The Importance of Biodiversity
What comes to mind when you walk through a forest? Trees? Insects? Birds? You might say that the forest is full of different plants and animals. All the different types of plants and animals in the forest make up the forest’s biodiversity. Is this biodiversity worth keeping? Some people see value in preserving the forest, knowing that the environment keeps a balance among all the animals and plants living in it. Other people see the forest for the resources it offers, such as wood, food, and land for buildings. These views significantly affect what happens to the forest.
What do animals and plants think of a forest as? Those species see a forest as their home, as people see their rooms and yards as their homes. Animals and plants know how to live best in their native environments. When the environment changes, because of weather, human activity, or other factors, organisms may be unfamiliar with their environments and need time to adjust to their new living habitats. The species may take too long adjusting or cannot adjust at all, resulting in the death of all of the species in that environment.
There are many reasons why living responsibly in our environment is important, including the following:
- Certain animals and plants are good food sources.
- A balanced environment provides clean water and air.
- Different types of soil can grow different types of food.
When we move into an environment, we will inevitably change it. As human populations grow, environments will be impacted more and more. With environments changing at a faster rate every day, we lose the benefits of maintaining an environment. This loss could impact our health and way of living.
As we change the environment, we affect the biodiversity of species in their native environment. Mass tree-cutting takes away living habitats for birds and insects and possible food sources for animals. Strips of land turned into roads create barriers that animals did not have to cross before. These changes force animals and plants to adjust to their new environment, with some surviving and others dying. The death of native plants and animals reduces the biodiversity of the environment, creating an imbalance in our environment. This imbalance could reduce the quality of our environment, the same environment giving us clean water and air.
Think of an environmental imbalance as a result of taking out bricks from a brick wall. The removal or disappearance of a population from its native environment is similar to a brick falling off of a wall. Some bricks are necessary for other bricks to stay in the wall, just as the survival of some native species is necessary for the survival of other native species. If enough bricks fall off, the wall falls apart, just as an environment falls apart due to biodiversity reduction.
Why preserve biodiversity? Because biodiversity affects you.
Biodiversity does have its roots in science, but what you probably did not know was how much of an impact biodiversity has on your life.
In an economic setting, preserving biodiversity can contribute to better agriculture. Biodiversity contributes to the stability of an environment, including the environment’s climate. More climatically stable seasons allow farmers to have better crop yields, more arable soil, less droughts and floods, and less soil erosion from decreased flooding. Moreover, farmers can reduce the number of pests to protect their crops by introducing natural predators instead of using artificial pesticides. The results of biodiversity are lower prices and healthier food for you.
Biodiversity also plays a role in tourism. As an example, Florida’s beautiful climate and pristine beaches attracting people worldwide are because of the state’s biodiversity maintaining a delicate balance between land and water environments.
In addition to economic benefits, conservation of biodiversity also has social benefits. Environments with biodiversity make our air and drinking water cleaner, increasing communities’ quality of life. Furthermore, stable climates and environments promote community establishment and growth, as opposed to extreme weather conditions such as floods and hurricanes, which can displace entire communities.
Impacts on Human Health From Reducing Biodiversity
Increased animal-human interactions can create human health and safety problems for anyone, whether in urban areas or tropical forest communities. In central Africa, the destruction of the tropical rainforests is being connected with the increased mortality rate of people with HIV. Central Africans, including those infected with HIV, are interacting more with primates that are displaced from logged or cleared forested areas.
After initially being infected by loggers defecating in forested areas, primates pass on diseases to other primates or humans, resulting in more diseases that are transmitted to people. Human health concerns, such as this one, can be better addressed through reduced animal-human interactions, which can be promoted through awareness and conservation.
Economic Impacts From Reducing Biodiversity
Cutting down trees not only produces a local effect; it produces a global effect. In the Amazon, Brazilians are deforesting land for soy farmers to keep up with the high demands of soy-based food and fuel. U.S. subsidies for corn ethanol further drive up the demand for Brazilian soy farmers. However, deforestation will result in less rainfall throughout the western hemisphere, resulting in droughts in South America and as far north as Texas.
Deforestation will also contribute to global warming from the carbon released from deforestation fires and less carbon taken in by fewer forests. The impact of deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere can have a far-reaching effect on people like you.
Information courtesy of Rhett Butler.
Links to Biodiversity Websites
Visit the global climate change websites of the organizations below to become more informed about global climate change and its effects on the environment.