Thursday, November 30, 2017

What is Biodiversity?

Among all complicated terminologies environmentalists often use to sound clever, biodiversity is the jewel in the crown. It is like when smokers say, “Do you have a smoke?” or when a priest shouts, “Jesus Christ!” – yes, with an exclamation mark. As complicated as it may sound, biodiversity is basically just a little bit smarter way of saying everything; well, almost everything.

All living organisms in the world are connected to each other both in direct and indirect ways. While they do live and exist in different habitats, every single creature contributes to the formation of larger sustainable ecosystem. Planet Earth is filled with multiple ecosystems which also correlate with each other; because mutual relations have always been undertaken with profound silence and stealth, it can take years to observe how the interactions actually work. Not to mention a group of high-paying scientists, nutritious supplies, and a bunch of equipment worth millions of dollars.

What is Biodiversity
A bed is a good example of biodiversity; it has you, bacteria in your body, dog, flea in its fur, a cup of tea from yesterday, and of course bed bugs.
Non living things yet naturally occurring components of ecosystem, for examples air and water, are inseparable parts of biodiversity. Although they do not display characteristics of life such as growth and metabolism, living organisms will find it hard to sustain their existence in the absence of those components. Both unmanaged and managed ecosystems are parts of biodiversity. No one will blame you for thinking that biodiversity is comprised of only unmanaged ecosystems such as wild jungle, oceans, national parks, and mature preserves. As usual, you are wrong but anybody else unfortunately has to respect your opinion. Managed areas like city parks, croplands, plantations, and even farms also play important roles in maintaining the level of biodiversity all around the world – in fact, they have their own biodiversity, albeit small.

That is how life on Earth works, that is the simplest biodiversity definition possible.

Biodiversity is not evenly distributed on Earth; tropical forests are the richest as they house 90% of all species, but it exists everywhere including oceans and other aquatic ecosystems, deserts, and grasslands. Because humans have already used about 24% of the entire planet’s terrestrial surface for cultivated or managed systems, it becomes crucial that the decision to create every new similar system is backed with educated considerations concerning the sustainability of its unmanaged counterparts.

Biodiversity Loss

People need to understand that their existence also largely depend on plants, animals, water, atmosphere, and the balance between them. In case you don’t know yet, a lot of medications use the chemicals found in many different species of plants and animals which live thanks to good supply of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You will die without clean water filtered naturally by the soil layers and purified by microorganisms in them. More than 60% of public water supply comes from natural sources such as river streams and lakes. Meat taken from animals and leaves harvested from vegetables are parts of your daily menu; beer is made of mostly vegetables, yeast, and water unless you add food dye.

Those things that you need on daily basis are provided by or at least exist thanks to other living and non-living organisms in nature. Yes you can buy milk and cheese in a grocery store indeed, but it does not mean the store or the factories can make the products out of nothing. Animals that give you their meats and plants that give you fruits also depend on the existence of others species. This is why biodiversity loss is a serious threat ahead of us. Main causes of biodiversity loss are as follows:

  • Over exploitation: over-fishing and over-hunting have significantly reduced the number of species on Earth. Such decline is not by natural causes, putting risk of extinction to the species and others which depend on them to survive. Of course your salmon comes from fish farm, but the farmer will take millions of smaller fish to feed their commodities.
  • Alien species: the introduction of an invasive species to new areas can destroy biodiversity because they will prey on the native species. If you put a school of piranha into Yukon, chances are they will annihilate the salmon. Same thing happens if you put an alligator into a pool of Koi – the reptile eats the fish, not the other way around; also, remember that alligator is the reptile.
  • Habitat loss: land-uses for residential or agricultural purposes mean the loss of natural habitat for wild animals and plants.
  • Pollution: plants and animals cannot adapt quick enough to the changing environment due to pollution produced by human activities.

Species richness is one of the measures to identify the level of biodiversity. It has been established that all organisms, regardless of how small they are - such as bacteria and fungi - have roles to maintain steady balance of life on Earth including bed bugs in your bed and the bugs in theirs.

There cannot be an overabundance of specific species while too few of others. The nature has its own way to keep the numbers checked, but humans often interfere and cause serious damage. It is now our responsibility to maintain biodiversity by protecting the rights of other species to not only exist and but also thrive.