Our Earth is home to so much more than just us humans. From enormous deep sea creatures to the tiny microorganisms that cover almost every surface, there are countless other living creatures all around us. Our world is beautiful and full of life, but we’re losing some of that life at an alarming rate. The endangered and extinct species list is getting longer every year, not to mention the loss of species that we didn’t document or even notice. Earth has a long history of mass extinctions, which have happened at least five times in the past, but the current extinction event is within our control to fix, and we’re not doing enough.
The extinction of species is a natural part of ecosystems, but not at this break-neck speed. It’s estimated that we’re losing species of animals at a staggering 114 times higher than the historical rate. And it’s not just the cute fuzzy animals that are in danger. We’re also losing countless species of plants and insects, not to mention the massive losses in water ecosystems. Humans are driving this extinction process in several ways. Overconsumption, poaching, and pollution play a large role, but the biggest factor in the extinction of species is habitat loss.
Because of this issue, it’s crucial to spread awareness of biodiversity and its role on our planet. We need to do all we can to preserve what’s left of it. Let’s take a closer look at biodiversity and some steps we can take to help protect Earth’s species.
Why is Biodiversity so Important?
Biodiversity boosts each ecosystem’s productivity. In a food web, each species, no matter how small, plays an important role. If enough species are removed, the whole system falls apart, causing even more species to struggle and die off. But do we actually need a large number of different species? What benefits does biodiversity give us? Here are a few key reasons why biodiversity is good for humans and the world as a whole:
- Greater species diversity means natural sustainability for all life forms. The species of plant, animal, insect, and microorganism have developed together in each ecosystem to form an interconnected system that relies on each piece.
- Having a larger number of plant species means a larger variety of crops. We use plants for food and drink, clothing, art, and more. We can lose out on delicious, useful, and interesting plants when we wipe out areas of natural ecosystem.
- Not only is biodiversity important for the crops we already harvest, but it’s also vitally important for future developments. Many of our medicines came from plants or microorganisms and were discovered by accident. If we destroy large amounts of species, we could be destroying the next big cure.
- Healthy ecosystems can withstand and recover better from a variety of natural disasters. For example, if an area has only a few species of plant at the base of the food web, if a disease comes through that takes out one species entirely, all of the species of the area will suffer greatly. If instead the area has a lot of variety, losing one plant won’t have as big an impact.
- Biodiversity is also important for simple aesthetics. Having a variety of plants, animals, birds, insects, and other living things creates beautiful landscapes that are irreplaceable if we lose the species within.
Healthy Biodiversity Offers Many Resources
Along with a healthy environment for every species, good biodiversity also offers many fundamental resources for both the ecosystem and us, including:
- Clean Air - Whether it’s from an old growth of forest or phytoplankton in the oceans, the oxygen we breathe is produced from plants. Plants also absorb quite a few pollutants, giving us fresh clean air.
- Healthy Soil - Soil is a habitat for a lot of microorganisms that are working all the time. These organisms help provide food for larger species, form the basis of the nutrients cycle through the soil, and boost nutrient availability to the roots of the plants.
- Raw Materials - A biodiverse ecosystem naturally supplies us with raw materials, including wood, biofuels, and plant oils that come from both wild and cultivated species.
There are also many resources that help us humans thrive, including our:
- Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
- Breeding stocks and population reservoirs
- Countless other plant and animal-based products
With such a wide variety of resources coming from biodiverse ecosystems, everyone benefits from preservation. The cost of replacing these many resources that are already well established would be costly and time consuming, if possible at all. It makes sense both economically and developmentally to help sustain diverse ecosystems around the world. If we keep destroying, minimizing, and isolating habitats, we risk more extinctions and a more precarious position if disaster were to strike the limited resources left behind.
Biodiversity and Ethics
We humans have an obligation to protect and preserve the ecosystems around us. We alone on this Earth have the intellectual capability, awareness, and means to purposefully keep other species safe or to destroy them completely. We know that we’re causing a problem that hurts not only us, but also large parts of the world, and we need to do something about it. It’s possible for us to survive without destroying the ecosystems around us, so why do we continue to do so? If we continue, we might find it difficult to continue our progress. We shouldn’t leave the Earth worse than we found it. We need to protect it and help make it better for the future.
How Can We Protect Biodiversity?
When it comes to protecting the ecosystems around us, there are several steps we can take as individuals and as a society. Some may seem small, but every little bit counts.
- Recycle - It’s important to recycle not only your aluminum cans and paper, but also your used electronics, tires, plastics and other waste. These things end up in piles on the land and floating through the oceans, creating tons of pounds of trash that can harm and kill off entire species.
- Reuse - Stop using those disposable plastic straws, grocery bags, and other plastics. Get some reusable shopping bags and keep them in your trunk so that you have them the next time you hit the grocery store. Buy some metal straws and keep them around to use with your morning’s iced coffee.
- Garden - Having a garden and cultivating plants that are native to your area is a great way to help protect and spread the biodiverse ecosystem of your neighborhood. A wildflower garden is a great example of this and can be set up easily. Growing these local plants in your backyard will help other species in your area as well that rely on these plants to survive. In particular, consider how this can help the bee populations and how important they are for pollinating our crops.
No matter where you live or how small you think your impact is, taking the time to understand the ecosystems around you and making small lifestyle changes where you can is what needs to be done on a large scale across the world. The biodiversity of our Earth is depending on us to take care of it, not to destroy it, and this preservation will help us as well as the other species in the end.
Interested in other ways we can help protect biodiversity in our cities? Check out Ranger Mac’s blog on the importance of city parks and other green space!