The biological diversity among animals, plants and other species, which is of great value, and is under threat from land clearing, global warming, and the spread of invasive species.
Environmentalists say we should reduce our consumption of natural resources in order to set aside more land, water, etc, for biodiversity conservation.
Biodiversity is the variation in composition and behavior of biological organisms, and in their interactions and interdependencies within ecological systems.
Biodiversity is of value to human beings:
- As an end in itself.
- As a supplier of ecological services such as water, air, food, and waste decomposition.
- As a large store of embodied knowledge which humans have only begun to tap.
Biodiversity Banking - A build-up of biodiversity in one area can be used to offset biodiversity loss in another area.
Biodiversity Protection - Biodiversity can be protected by setting aside land and water for wildlife habitats and corridors, and by limiting land clearing, global warming, and the spread of invasive species.
Biodiversity Threats - Factors such as land clearing, climate change, and invasive species is causing biodiversity loss through species extinction.
Source: Wikipedia - Biodiversity
The 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro defined biodiversity as "the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems". This is the closest thing to a single legally accepted definition of biodiversity, since it is the definition adopted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
For ecologists, biodiversity [includes] the diversity of durable interactions among species. It not only applies to species, but also to their immediate environment (biotope) and the ecoregions the organisms live in. In each ecosystem, living organisms are part of a whole; they interact with one another, but also with the air, water, and soil that surround them.
[The biodiversity of a given region can be estimated (even if not defined) by the number of species in that region. An area with many species probably has a very complex system of interactions between complementary, hence quite different, species.]
Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on earth. It is consistently richer in the tropics. As one approaches polar regions one finds larger and larger populations of fewer and fewer species. Flora and fauna vary depending on climate, altitude, soils and the presence of other species.
One definition of a biodiversity hotspot is a region with many endemic species.
Hotspots unfortunately tend to occur in areas of significant human impact, leading to threats to their many endemic species. As a result of the pressures of the growing human population, human activity in many of these areas is increasing dramatically. Most of these hotspots are located in the tropics and most of them are forests.
Biodiversity hotspot example:
Brazil's Atlantic Forest contains roughly 20,000 plant species, 1,350 vertebrates, and millions of insects, just under half of which are thought to occur nowhere else in the world.
Benefits of biodiversity
A more diverse ecosystem is better able to withstand environmental stress and consequently is more productive. The loss of a species is thus likely to decrease the ability of the system to maintain itself or to recover from damage or disturbance. Just like a species with high genetic diversity, an ecosystem with high biodiversity may have a greater chance of adapting to environmental change. In other words, the more species comprising an ecosystem, the more stable the ecosystem is likely to be.
Some of the important economic commodities that biodiversity supplies to humankind are:
food : crops, livestock, forestry, and fish; (see also local food)
medication. Wild plant species have been used for medicinal purposes since before the beginning of recorded history. For example, quinine comes from the cinchona tree (used to treat malaria), digitalis from the foxglove plant (chronic heart trouble), and morphine from the poppy plant (pain relief). According to the National Cancer Institute, over 70 % of the promising anti-cancer drugs come from plants in the tropical rainforests. Animals may also play a role, in particular in research. It is estimated that of the 250,000 known plant species, only 5,000 have been researched for possible medical applications.
industry : for example, fibers for clothing, wood for shelter and warmth. Biodiversity may be a source of energy (such as biomass). Other industrial products are oils, lubricants, perfumes, fragrances, dyes, paper, waxes, rubber, latexes, resins, poisons, and cork, which can all be derived from various plant species. Supplies from animal origin include wool, silk, fur, leather, lubricants, and waxes. Animals may also be used as a mode of transport.
tourism and recreation : biodiversity is a source of economical wealth for many areas, such as many parks and forests, where wild nature and animals are a source of beauty and joy for many people. Ecotourism, in particular, is a growing outdoor recreational activity.
Scientific Benefits of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is important because each species can give scientists some clue as to how life evolved and will continue to evolve on Earth. In addition, biodiversity helps scientists understand how life functions and the role of each species in sustaining ecosystems.