The term biodiversity (from “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life. Biodiversity includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered but also every living thing – from humans to organisms we know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertebrates.
At the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, we include humans and human cultural diversity as a part of biodiversity. We use the term “biocultural” to describe the dynamic, continually evolving and interconnected nature of people and place, and the notion that social and biological dimensions are interrelated. This concept recognizes that human use, knowledge, and beliefs influence, and in turn are influenced, by the ecological systems of which human communities are a part.
This relationship makes all of biodiversity, including the species, land and seascapes, and the cultural links to the places where we live—be right where we are or in distant lands—important to our wellbeing as they all play a role in maintaining a diverse and healthy planet.
Clean Water and Sanitation- Ecosystems provide reliable sources of freshwater. Ecosystems also function as natural water infrastructure, costing less than technological solutions. For instance, wetlands regulate flooding, and healthy soils increase water and nutrient availability for crops and help reduce off-farm impacts.
Affordable and Clean Energy- Bio-energy produced from renewable biomass such as forestry by-products and agricultural residues can provide major opportunities for supplying cleaner and affordable energy. Ecosystem services are also important for clean energy, e.g., the sources of water needed for energy production.
Sustainable Cities and Communities- Ecosystems help secure freshwater supplies on which cities rely, and can provide natural solutions for urban water run-off, regulating temperature, supporting clean air, and providing resilience to climate change and natural disasters.
Responsible Consumption and Production- Utilizing more resource-efficient approaches is an essential aspect for the sustainable use of biodiversity. Reducing wastes and pollutants is also an important element to reduce adverse impacts on biodiversity.
Life on Land- The conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems is essential for sustainable development and for achieving the 2030 Agenda and all of the SDGs. Targets under this goal include a call to integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local development planning, poverty reduction strategies and accounts. Other targets highlight the importance of particular ecosystems, including wetlands, forests and mountains, while others focus on specific challenges, such as desertification and land degradation, as well as poaching and trafficking of protected species.
Building a shared future for all life
As the global community is called to re-examine our relationship to the natural world, one thing is certain: despite all our technological advances we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy, just to name a few.
From ecosystem-based approaches to climate and/or nature-based solutions to climate, health issues, food and water security and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity is the foundation upon which we can build back better. You can show support for biodiversity with the promotional materials for the Day.
Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is extremely important to people and the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity allows us to live healthy and happy lives. It provides us with an array of foods and materials, and it contributes to the economy. Without a diversity of pollinators, plants, and soils, our supermarkets would have a lot less produce. Most medical discoveries to cure diseases and lengthen life spans were made because of research into plant and animal biology and genetics. Every time a species goes extinct or genetic diversity is lost, we will never know whether research would have given us a new vaccine or drug. Biodiversity is also an important part of ecological services that make life livable on Earth. They include everything from cleaning water and absorbing chemicals, which wetlands do, to providing oxygen for us to breathe—one of the many things that plants do for people. Biodiversity allows for ecosystems to adjust to disturbances like fires and floods. Genetic diversity even prevents diseases and helps species adjust to changes in their environment.
- Economic: Biodiversity provides humans with raw materials for consumption and production. Many livelihoods, such as those of farmers, fishers and timber workers, are dependent on biodiversity.
- Ecological life support: Biodiversity provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment and many ecosystem services.
- Recreation: Many recreational pursuits rely on our unique biodiversity, such as birdwatching, hiking, camping and fishing. Our tourism industry also depends on biodiversity.
- Cultural: The Australian culture is closely connected to biodiversity through the expression of identity, through spirituality and through aesthetic appreciation. Indigenous Australians have strong connections and obligations to biodiversity arising from spiritual beliefs about animals and plants.
- Scientific: Biodiversity represents a wealth of systematic ecological data that help us to understand the natural world and its origins.
Types of Biodiversity
Biological diversity, biodiversity includes all organisms, species, and populations; the genetic variation among these; and all their complex assemblages of communities and ecosystems. It also refers to the interrelatedness of genes, species, and ecosystems and their interactions with the environment. Usually three types of biodiversity are discussed—genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity.
