“Biodiversity” is a term that was coined by joining the words “biological” and “diversity”. This contraction is now routinely used to discuss the high number and wide variety of organisms in the world, including humankind. The UK is lucky enough to have rich biodiversity across its lands, but our modern lifestyles are rapidly threatening much of this natural variety. The good news is that there is much we can do to halt these threats. As long as we all pitch in, biodiversity should continue to flourish in the UK.
Benefits of Biodiversity
Biodiversity relies upon ecological systems completing and complementing each other. The food chain is a good example. Soil nurtures plants, plants are eaten by animals, and animals are raised and used by humans for a variety of purposes. If one link of this chain were to go missing the chain would be destroyed. And if one link of this chain were changed, the entire chain would be different. Today there is enough biodiversity to support a multitude of chains, all of which can benefit humans. Just a few of these benefits include:
- Food. As has already been described, the variety of natural and organic plants found around the world feed animals and humans alike.
- Beverages. Much the same as food, the diversity of natural materials provide an abundance of ingredients for beverages.
- Medicine. Most medicines are derived from natural ingredients, most specifically plants. Many antibiotics are also derived from living micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi.
- Building materials. Rubber, oil, certain types of fibres, dyes and adhesives all come from natural origins.
Threats to Biodiversity
The major threat to biodiversity is extinction. Any type of plant or animal can die out, meaning that in its absence, all of the ecosystems that it inhabited (the chains of which it was a link) must change or risk dying out themselves. Either option will have a profound effect on the ecosystem’s output, which in turn affects the “ingredients” it will produce for human consumption, thus altering humans’ lifestyles as well. Some of the major threats to biodiversity include:
- Hunting, or more specifically over-hunting. Killing animals obviously reduces their numbers and endangers their species.
- Habitat loss. Often habitats are demolished, for example to make way for buildings and roads. A specific type of habitat loss is deforestation, or cutting down trees.
- Invasion by foreign species. The introduction of non-native species (for example, stocking a pond with fish from another part of the world) again means that an ecosystem must cope with a threat to its natural order.
- Pollution. Pollution contaminates natural ecosystems and again poses a threat.
- Climate change. Differing temperatures, amounts of snowfall or rainfall and a variety of other symptoms of climate change can all affect ecosystems in a given area.
Protecting biodiversity is fairly easy. The world works quite well the way it was designed, so all humans need to do is let it function! In fact, the best way to protect biodiversity is to simply limit any threats to it. For example:
- Do not participate in, and urge others not to participate in, hunting for sport or poaching.
- Protest against deforestation or any other type of habitat loss for the sake of newer or cheaper products for humans.
- Do not introduce foreign species to local habitats.
- Cut down your carbon footprint which leads to pollution and ultimately climate change. Reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible.
Biodiversity is a complicated word that has a simple meaning. The diversity of nature can be seen all around us, but sadly we must be sure to protect it now that it is under threat. Do your part to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible and enjoy the rich varieties of plants, animals and habitats all around you. You never know when you might not have another chance!