What is Biodiversity? Biodiversity means the entire biological diversity and variation of life on Earth. Biodiversity encompasses all plants and animals, including fish, amphibians, arachnids, protozoa, fungi, bacteria, and humans. Biodiversity is generally measured by the number of species that exist in a given area, or within a given biogeochemical cycle. Biodiversity has been a major focus of research for many years. One of the most compelling reasons to protect biodiversity is because the loss or degradation of the diversity of life on Earth would threaten the existence of life as we know it.
One of the most obvious places to protect biodiversity is in forests. Forests play a significant role in our food supply, and without trees in the food chain, crops would fail to produce enough to meet the needs of the human population. A great deal of research has been done to monitor and protect forests around the world. In rural areas, local communities often monitor their plant communities and the health of their forests by logging trees, cutting other vegetation, or burning fields to clear the way for crops. In some parts of the world, biofuel production from locally grown rice and wheat has also helped local communities by reducing carbon emissions that drive global warming.
But deforestation and other human uses of natural resources can have severe consequences, even outside of forested regions. Extensive tourism can damage the natural state and balance of biodiversity. Many people and industries take irreplaceable natural resources for their own purposes, often without consulting with local or indigenous peoples whose culture, knowledge, and livelihoods are intimately connected to the maintenance of biodiverse systems. Other external environmental impacts, such as noise, chemical pollution, and suction from landfills can have severe ecological, economic, and social consequences. The rapid expansion of human settlements into previously remote or semiarid environments has contributed to the destruction of biodiversity, and new housing developments have increased the demand for wood, mining for metal and coal, and other forms of biomass.
Although many people are quick to blame humans for the degradation of natural habitats, it is important to remember that without habitat loss, biological diversity would quickly disappear. Evidence indicates that in the last million years, the super-auna decimated most of the large forests of earth, at a time when human beings only beginning to exploit the earth’s resources. Today, very few forests can be found, and in many places, the reduction in habitats is so acute that it is doubtful that any remaining biodiversity can be protected. If the rate at which natural habitats are vanishing is continuing at a rate of 10 percent annually, we will soon be completely void of earth’s living creatures.
The threats to biodiversity pose acute ecological, economic, and social consequences. Species will become extinct or disappear from ecosystems; global warming and climate change will increase in severity; fishing, hunting, and tourism will decline; and land and water will be depleted. These effects will be felt most acutely at the local, regional, and national level. In addition, the resulting biodiversity gaps and imbalances will impede economic development by preventing the development of traditional industries based on natural resources, reducing fish stocks and other aquatic species, preventing access to healthy and productive fishing grounds and oceans, preventing migration and dispersal of species, as well as hindering the development of the agricultural system and forestry systems that rely on the productivity of forests and grasslands.
In essence, we are talking about the survival of entire communities: human, animal, plant, and microbial. While extinction is a risk, it is also one possibility we can control. Biological diversity is inherent in all of Earth’s ecosystems, and we cannot eliminate it, but we can work to enhance its preservation. Through scientific-based management planning, effective enforcement of biological diversity protection laws, and effective monitoring of ecosystems, we can help ensure the long-term survival of biodiversity. In short, biological diversity is our planet’s protection – we simply have to act.