Environmentalism, Conservation, and Sustainability:
Part VI:  What is Biodiversity?

The variety of living things that live on Earth is known as biodiversity. The items and services we obtain from nature are dependent on biodiversity. We require a diverse range of organisms to produce foods, supplies, and medicines, as well as to maintain a clean and healthy environment.

A species becomes extinct when it is no longer able to reproduce and becomes lost to future generations. The current rate of extinction, according to scientists, is 1,000 times the natural rate. People are accelerating biodiversity loss at an alarming rate through hunting, pollution, habitat devastation, and through their contribution to climate change.

Because the total number of species is uncertain, it's difficult to say how many are going extinct. Every year, there are thousands of new species discovered by scientists. After studying just 19 trees in Panama, scientists discovered 1,200 distinct beetle species— 80 percent of them previously unknown to science. We might be losing anywhere from 200 to 100,000 different species every year.

To assure we have enough and varied food sources, we must preserve biodiversity. This is true even if we don't consume a species that may become extinct because anything we eat may be depending on it for survival. Some predators serve an important function in maintaining the populations of other animals at manageable levels. The demise of a major predator might result in more herbivores scouring people's farms for food.

Biodiversity is vital for more than just food. We utilize between 50,000 and 70,000 different plant species every year for medicine throughout the world. The Great Barrier Reef contributes about $6 billion to Australia's economy through commercial fishing, tourism, and other recreational activities. Many of the fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and plants would perish if the coral reef died.

To protect wildlife and their habitats, many governments have established parks and preserves. They are also attempting to eliminate or at least control any hunting and fishing techniques that may lead to the endangerment or extinction of a species.



September 20, 2023 — Debby McKnight