There are the following three different types of biodiversity:
Species diversity refers to the variety of different types of species found in a particular area. It is the biodiversity at the most basic level. It includes all the species ranging from plants to different microorganisms.
No two individuals of the same species are exactly similar. For example, humans show a lot of diversity among themselves.
It refers to the variations among the genetic resources of the organisms. Every individual of a particular species differs from each other in their genetic constitution. That is why every human looks different from each other. Similarly, there are different varieties in the same species of rice, wheat, maize, barley, etc.
An ecosystem is a collection of living and non-living organisms and their interaction with each other. Ecological biodiversity refers to the variations in the plant and animal species living together and connected by food chains and food webs.
It is the diversity observed among the different ecosystems in a region. Diversity in different ecosystems like deserts, rainforests, mangroves, etc., include ecological diversity.
Ethical and Moral Benefits
Every form of life on earth is unique and warrants respect regardless of its worth to human beings; this is the ecosystems right of an organism. Every organism has an inherent right to exist regardless of whether it is valuable to human beings or not. Humankind is part of nature and the natural world has a value for human heritage. The well being of all future generations is a social responsibility of the present generations, hence the existence of an organism warrants conservation of the organism. Aesthetic value Human beings derive great enjoyment from natural environment. The shapes, structure and colour stimulate our senses and enrich our culture. This illustrate majorly in the popularity of biodiversity conservation measures and the myriad of the many organizations which fight for the protection of different organisms. A lot of money is paid to conserve wildlife for their value in nature through so many organizations. Wild species enhance our appreciation and enjoyment of the environment through:
- Leisure activities e.g. bird watching and nature trailing;
- Spotting activities e.g. spot hunting, sport fishing, diving and mushroom picking;
- Hearing, touching or just seeing wildlife;
- Enjoyment as seen in art and culture e.g. dolls and teddy bears
Threats to Biodiversity
Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet, causing rapid ecosystem change and massive loss of biodiversity across the planet. This has led some people to refer to the time we now live in as the “anthropocene.” While the Earth has always experienced changes and extinctions, today they are occurring at an unprecedented rate. Major direct threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable resource use, invasive species, pollution, and global climate change. The underlying causes of biodiversity loss, such as a growing human population and overconsumption are often complex and stem from many interrelated factors.
Residential & commercial development
- Housing & urban areas (urban areas, suburbs, villages, vacation homes, shopping areas, offices, schools, hospitals)
- Commercial & industrial areas (manufacturing plants, shopping centers, office parks, military bases, power plants, train & shipyards, airports)
- Tourism & recreational areas (skiing, golf courses, sports fields, parks, campgrounds)
- Agriculture (crop farms, orchards, vineyards, plantations, ranches)
- Aquaculture (shrimp or finfish aquaculture, fish ponds on farms, hatchery salmon, seeded shellfish beds, artificial algal beds)
Energy production & mining
- Renewable energy production (geothermal, solar, wind, & tidal farms)
- Non-renewable energy production (oil and gas drilling)
- Mining (fuel and minerals)
Transportation & service corridors
- Service corridors (electrical & phone wires, aqueducts, oil & gas pipelines)
- Transport corridors (roads, railroads, shipping lanes, and flight paths) collisions with the vehicles using the corridors
- Associated accidents and catastrophes (oil spills, electrocution, fire)
Biological resource usages
- Hunting (bushmeat, trophy, fur)
- Persecution (predator control and pest control, superstitions)
- Plant destruction or removal (human consumption, free-range livestock foraging, battling timber disease, orchid collection)
- Logging or wood harvesting (selective or clear-cutting, firewood collection, charcoal production)
- Fishing (trawling, whaling, live coral or seaweed or egg collection)
Human intrusions & activities that alter, destroy, simply disturb habitats and species from exhibiting natural behaviors:
- Recreational activities (off-road vehicles, motorboats, jet-skis, snowmobiles, ultralight planes, dive boats, whale watching, mountain bikes, hikers, birdwatchers, skiers, pets in recreational areas, temporary campsites, caving, rock-climbing)
