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Biodiversity | Importance, Threats, and Conservation Strategies


Did you know that there are over 8.7 million animal and plant species on Earth, but only 1.2 species have been identified and named so far? This means that the rest of the 7.5 million species still remain a mystery. There is so much biodiversity on a global scale but we as humans are not successful in identifying all of it.

Now imagine that from the little we know about biodiversity, there’s a chunk of species that are on the verge of extinction.

Humans have negatively affected the preservation of various plant and animal species while posing threats to biodiversity. But how does it affect us?

Let’s understand what biodiversity is, its importance to mankind and the negative effects of the threats we are posing to it. 

Definition of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a self explanatory concept combining two words: “bio” and “diversity”. Bio refers to the life forms, and diversity means variety. Thus the term coined together meaning the diverse life forms living in a certain area including animals, plants, bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

Imagine a world where there are no plants to provide us with oxygen to breathe and no animals to maintain a balanced food chain. The world would be a mess.

A lot of people value certain parts of biodiversity, but the more we learn about it, the more we realize that everything is important, even bugs and germs that we can't see or don't like the way they look. People rely on biodiversity in many ways, so it is very important that we protect it. 

About a third of the world's crops are grown with the help of pollinators like birds, bees, and other animals. These organisms pollinate plants and make the production of food possible. 

Invertebrates are also important to agriculture because they help keep the dirt full of nutrients where plants have to grow.  Microbes live in large numbers in soil and are necessary for plants to get the nutrients they need to grow. We humans ultimately assimilate these nutrients when we eat those plants. Ocean life is where a lot of people satisfy most of their meat cravings.

Wetlands, wild fields, trees, and bushes all naturally slow water down and help the earth soak up rain. If there were no trees and bushes, it would lead to floods. The air we breathe is cleaner because of trees and other plants. By taking in carbon dioxide, these plants also help us fight climate change. 

Coral reefs and mangrove woods naturally keep waves and storms away from beaches. Some of the most important chemicals we use every day, like latex and rubber, and many of the drugs are also derived from plants. 

Recent research shows that spending time in nature can help people's physical and mental health. It has been shown that towns with more trees and green spaces have fewer hospital visits, less stress, and lower blood pressure. And what’s responsible for that? Biodiversity!

Threats to Biodiversity

People have taken over the world in the last 100 years, causing ecosystems to change quickly with a huge loss of species everywhere. And because of this, some people call this time the "anthropocene." 

The Earth has always gone through changes and extinctions, but now they are happening at a rate that has never been seen before. The common threats to biodiversity include:

  • Habitat loss

Unsustainable changes to land use, like turning a forest into farms or mining large areas of land, are still the main cause of biodiversity loss. 

The 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), states that people have already changed three-quarters of land-based environments and two-thirds of marine environments enormously that affects biodiversity.

Our farming methods put a huge strain on the environment as well. 

More than a third of the earth's land and almost three-quarters of its water resources are now used to grow crops or raise animals. 

Logging, mining, obtaining fossil fuels, and industrial fishing are some other activities that have caused significant environmental loss and pollution. 

When land is turned into cities or suburbs, the habitat is fragmented and divided making it hard for animals to find food and mates, migrate, and go through their normal life cycles.

  • Overexploitation

Targeted hunting, fishing, and gathering of plants, animals, and other wild resources are all harmful to biodiversity. Animals and plants that lose a large portion of their population in a short amount of time affect other animals and plants in the area. 

If, say, a main predator is overfished, there will be no one to keep the number of other fish in check. Also, using up too many nonrenewable resources like oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy will have an effect on everyday life because they are limited in supply.

  • Invasive species

Plants and animals that travel around the world are also a threat to biodiversity. A species that is new to a place is often called an "alien species." Most of the time, these species do not cause any problems but if they start causing harm to humans and other animals, they are termed as invasive alien species

Invasive species are often brought into a new area by people, either on purpose or by mistake. As an example, people who came to Australia in the eighteenth century brought rabbits with them so they could be kept for food. Their numbers quickly grew, and as they ate an abnormal number of plants, they promptly posed a threat to the area.

In Australia, rabbits still eat trees and native plants and can kill young orchards, causing major erosion problems.

Invasive species can drastically change ecosystems, cause extinction, and reduce species richness.

Read More: How the Carbon Cycle Works?

  • Pollution

Pollution in the air, earth, and water can hurt species by destroying their habitats, hurting them physically, or making them more likely to get sick or be eaten. 

Pesticides and heavy metals are examples of pollutants that can move up the food chain and contaminate many levels of the ecosystem.

