Why is Biodiversity Important?
What is biodiversity?
Imagine walking through a dense pine forest. As you step through the leaf-carpeted ground, you can sense the butterscotch smell of pine sap and faintly hear the drumming of a woodpecker far in the distance. As you take a look ahead, you spot a kingfisher flying low above a forest stream.
All of these different kinds of life, shape the biodiversity of the area. Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms – from the smallest microorganism and fungus to the plants and animals. All of these organisms work together to maintain the balance in the ecosystem. So biodiversity is the foundation of all life on Earth.
Why does biodiversity matter?
Biodiversity is generally divided into three categories: ecosystem, species, and genetic diversity. These three categories form an intricate network and maintain the balance and health of the environment. Biodiversity also contributes to crucial services, without which our world wouldn’t exist. It is responsible for pollination, decomposition, carbon sequestration, nutrient recycling, soil protection, and many more. Therefore, biodiversity provides everything we need – from our food to water and clean air.
How are all of these things connected? Take the Bornean forest in Asia for example. The huge tree and plant diversity produce a wide range of fruit for animals, such as orangutans. As they jump through the treetops, orangutans disperse fruit seeds far from the tree where they ate, which then facilitates vegetation growth. Their feces also serves as soil enrichment and food supply for invertebrates. So, all species are dependent on each other and work together, thus the removal of even one from the ecosystem will have a detrimental impact.
What are the threats to biodiversity?
With the advancement of our world and the increase in human activities, the threat to our biodiversity on Earth is growing at alarming rates. With the ongoing pollution, habitat destruction, unsustainable farming, overexploitation, and introduction of invasive species, we are destroying the stability and integrity of our ecosystems.
UN Nature reports that since 1990, we have threatened more than 40% of amphibians and 33% of corals forming reefs. Also, a study in 2017 reported that there was a 76% decline in flying insects in Germany for the past 27 years. So, overall for the past 10 years, we have lost some unique animals, such as the West African Black Rhino, and driven others to the brink of extinction, such as koalas, snow leopards, orangutans, and many more.
Can we recover?
For the past two centuries, we have severely damaged our environment. However, there is light in the tunnel and our biodiversity can be restored. Striving to win the fight against ecosystem destruction, 50 countries have already joined a campaign called “30 by 2030”, calling for 30% of our terrestrial and 30% of our marine habitats to be protected by 2030.
There have also been many restoration projects on a smaller scale. One famous example is the recovery of Yellowstone National Park in the US. In a nutshell, wolves were driven locally extinct, which allowed elks to thrive in the park where they reproduced and ate as much as they wanted. However, this process led to soil exhaustion, riverbank erosion, and reduced biodiversity for a whole range of other animal and plant species. When wolves were reintroduced to the park, elk populations declined, which allowed the whole ecosystem to recover. When elks couldn’t graze for such long periods, this allowed the emergence of willows and aspen, which then facilitated the return of beavers. As a result, biodiversity recovered and today Yellowstone National Park is a healthy functioning system.
Biodiversity is a crucial component of every ecosystem’s health – from small mountain lakes to vast oceans and dense forests. Without biological diversity, the whole balance on our planet would collapse, resulting in severe environmental and economical outcomes such as loss of species and livelihoods, increased contact with diseases, and unpredictable weather. So it is essential for our environment and for our own survival to protect and conserve it. This can be done by choosing sustainability, investing in ecologically conscious companies, or volunteering for conservation projects, where the funding goes for habitat preservation.