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  • Carol Jin

Everything You Should Know About Biodiversity



Introduction

Protecting biodiversity is a top priority for most environmentalists, and this topic plays a crucial role in fueling many habitat restoration projects, species conservation efforts, and even some government legislation! So… what exactly is biodiversity? What’s so good about it, and how can we personally contribute to its protection? Read further for everything you should know about biodiversity.


What Is Biodiversity?

Although there are multiple levels of “biodiversity”, it can generally be defined as “biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals”[1]. So basically, the more species we have in a certain ecosystem, the better our biodiversity. But why does that really matter?


Benefits of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is important for many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Provision of Various Resources: Almost everything we use in our everyday lives, including food, gasoline, wood, and medicine, came from nature at some point. This means that our quality of life is directly related to levels of biodiversity because it is from the available variety of natural resources that we get our options of lifestyle; in short, biodiversity provides variety!


  • The Connectivity of Life: Whether it be predator-prey relationships or mutualistic/win-win interactions between different species, life is a lot more connected than we think. That means that if we lose a species to extinction, chances are that many other species (humans included!) will be negatively affected by this loss of biodiversity. Preserving biodiversity means preserving the network of life that we ourselves are intertwined into.


  • Resilience Against External Pressures: Almost all ecosystems face external pressures (e.g. natural disasters, human intervention, etc.), but what really varies is each ecosystem’s ability to “bounce back” or recover from those outside forces. This ability to bounce back is what we call “resilience”, and the level of an ecosystem’s resilience largely depends on the number of species present in that ecosystem. Think about it logically: the more unique species we have in an ecological community, the higher the chance that the community will still contain some surviving life after it experiences a threat. Basically, having high biodiversity promotes the world’s continuation of life by ensuring that Earth’s natural systems won’t be entirely wiped out in the face of environmental calamities.


Current Threats to Biodiversity

So we’ve established that biodiversity has a direct relationship with our quality of life and even in the cases where it doesn’t directly affect our lifestyles, biodiversity still certainly promotes the sustenance of life on our planet, which is always good news for us. Unfortunately, some common things/activities have a side effect of decreasing biodiversity [2], such as:

  • Deforestation: This mass cutting down of forests that clears up land space for development or feeds the production of paper/lumber products not only kills trees, but also displaces many other species that depend on those forests for shelter and food.


  • Over-hunting: This one is pretty self-explanatory; a common way to reduce biodiversity would be to over-hunt a species and completely exterminate its population.


  • Climate Change: Many species’ habitats are changing at an alarmingly high rate due to climate change. In severe cases, previous homes of species can sadly become uninhabitable. A prominent example of this would be polar bears and the rapid melting of Arctic ice.


  • Invasive species: When a new, foreign species of plants or animals is introduced into an ecosystem, there is a chance of that invasive species thriving in its new environment (because, for example, the natural barriers that once kept the species under control in its previous ecosystem are no longer present in this current one). The resulting burst of invasive species growth often chokes out resources that other native species depend on, meaning that the introduction of one species might equal the ruin of many other species.


  • Pollution: You wouldn’t like it if you found a huge bundle of trash sitting on your living room floor, would you? Well, the pollution of natural habitats is not only inconvenient for the livelihood of species but it can also be dangerous, as many animals can mistake trash for an appetizing treat. Besides litter, oil spills are another form of pollution, and swimming around in waters contaminated with petroleum can be just as undesirable for marine life as it would be for us.


"The Last Polar Bear" by Gerard Van der Leun is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


How Can I Help Preserve Biodiversity?

There are so many possible threats to biodiversity out there, which can be disheartening to see. But I’ll let you know about the possible ways that you can help preserve the variety of life on our planet so that we can conclude this article with a focus on positive productivity! [3]

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: It’s such a cliché phrase, but that only highlights how true and unchanging this statement is! Our ultimate goal is to refrain from unnecessarily using more resources than we need to, which can help nature and biodiversity to remain as intact as possible. Reducing and reusing means that you try to buy products with as little extra packaging as possible, that you try to find long-lasting alternatives for disposable products, and that you sometimes refashion old/used items into something new. Recycling, although very important, is the last of the 3 R’s and it should also be the last resort that we turn to after reducing and reusing. But since recycling is still a great tactic to minimize the depletion of life’s diversity, check out these easy guidelines for recycling at home to start or refresh your recycling habits!


  • Gardening: Pollination by bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies effectively boosts the rate of plants’ seed/fruit reproduction, which will help to improve biodiversity, and it's good to know that there are some plants out there that especially attract these helpful pollinators. Scroll a bit down on this linked website for a list of common garden plants/flowers that attract pollinators!


  • Be Green on the Go: When traveling relatively short distances, try to walk, bike, or skateboard to your destination because you would be cutting down on carbon emissions that only accelerate the impacts of climate change, one of the major threats to biodiversity. And even if you were to travel by fossil fuel-powered vehicles, try to take public transportation or even bring a friend with you for a carpool in your own car because it’s more efficient for one pollution-emitting vehicle to carry multiple people than for everyone to individually take their pollution-emitting vehicles out for a solo drive.


  • Preserve Natural Settings: If there are pavements/roads available, use them rather than walking straight through the grass to get somewhere (after all, the making of those paths already cleared some natural land away for you; no need to damage nature further). You should be especially careful not to trample down any flowerbeds, which are very precious mini-ecosystems of life that promote biodiversity.


  • Sign Petitions: Signing petitions are a great way to let authorities know that we care about certain topics, and one particular petition that you can start with is here! This petition will be presented to the United Nations (UN) Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China scheduled for June 2021 and the website that I provided above lists the full demands of the petition. Sign this petition to voice your support for biodiversity alongside over two million people and I encourage you to start looking into some more legitimate petitions to sign!


Thank you for reading! With our help, the world can make a U-Turn for the better.

Note: Bracketed numbers next to certain texts (e.g. [1], [2], etc.) indicate that the aforementioned information in the article is derived from the corresponding source in the References below.


References

[1] Merriam-Webster. Biodiversity. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biodiversity.

[2] Biodiversity | National Wildlife Federation. https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Understanding-Conservation/Biodiversity.

[3] Top 10 Ways you can Protect Biodiversity. (2019, May 22). https://croplife.org/news/top-10-ways-you-can-protect-biodiversity/.

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