Some of the worst pollutants are sulfur and nitrogen, which contaminate both land and water. These pollutants threaten food yields and seep into waterways, harming animals. This unfortunate combo of sulfur and nitrogen causes acid rain, killing algae (the main nutrients for aquatic animals). 

When the soil's pH changes, food becomes expensive and doesn’t reach to a number of people in a cost-effective way. 

Anything in excess becomes a pollutant, even if they’re a natural product. Plastic waste has made its way deep into the sea and has even been found at microscopic levels on Mount Everest and in human digestive tracts. 

  • Human Population

Human population has caused a lot of negative implications on biodiversity. There were not quite 1 billion people on earth about 200 years ago, but now the number is estimated to reach 9.8 billion by 2050. 

As the human population grows, the need for resources like food, drink, and shelter will increase. 

Because of these growing needs, growth, and urbanization, biodiversity is expected to decrease. Since people will need places to live, work, and play, areas that used to have forests and many different plants and animals will turn into concrete jungles, causing animals to leave their homes and reducing the number of plants that can grow there. 

  • Climate change 

In the same way that climate disaster is an existential threat to humans, animals will also have to deal with droughts, more frequent wildfires, stronger heat waves, storms, more infectious diseases, and less food. 

Due to climate change, the wildlife remains stressed and has to either move to new areas where they can survive or learn to deal with the new stressful conditions.

The main causes of climate change include burning fossil fuels and farming in unsustainable ways. The damage to nature also sets off a feedback loop.

For example, marshes and old-growth woods that are in good health take in almost half of all the carbon dioxide that people release into the air. If they are destroyed, carbon dioxide will be accumulated in the atmosphere.

How to Overcome It?

Biodiversity loss is the biggest threat we’re facing these days that will ultimately pose serious challenges to human life. But there are ways in which we can overcome it:

Biodiversity Conservation: The first step is to identify the habitats that are on the verge of extinction. These habitats can then be conserved using various methods like, leaving wildlife undisturbed, denning areas, and setting up bird and bat houses. 

Modifying problematic agricultural activities can also contribute to biodiversity conservation. For instance, one should conserve water in wetlands, reduce irrigation and water loss, and maintain livestock grazing.

Legislative Actions: Pressure needs to be put on governments to enforce laws in order to protect biodiversity. An environment should be created where intergovernmental bodies and policymakers collaborate to mitigate the issues related to it.

Governments should also enforce legislation to ensure sustainable methods for food production and fishing. They should provide incentives and subsidies to farmers for the protection of national parks and other areas of natural flora and fauna. 

Substitute Products: Biodiversity is severely damaged by obtaining the resources needed to generate the products we use today. Examples involve consuming meat, baking with palm oil, buying cheap clothes that are mass-produced, and using plastic straws.

Recycling goods and using eco-friendly alternatives is one of the easiest ways to stop biodiversity loss.

We obtain meat by breeding animals until they are sufficiently large to kill and eat. This method needs a lot of land, especially for raising cattle and to grow food for cows and other animals. Promoting people to eat less meat would be the easiest way to fix this problem. Although, this might take too long, and getting people to change their habits can be hard. 

Therefore, "lab-grown meat," which is also called "cultured meat," is an answer to this problem. Not a meat replacement, but meat made in a different way using a method called intro-vitro cultivation. 

Utilizing microalgae as a substitute to palm oil is another great way to get rid of a harmful product that is widely used around the world.

Vertical Ocean Farming: Pollution, climate change, and overfishing have had detrimental effects on the environment.

Overfishing occurs when more fish are taken from the water than can be replaced. Sea creatures like oysters have been severely overfished, and to catch them, people scrape the bottom of the ocean, which destroys the habitat and catches numerous types of fish that weren't meant to be caught.

In response to this problem, restorative vertical ocean farming has been introduced. Bren Smith, one of the leaders of vertical ocean farming, calls it a "underwater garden" where they grow kelp, mussels, scallops, and oysters by copying the ocean's natural environments. 

Instead of trawling the ocean floor with big nets, these gardens can grow food for fish, seals, and other animals.

The Bottom Line

We have stated a comprehensive detail on biodiversity and the eminent threats it is facing. Our Earth is only as good as the diverse living organisms that inhabit it. If only one of those species wiped out from existence, we as humans, would face serious consequences.

So, in our personal capacity, we should take active steps to prevent biodiversity loss. For human survival, animals, plants or other fungal species should not be compromised. 

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With over 3 years of experience in teaching, Chloe is very deeply connected with the topics that talk about the educational and general aspects of a student's life. Her writing has been very helpful for students to gain a better understanding of their academics and personal well-being. I’m also open to any suggestions that you might have! Please reach out to me at chloedaniel402 [at]