What is Biodiversity

Take a moment to remember the last time you relaxed in your backyard. If you are not a meticulous gardener, it is likely that you would have noticed a few dandelions and clovers growing throughout your lawn. Look a bit more closely, and you may notice that your lawn is a host to a variety of insects – grasshoppers and leafhoppers may be nibbling on your grass and shrubs, and plants may be covered in a layer of bright green aphids, which are in turn eaten by ladybirds. If you’re lucky, you may notice an occasional bird or spider will manage to make an insect its midday meal. Your simple lawn is actually host to an amazingly large variety of organisms, interacting together to make a lawn ecosystem. Even you are part of this ecosystem – you play a role in watering and weeding the lawn. Together, you and all of these organisms make up the species biodiversity of this lawn ecosystem.

Species biodiversity is just one of the three types of biodiversity that are crucial to the survival of life on Earth. On a larger scale, the diversity between each unique ecosystem on the earth comprises what is known as ecosystem biodiversity. On a smaller scale, within individual species, there is genetic biodiversity. This is the variation in the genetic makeup of each individual. The greater the variation in life forms on Earth, the more chances of species being able to survive any radical changes in the environment. Species survive and adapt to changing environments because the genetic diversity within the species means that at least some members of the species will have a genetic makeup that allows them to survive in the new conditions. Likewise, ecosystems are more likely to return after natural disasters if it has a greater diversity of species, because diversity ensures that more species will be able to survive the disaster. During times of dramatic global change, this has allowed life to survive several mass extinctions, such as the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. The diversity of species meant that some species, such as small mammal and bird were able to survive through unfavorable environmental conditions relatively unscathed, even though the dinosaurs were wiped out.

As members of the global biosphere, humans too benefit from biodiversity, and it is one of our greatest natural resources. The diversity of organisms is especially important in the agricultural industries. Changing environmental conditions could render some food crops unable to survive. By maintaining the biodiversity of the Earth, we improve our chances of finding food value organisms that can survive in times of environmental changes. Moreover, biodiversity plays an important role in human health; it is estimated that at least 80% of the world’s population is dependent on medicine made from natural products, and new species can offer new possibilities in medicine. Most importantly, however, we are extremely dependent on the biological processes preformed by species, be it the role of insects that pollinate our food crops or bacteria species that act to purify water. Loss of biodiversity would have far reaching effects on the natural order of our environment that we may not even be able to foresee, which may be disastrous for the survival of all humankind.

Unfortunately, human impact on the environment has taken a tremendous toll on biodiversity. Species are now going extinct threaten hundreds of plants and animal species, some even before they are discovered. The long term effects of our impact on biodiversity are still yet to be seen, but chances are, it will come back to haunt us again in the years ahead.

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