WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY?
There are many theories and ideologies on the philosophy of the definition of 'biodiversity' depending on the scholar, lab or even the institution you may ask.
~The Natural History Museum defines Biodiversity;
The term biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth, from micro-organisms to mighty whales, along with the habitats they depend upon. Discover why the world’s biodiversity is under threat and what will happen to us as biodiversity decreases. Also, find out about the problems that come with trying to measure it, and how the Museum’s work is helping in the study and conservation of biodiversity.
~ U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, "Technologies to Maintain Biological Diversity," 1987 states;
"Biological diversity is the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur. Diversity can be defined as the number of different items and their relative frequency. For biological diversity, these items are organized at many levels, ranging from complete ecosystems to the chemical structures that are the molecular basis of heredity. Thus, the term encompasses different ecosystems, species, genes, and their relative abundance."
~ Metaphysics Research Lab, CSLI, Stanford University states;
“Biodiversity” is often defined as the variety of all forms of life, from genes to species, through to the broad scale of ecosystems (for a list of variants on this simple definition see Gaston 1996). "Biodiversity" was coined as a contraction of "biological diversity" in 1985, but the new term arguably has taken on a meaning and import all its own. A symposium in 1986, and the follow-up book BioDiversity (Wilson 1988), edited by biologist E. O. Wilson, heralded the popularity of this concept. Ten years later, Takacs (1996, p.39) described its ascent this way: "in 1988, biodiversity did not appear as a keyword in Biological Abstracts, and biological diversity appeared once. In 1993, biodiversity appeared seventy-two times, and biological diversity nineteen times". Fifteen years further on, it would be hard to count how many times "biodiversity" is used every day by scientists, policy-makers, and others. The global importance of biodiversity now is reflected in the widely accepted target to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity by the year 2010
Why conserve biodiversity?
Biodiversity is a fundamental part of the Earth's life support system, without it we would not be able to survive.
What threatens our biodiversity?
The world's biodiversity is under threat from a range of different dangers, the majority of which have been caused by HUMANS.
Why conserve biodiversity?
Biodiversity is a fundamental part of the Earth's life support system. It supports many basic natural services for humans, such as fresh water, fertile soil and clean air. Biodiversity helps pollinate our flowers and crops, clean up our waste and put food on the table. Without it we would not be able to survive.
The term biodiversity should also remind us that no one organism lives in isolation. The many different ways that the millions of organisms on the Earth interact with each other contribute to the balance of the global ecosystem and the survival of the planet. Biodiversity plays a role in regulating natural processes such as the growth cycles of plants, the mating seasons of animals, and even weather systems.
Food and drink
Biodiversity provides food for humans. About 80% of our food supply comes from just 20 kinds of plant. Although many kinds of animal are used as food, again most consumption is focused on a few species.
There is vast untapped potential for increasing the range of food products suitable for human consumption.
A significant proportion of drugs are derived, directly or indirectly, from biological sources. However, only a small proportion of the total diversity of plants has been thoroughly investigated for potential sources of new drugs.
A wide range of industrial materials are derived directly from biological resources. These include building materials, fibres, dyes, resins, gums, adhesives, rubber and oil. There is enormous potential for further research into sustainably using materials from a wider diversity of organisms.
Biodiversity provides many services that we take for granted. It plays a part in regulating the chemistry of our atmosphere and water supply. It is directly involved in recycling nutrients and providing fertile soils. Experiments with controlled environments have shown that we cannot easily build ecosystems to support ourselves.
Leisure, cultural and aesthetic value
Many people derive value from biodiversity through leisure activities such as enjoying a walk in the countryside, birdwatching or natural history programs on television.
Biodiversity has inspired musicians, painters, sculptors, writers and other artists. Many cultural groups view themselves as an integral part of the natural world and show respect for other living organisms.
By signing the International Convention on Biological Diversity in 1992, the UK signalled a commitment to 'conserve and sustainably use biological diversity for the benefit of present and future generations'. By conserving biological diversity now, we give future generations the option to value and benefit from it too.
About Pavan Sukhdev
Pavan Sukhdev has long-standing interests and experience in environmental economics. From 2008-2010, while a senior banker at Deutsche Bank, he was seconded to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to lead the agency’s Green Economy Initiative, which includes The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity study (TEEB), the Green Economy Report and the Green Jobs report.