity and ensure a more habitable planet. Things such as climate change, global warming, and natural disasters occur mainly as a result of human effects on the environment. It is, therefore, the responsibility of man to preserve his home by protecting biodiversity.
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