Explaining our ecosystems and beginning to look at what is biodiversity
Our common home, Earth, is the only known planet blessed with a cluster of diverse ecosystems in the entire universe. Life in this wonderful home has been sustained only because of nature’s ecosystem services.
While these ecosystems have been thriving for millions of years, they are vulnerable to collapse amidst the ongoing climate emergency and biodiversity crisis.
Over the years, Earth has seen various changes within its ecosystems. For instance, a once flourishing land turns into a desert, or a once flowing river now dries out.
But what makes an ecosystem strong or weak can be largely explained by its biodiversity. So, what is biodiversity?
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is a term that has been specifically used to represent all the variety of species in a particular ecosystem. It encompasses almost every living entity, ranging from plants, animals, and humans, to even bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Everything is interconnected, or dependent on everything else!
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Why is biodiversity important?
Humans need oxygen to survive, and if it weren’t for biodiversity, we would not have existed in the first place. Thus biodiversity is responsible for our ecological life support. The more biodiversity there is, the stronger an ecosystem is.
Furthermore, biodiversity provides plenty of other ecosystem services, such as clean water, fertile land, pollination, and others. Many of our reflection and recreational pursuits depend heavily on biodiversity; including walking, birdwatching, hiking, fishing, and camping. Even the tourism industry sells its unique biodiversity to lure travelers and nature lovers.
An ideal ecosystem hosts biodiversity, which has ideal environmental conditions for species to survive. Variations in the temperature of oceans, length of seasons, and levels of precipitation can influence the amount of biodiversity.
The biodiversity crisis and climate emergency: connected crises
Biodiversity is affected by the climate crisis, with negative consequences for human well-being. But biodiversity, through the ecosystem services it supports, also makes an important contribution to both climate crisis mitigation and adaptation. Consequently, conserving and sustainably managing biodiversity is critical to addressing the climate crisis.
All species are connected. Forests provide homes for animals. Animals eat plants. The plants need healthy soil to grow. Fungi help decompose organisms to fertilize the soil.
Bees and other insects carry pollen from one plant to another, which enables the plants to reproduce. And so, with less biodiversity or with biodiversity collapse, these connections weaken and sometimes break, harming all the species in the ecosystem.
Biodiversity provides food for humans. About 80 percent of our food supply comes from just 20 kinds of plants. Humans use at least 40,000 species of plants and animals a day.
At present, about one million species of plants and animals are facing the threat of extinction. About .1 percent of species are lost each year.
As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si’, “It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential ‘resources’ to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right” (LS 33).
Scientists have equated the current decline in biodiversity as intense as the massive extinction of various animal species over 60 million years ago. Thus, biodiversity conservation efforts need to be made to preserve our trees, land covers, and other ideal habitats for organisms, including amphibians, fungi, and fish.
Of course, extinction is a major part of the history of our Earth. Species have come and gone, while others have thrived regardless of the changes.
Unfortunately, human activities speed up the extinction rate we observe. When we encroach on habitats, pollute water bodies, disrupt migration paths, and so on, we not only impact biodiversity but, at worst, we threaten the ongoing existence of the creatures with whom we share the planet.
Details about what is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is born out of three interlaced features: ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity. The more interlaced these sub-features, the denser and richer the biodiversity of that particular ecosystem is. So what do they mean?
- Ecosystem diversity refers to the existing variations in ecosystems within a biogeographical region, and their impacts on species existence and other ecological processes.
- Species diversity refers to a variety of species present within an ecosystem and the relative abundance of each species it can hold within.
- Genetic diversity refers to a variety of genetic information available in individual plants, animals, and microorganisms.
How does biodiversity affect the environment?
Biodiversity collapse can compromise our environment adversely. Our planet’s health and well being of species rely on biodiversity protection.
Human beings are not immune to the impact of biodiversity collapse. We are at the heart of it. A deteriorated biodiversity means that humans would be forced to a future devoid of clean air and water. This will indirectly make us more vulnerable to a host of diseases.
Even though biodiversity is unique in almost every part of the Earth, forests, plants, crops, and even bacteria are highly susceptible to various environmental changes. You can join us in calling for no more biodiversity collapse and protect our Earth by signing the Healthy Planet, Healthy People petition:
WATCH: What is biodiversity?
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