Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms works together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.
In this article, Pritish Kumar Halder gives a brief explanation of Biodiversity.
But as humans put increase pressure on the planet, using and consuming more resources than ever before, we risk upsetting the balance of ecosystems and losing biodiversity. WWF’s 2020 Living Planet Report found an average 68% decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians since 1970. The 2019 landmark Global Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reported one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction – the highest number in human history.
Three-quarters of the land-based environment and roughly 66% of the ocean environment have been significantly altered. More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. Climate change worsens the impact of other stressors on nature and our well-being. Humans have overfished the oceans, cleared forests, polluting our water sources, and created a climate crisis. These actions are impacting biodiversity around the world, from the most remote locales to our backyards.
Our planet is facing major conservation challenges from threats like climate change, deforestation, overfishing, and illegal wildlife trade. But protecting our planet and keeping planetary warming below 1.5C (2.7° F) is not impossible and none of us need to do it alone. Our impact on the planet primarily comes from what we eat, what we buy, how we power our homes, and how we travel from place to place. Of course, governmental policies and protections also play an important role.
Together, we can take action to create lasting solutions and protect the future of nature.
Even the most important biodiversity hubs around the world are not immune from human pressures. Borneo, a massive island in southeast Asia, is home to more than 1,400 different animal species, and at least 15,000 plant species. Iconic wildlife like orangutans, pygmy elephants, clouded leopards, rhinos, and monkeys share the landscape with the world’s tallest tropical trees. You’ll also find more than 50 species of carnivorous pitcher plants that trap and consume insects and small animals. There are up to 3,000 species of orchids; flying, color-changing frogs; and slugs that shoot darts at their mates.
But Borneo’s vast wealth of natural resources has attracted more than nature lovers. For decades, large-scale, international interests have worked to extract as much as they can from the island – hardwood trees; coal; rubber; gold, diamonds, and other metals and minerals. Forests are decimated to make way for profitable palm oil plantations. Even the plants and animals that make Borneo so special are hunted, harvested, and sold on the black market.
All this pressure adds up to a landscape that is quickly changing, with nature struggling to keep up. Thirty percent of Borneo’s forests have been wiped out in only 40 years. We’ve lost half of all critically endangered Bornean orangutans in just the past 20 years. Even the nepenthes rajah, the largest known carnivorous pitcher plant, is endangered. We’re plucking threads from the biodiversity web and it’s starting to collapse.
But one of the most beautiful things about biodiversity is its resilience. Ease up on the pressure, manage resources well, give it time, and the ecosystem will adapt. Nature and biodiversity will recover. That’s exactly what WWF is working to do in Borneo. We’ve identified the threats and are addressing them: engaging both local communities and international governments to set aside protected lands and end illegal deforestation; working with companies to ensure the paper, lumber, and food products you use every day are sourced responsibly; and leading global efforts to stop wildlife crime.
We’re using these same tactics to combat biodiversity loss all over the world – analyzing the unique threats and finding innovative solutions. To protect the iconic wildlife we all love, we must rebuild the web of biodiversity that supports it. We do this by rethinking how we’re using natural resources, easing the pressure, and allowing ecosystems to recover. In the process, all life benefits plants, insects, fish, birds, mammals, and even people.
Biodiversity is important to most aspects of our lives. We value biodiversity for many reasons, some utilitarian, and some intrinsic. This means we value biodiversity both for what it provides to humans and for the value it has in its own right. Utilitarian values include the many basic needs humans obtain from bio diversities such as food, fuel, shelter, and medicine.
Further, ecosystems provide crucial services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests. Biodiversity also holds value for potential benefits not yet recognized, such as new medicines and other possible unknown services. Biodiversity has cultural value to humans as well, for spiritual or religious reasons for instance.
The intrinsic value of biodiversity refers to its inherent worth, which is independent of its value to anyone or anything else. This is more of a philosophical concept, which can be thought of as the inalienable right to exist. Finally, the value of biodiversity can also be understood through the lens of the relationships we form and strive for with each other and the rest of nature. We may value biodiversity because of how it shapes who we are, our relationships with each other, and social norms.
These relational values are part of people’s individual or collective sense of well-being, responsibility for, and connection with the environment. The different values placed on biodiversity are important because they can influence the conservation decisions people make every day.
Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet, causing rapid ecosystem change and massive loss of biodiversity across the planet. This has led some people to refer to the time we now live in as the “Anthropocene.” While the Earth has always experienced changes and extinctions, today they are occurring at an unprecedented rate. For more information about biodiversity please visit Pritish Kumar Halder ‘s page.
Major direct threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and fragmentation, unsustainable resource use, invasive species, pollution, and global climate change. The underlying causes of biodiversity loss, such as a growing human population and overconsumption are often complex and stem from many interrelated factors.
The good news is that it is within our power to change our actions to help ensure the survival of species and the health and integrity of ecological systems. By understanding threats to biodiversity, and how they play out in context, we can be best prepared to manage conservation challenges. The conservation efforts of the last decades have made a significant difference in the state of biodiversity today.
Over 100,000 protected areas—including national parks, wildlife refuges, game reserves, and marine protected areas, managed both by governments and local communities—provide habitat for wildlife, and help keep deforestation in check. When protecting habitat is not enough, other types of conservation actions such as restoration, reintroduction, and the control of invasive species, have had positive impacts. And these efforts have been bolstered by continuous efforts to improve environmental policies at local, regional, and global scales.
Finally, the lifestyle choices of individuals and communities can have a large effect on their impacts on biodiversity and the environment. While we might not be able to prevent all negative human impacts on biodiversity, with the knowledge we can work to change the direction and shape of our effects on the rest of life on Earth.