Of late, we keep hearing the term ‘Biodiversity’ everywhere. While this term biological diversity was first coined by conservationist Raymond Dasmann in the sixties, it came to be widely used in the eighties, when the entomologist EO.Wilson used it as a title. Now-a-days it is being freely used by environmentalists and citizens alike. In this article, let us see, what exactly this biodiversity means and what purpose it serves.
What is Biodiversity?
Diversity as we all know means ‘variety’ and Bio stands for ‘life forms’. In simple terms, Biodiversity signifies the variety of life forms in the earth. The dictionary describes it as, ‘the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.’
According to a statistics available on the internet, there are more than 10,000 species of birds, 20,000 species of plants and about a million insect species. Beyond this there are over 1.5 million species that are not known or which cannot be classified under the usual biological heads. There are also new species that are being identified across the globe each day! All in all, it is said that the earth is mother to nearly 50 million species of ecosystem. This vast difference in all that exists is simply known by the term biodiversity.
Biodiversity is the biological diversity which includes the variety of the whole species present on earth. It includes different animals, plants, micro-organisms and their genes, water ecosystems, terrestrial, and marine ecosystems in which they all are present.
Biodiversity is necessary for our existence as well as valuable in its own right. This is because it provides the fundamental building blocks for the many goods and services which provides a healthy environment to lead our life.
Biodiversity include fundamental things to our health like fresh water clean air and food products, as well as the many other products such as timber and fiber.
Biodiversity also includes various other important things and services such as cultural, recreational, and spiritual nourishment that play an important role in maintaining our personal life as well as social life.
So, it is an important task for all of us to take care of our Biodiversity and we should try to maintain it. Over the last 200 years Australia has suffered the largest ocumented decline in biodiversity of any continent. Despite efforts to manage threats and pressures to biodiversity in Australia, it is still in decline.
Threats for Biodiversity
- Degradation, fragmentation and loss of habitat
- • Spreading of invasive species
- • Unsustainable use of natural resources
- • Change of Climate
- • Inappropriate fire regimes
- • Changes within aquatic environment and water flows
What are the Types of Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is a term with a broad sense and can be categorized under different types. Let at look at each category.
Species diversity: As the name suggests, this denotes the number of species in a particular area or location. For instance, the number of mammals in a forest can be classified under species diversity.
Genetic diversity: In any species, be it human or animal or plant, not everyone or everything are alike. Everything is made of genetic material and has different character traits. This is known as genetic diversity.
Ecological diversity: This signifies the variation in the ecosystem over the planet. It includes both the terrestrial and aquatic life forms and is by far the largest diversity. It also encompasses the Species and the Genetic diversity under it.
Where does Biodiversity come in use?
Biodiversity plays a vital role in safeguarding life in this planet from extinction. It is used for the conservation of any species belonging to our ecosystem. To understand better, read through the following examples,
- We get a greater variety of crops if there are a larger number of plant species
- When there is a greater species diversity, natural sustainability of all life forms automatically ensues
- When ecosystems are healthy, they can better withstand disasters (natural and otherwise)
Thus a healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone as listed below:
- Protection of water resources
- Soils formation and protection
- Nutrient storage and recycling
- Pollution breakdown and absorption
- Contribution to climate stability
- Maintenance of ecosystems
- Recovery from unpredictable events
Biological resources are provided
- Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
- Wood products
- Ornamental plants
- Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
- Future resources
- Diversity in genes, species and ecosystems
Social benefits obtained
- Research, education and monitoring
- Recreation and tourism
- Cultural values
How are we affecting Biodiversity?
This is the most important question that we need to ask ourselves. As with all life forms, we as humans definitely affect biodiversity, by doing the following:
Destruction of Habitat: This simply means destroying the places meant for other living creature. There are so many forests that have been cut down to make room for construction of multi storeyed buildings and shopping complexes. Where will the animals residing there go to? How will the death of thousands of trees be compensated? These are questions that we humans have stopped asking a long time ago.
Overkilling: This refers to excessive hunting of the animal species. While a healthy killing ratio will keep the human-animal balance right, overkilling will throw the balance off. The food chain will be affected to a great extent and we may not be able to regain the balance ever.
Mutated Species: This happens when man tries to play God. In our never-ending quest for knowledge, sometimes the line between ethical and moral fade away. We experiment with things that we are not supposed to and it gives rise to bizarre species that can in no way belong and evolve with our natural surroundings.
Population Explosion: Too much of anything is good for nothing! The rate at which the population of the world and especially that in India is highly alarming. The rest of the ecosystem cannot keep pace with us! We should look at some means to keep this in check so that we don’t end up destroying ourselves.
How do we preserve Biodiversity?
