What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variety of all living organisms on Earth. This includes terrestrial, marine and other aquatic organisms and the ecological systems they are part of. This diversity can occur between species, within species and at an ecosystem level. Biodiversity is important to our existence – It forms the foundation for an array of ecosystem services, which are critical to human well-being.
Why is biodiversity important?
Biodiversity helps to boost ecosystem productivity and a healthy level of biodiversity provides several natural services to the human population, including:
- Ecosystem services
- nutrient storage and recycling
- pollution breakdown and absorption
- soil formation and protection
- protection of water resources
- Biological resources
- Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
- Future resources
- Ornamental plants
- Social benefits
- Research, education and monitoring
- Recreation and tourism
- Cultural values
The cost of replacing these, if at all feasible, would be extremely high, so sustaining healthy biodiversity is important for human well-being.
Large genetic diversity also helps to prevent species extinction in the wild. To prevent problems that are associated with in-breeding, a variety of genes are necessary for survival. If we carry on reducing and destroying habitats as we are, the interaction between species with large gene pools is going to decrease.
What are the main threats to biodiversity?
Global biodiversity is under serious threat due to a range of human activities – the list of pressures is long. The main threats to biodiversity worldwide include:
- Population growth
- Resource consumption
- Climate change
- Habitat destruction
- Invasive alien species
How can we improve biodiversity?
Biodiversity is threatened by society as a whole but also by our day to day actions. Sometimes it can be difficult to make connections between what we do individually and the effects that this can have.
As an individual, there are changes that you can make to your day to day life that will help contribute to preserving biodiversity.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle waste – if we can reduce our demand for new resources then less habitat conversion/destruction and energy use will need to occur to extract and produce products.
- Reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers – these products often run off into surrounding environments, having adverse effects on the species living there.
- Buy organic food – to help to reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides.
- Environmentally friendly cleaning products help to reduce the chemical contamination of habitats during manufacturing and as they are washed down the drain.
- Reduce single-person car use – try and use public transport where possible and look into more fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Try to conserve and reduce energy consumption at home – consider incorporating renewable energy into your home.
These are just a few of the ways in which you can begin to make changes to help limit your personal impact on biodiversity loss. While these individual changes are extremely important, changes also need to be made on a much larger scale.
See next week’s blog about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), which aims to preserve biodiversity on a country-wide level.