- War, civil unrest, & military exercises (armed conflict, minefields, tanks & other military vehicles, training exercises & ranges, defoliation, munitions testing)
- Illegal activities (smuggling, immigration, vandalism)
Natural system modifications
- Fire suppression or creation (controlled burns, inappropriate fire management, escaped agricultural and campfires, arson)
- Water management (dam construction & operation, wetland filling, surface water diversion, groundwater pumping)
- Other modifications (land reclamation projects, shoreline rip-rap, lawn cultivation, beach construction and maintenance, tree-thinning in parks)
- Removing/reducing human maintenance (mowing meadows, reduction in controlled burns, lack of indigenous management of key ecosystems, ceasing supplemental feeding of condors)
Invasive & problematic species, pathogens & genes
- Invasive species (feral horses & household pets, zebra mussels, Miconia tree, kudzu, introduction for biocontrol)
- Problematic native species (overabundant native deer or kangaroo, overabundant algae due to loss of native grazing fish, locust-type plagues)
- Introduced genetic material (pesticide-resistant crops, genetically modified insects for biocontrol, genetically modified trees or salmon, escaped hatchery salmon, restoration projects using non-local seed stock)
- pathogens & microbes (plague affecting rodents or rabbits, Dutch elm disease or chestnut blight, Chytrid fungus affecting amphibians outside of Africa)
- House hold sewage (untreated sewage, discharges from poorly functioning sewage treatment plants, septic tanks, pit latrines, oil or sediment from roads, fertilizers and pesticides from lawns and golf courses, road salt)
- Industrial & military effluents (toxic chemicals from factories, illegal dumping of chemicals, mine tailings, arsenic from gold mining, leakage from fuel tanks, PCBs in river sediments)
- Agricultural & forestry effluents (nutrient loading from fertilizer run-off, herbicide run-off, manure from feedlots, nutrients from aquaculture, soil erosion)
- Garbage & solid waste (municipal waste, litter & dumped possessions, flotsam & jetsam from recreational boats, waste that entangles wildlife, construction debris)
- Air-borne pollutants (acid rain, smog from vehicle emissions, excess nitrogen deposition, radioactive fallout, wind dispersion of pollutants or sediments from farm fields, smoke from forest fires or wood stoves)
- Excess energy (noise from highways or airplanes, sonar from submarines that disturbs whales, heated water from power plants, lamps attracting insects, beach lights disorienting turtles, atmospheric radiation from ozone holes)
Catastrophic geological events
Earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, landslides, & volcanic eruptions and gas emissions.
- ecosystem encroachment (inundation of shoreline ecosystems & drowning of coral reefs from sea level rise, dune encroachment from desertification, woody encroachment into grasslands)
- changes in geochemical regimes (ocean acidification, changes in atmospheric CO2 affecting plant growth, loss of sediment leading to broad-scale subsidence)
- changes in temperature regimes (heat waves, cold spells, oceanic temperature changes, melting of glaciers/sea ice)
- changes in precipitation & hydrological regimes (droughts, rain timing, loss of snow cover, increased severity of floods)
- severe weather events (thunderstorms, tropical storms, hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, hailstorms, ice storms or blizzards, dust storms, erosion of beaches during storms.
Most biodiversity resources are consumed by humans, so it is their primary responsibility to preserve and protect biodiversity to protect the earth. The richness of the species, the ecosystem, the environment and the sustainable growth of life on earth is important. It is need of time to enforce strong legislative obligation to prevent the illegal hunting of rear species.
Human domination is the greatest common thread of biodiversity because it harnesses its power and consumes all kinds of resources by endangering the lives of other species. Biodiversity is very important to balance our terrestrial environment and our ecosystem. Humans are also responsible for pollution and unwanted elements in the environment. The conservation of biodiversity is very important for the sustainability of a healthier land by preserving and protecting species, ecosystems and natural resources. There are still several species that are not yet discovered, the servals’ habitat and landscapes are still unexplored, and therefore their effect on others, the ecosystem and species is still unknown. Enforcement of strong law to preserve and protect biodiversity is need of time.