- Habitats where endangered species live should be protected
- We should start looking at sustainable resources for utilization
- Trade in wildlife should be properly regulated
- Poaching and hunting should be prohibited
- Pollution should be reduced to a great extent
- Rise in population to be curbed if we need to survive
Above all spread the word, create an awareness among those you know. As Lao Tzu said, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’. So I urge each of you to take that step towards a better tomorrow.
Why should we preserve Biodiversity?
Human should conserve biodiversity because of its benefit for example services and biological resources which are essential to live our life on earth. However, it also provides spiritual benefits as well as social benefit.
A biological resource means any product that is harvested from nature is the part of biological resources. These resources come under several categories such as medicine, food, wood products, fibers etc. For example under one category i.e., Food more than 7,000 species of plants are involved, although we dependent mainly on only 12 major crops for food.
For Medicinal field human population is dependent on plants. It is true that in the developed country, many of our medicines are produced by chemicals in pharmaceutical companies, but the original formulas come from plants. For example, aspirin is comes from willows, opiate which is a pain relievers is derived from poppies and quinine which is used for the treatment of malaria produced by the Cinchona tree.
Fibers which is used for ropes, clothing, webbing, netting, sacking, and other materials are obtained by plants mainly for example cotton plants, Agave plants (sisal), flax plants (linen), Corchorus plants (jute), bamboo, palms and Agave plants (sisal).
Ecosystem services means processes provided by the nature to support human life. For example Pollination, decomposition of waste, water purification, renewal of soil fertility and moderation of floods. Ecosystem processes are often overlooked, and are not generally valued as part of the economy until they cease to function. When economic value is assigned to these services, it becomes very high. For example, insect pollinators help produce many commercially important fruits such as almonds, melons, blueberries, and apples. The global economic value of pollination services performed by insects has been valued at $217 billion per year.
Similarly in other ecosystem service water purification just involves filtering of rain water by soil and by microbes that can break down nutrients and contaminants, and reduce metal ions, slowing their spread into the environment. Wetland and riparian plants absorb nitrogen, and trap sediments that decrease water quality.
But human construction and development will disrupt natural environments as well all activity and services related to this environment. So finally we have to dependent on artificial man made services like for filtration we used different –different types of water filters and purifiers. For these artificial services we need to pay more while the natural ecosystem services are at free of cost.
Social and spiritual benefits of Biodiversity
Most of the time in human history, conservation means protecting nature for the spiritual gifts it provides, and protecting sacred places in the local landscape. The biodiversity effects on cultural development can be shown by heterogeneity of the world’s mythology, folk dances and folk art which contribute to the richness of literature and global arts. In different landscapes, different cultures are present which influenced our language, diet, occupation and various types of activity.
Uniqueness of each habitat is presented by their animals and plants that why each country and state have their flagship animals as well as plants. Even during traveling, motivation of the peoples is to see biological diversity, different cultural and landscape. Ecotourism is travel with the aim to view, support and sustain the local cultures and its natural ecosystem. Support from ecotourism can be very helpful to reduce habitat destruction as well as to preserve endangered species.
Biodiversity conservation methods
- In-situ biodiversity conservation : In-situ conservation means the conservation of species within their natural habitats, this way of conserving biodiversity is the most appropriate method for biodiversity conservation. In this strategy you have to find out the area with high biodiversity means the area in which number of plants and animals are present. After that this high biodiversity area should be covered in the form of natural park/ sanctuary/biosphere reserve etc. In this way biodiversity can be conserve in their natural habitat from human activities.
- Ex-situ biodiversity conservation :Ex-situ conservation involves the conservation of biological diversity outside of their natural habitats. This involves conservation of genetic resources, as well as wild and cultivated or species, and draws on a diverse body of techniques and facilities.Ex-situ Biodiversity conservation can be done as following:• By forming Gene banks: In this store seeds, sperm & ova at extremely low temperature and humidity.• It is very helpful to save large variety of species of plants & animals in a very small space. e.g. sperm and ova banks, seed banks.
• Forming Zoo and botanical garden: for research purpose and to increase public awareness collecting living organisms for aquaria, zoos and botanic gardens.
• Collections of In vitro plant tissue and microbial culture.
• Captive breeding of animals and artificial propagation of plants, with possible reintroduction into the wild.
Ex-situ biodiversity conservation strategy also plays an important role in recovery programmes for endangered species. The Kew Seed Bank in England has 1.5 per cent of the world’s flora – about 4,000 species – on deposit.
In agriculture, ex-situ conservation measures maintain domesticated plants which cannot survive in nature unaided.
It provides good platform for research opportunities on the components of biological diversity. Some of the institutions also play a major role in public education and in increasing awareness among public by bringing members of the public into contact with plants and animals they may not normally come in contact with. It is estimated over 600 million people visit zoos every year worldwide.