30th August 2023
You would not be alone if you’ve ever wondered exactly what people mean when they talk about biodiversity or not knowing why it’s so important.
We’re here to help clear that up and explain a bit about why Animal Friends is passionate about protecting vulnerable animals and the ecosystems they live in.
‘Biodiversity’ is the combination of two words: ‘biological’ and ‘diversity’. While ‘biological’ refers to all living organisms (plants, animals, microorganisms, etc.), ‘diversity’ means ‘a variety’.
So, when we consider the word biodiversity, it has to do with the incredible variety of all living species around the world.
What is biodiversity?
We may know what the word biodiversity means, but what is biodiversity? In short, biodiversity describes all species and ecosystems of the natural world working together to maintain balance and support life. Including ours.
An ecosystem is described by National Geographic as ‘a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscapes, work together to form a bubble of life.’
As humans, we rely on biodiversity to survive.
Why is biodiversity so important?
You may not realise it, but biodiversity bonds every aspect of your life together. From what you eat and drink to the medicine you take and the air you breathe, you are connected to nature through biodiversity.
Every element of your existence is linked to ecosystems at home and around the world. Let’s explore the tangible ways biodiversity impacts your daily life…
Through photosynthesis, plants create energy for themselves using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight - releasing oxygen from their leaves into the air as a by-product of this process. All humans and other animals need oxygen to breathe.
The more plants there are to create oxygen, the cleaner our air will be!
Oxygen is produced by plankton in our oceans, too. It’s estimated that around half of the oxygen we breathe comes from oceanic plants, algae, and bacteria capable of photosynthesis.
Due to the burning of fossil fuels, and various industrial processes, the air we breathe is being polluted. Not only can air pollution cause respiratory illness in us, but it can also harm animals and prevent plants from carrying out photosynthesis.
As humans, we rely on biodiversity for our food. This is because biodiversity sustains the quality of the air and soils, helps distribute fresh water, provides pollination, and regulates the climate, all of which are key to the growth of what we eat.
So, without biodiversity, we wouldn’t be able to feed our increasing human population.
Access to fresh, clean drinking water is essential for all animals, including us! Water also sustains plants, like the crops we use for our food.
However, harmful amounts of pollutants (e.g. sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions) enter our drinking water every day – which has a negative impact on our health, animal health, and plant health. Water pollutants will damage ecosystems by preventing them from functioning properly, which is devastating to biodiversity.
Weather and biodiversity are linked. Rainfall and sunlight effect the number of plants able grow in every environment. The climate within each environment will determine the types of plants that can thrive there. And the edible plants available relate to the species of animals who live in certain habitats.
Did you know? Many trees and grasses can absorb rain to decrease the risk of flooding while coral reefs can protect coastal communities from storms!
Climate change has a direct impact on biodiversity with scientists even predicting that we could lose over 90% of our coral reefs by 2050 if we don't reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The significant impact of climate change on biodiversity also includes the increased intensity of fires, storms, and drought.
Physical and mental health
Around half of modern medicines are created using up to 70,000 different plant species. However, because of biodiversity loss, it’s estimated that one important medicine is lost every two years. Also, without biodiversity, there’s less chance of new medicines becoming available to combat life-threatening illnesses.
In terms of our mental health, studies have found a positive link between our emotional wellbeing and higher populations of birds and plants.
What can I do to protect biodiversity?
While governments are responsible for acting on our behalf to tackle the biodiversity crisis (for example: developing sustainable energy resources, environmentally friendly agricultural and manufacturing practices, and construction that benefits local ecosystems instead of destroying them), we can do so much to make a difference!
There is power in your choices. It may seem like an impossible task, but if we all take steps to act in the interests of nature, we can help reverse biodiversity loss.
Some examples of actions you can take today to protect biodiversity:
- Reduce food waste.
- Recycle as much as possible.
- Repair items instead of throwing them away (provided they are safe to use).
- Reuse old clothes, accessories, and shoes.
- Restore and/or repurpose old furniture.
- Limit the use of aerosol products (air fresheners, deodorants etc.).
- Spend time in nature and inspire others to do the same.
- Respect nature (e.g. stick to the path while hiking, keep dogs on leads, not littering, etc.).
- Plant bee-friendly wildflowers.
- Educate others about wildlife and local ecosystems.
- Teach young people how to care for their local environment.
- Buy local produce, where possible.
- Select organic products whenever you can.
- Purchase eco-friendly products.
- Use energy-saving appliances and rechargeable batteries.
- Choose an electric or more fuel-efficient car.
- Try to choose brands that support sustainability.
- Walk or cycle, instead of driving or taking a taxi (if you are able to do so).
- Grow your own fruit and vegetables.
- Use natural methods (instead of pesticides) to keep pests away from plants.
- Take shorter showers and avoid leaving the tap running while brushing teeth.
- Turn off lights and electrical appliances when they’re not in use.
- Support recognised conservation charities.
- Get involved with local nature and/or wildlife conservation projects.
- Vote for politicians who are fighting to reverse biodiversity loss.
For more information about biodiversity, you can watch the video Why is biodiversity important? by The Royal Society, presented by Sir David Attenborough.