Introduction to Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems.

Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns  formed between them. The biodiversity we currently enjoy is as a result of the billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend.

Biodiversity relates to the wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms found on our planet. Biodiversity also includes genetic differences within each species, such as the wide variety of apples available and even the diversity within the human race . Chromosomes, genes, and DNA-the building blocks of life-determine the uniqueness of each individual and each species. Another aspect of biodiversity to keep in mind is the variety of actual ecosystems such as those present in deserts, mountains, etc.

Each ecosystem displays its own uniqueness through specific sets of natural patterns. It is this combination of life forms and their interactions with each other and with the rest of their immediate environment that has made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. Biodiversity provides a large number of goods and services that sustain our lives as well as for all other creatures. These services include:

  • Food, fuel, natural shelters and building materials to create our own.
  • The natural purification of air and water sources.
  • Detoxification and decomposition of wastes.
  • A moderate and stable global climate system. This includes the moderation of floods, droughts and temperature extremes, to name but a few.
  • The generation and renewal of soil fertility, including nutrient cycling.
  • Pollination of plants, including many crops.
  • Control of pests and diseases through the natural balance of each ecosystem.
  • Ability to adapt to change.

 

Protecting biodiversity is in our self-interest. Civilizations have always been highly dependent on the number and variety of resources available to them. The Earth's natural resources provide the basis for all industries such as agriculture, construction and waste treatment. The loss of biodiversity would affect our ability to procure food supplies, reduce opportunities for recreation and tourism, and deplete our natural resources such as wood and energy.