About: Biodiversity

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.

South Pole: About

Artist:  Xavier Cortada

Title:  Endangered World (South Pole)
Year: 2007

Download a PDF poster of the Endangered World: South Pole installation.


24 Species

The endangered species used for the Endangered World installation at the South Pole are listed below. Learn more about each endangered species by clicking on its scientific name in parentheses.
0°, European Sea Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio)
15° E, Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)
30° E, Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)
45° E, Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta)
60° E, Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca)
75° E, Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)
90° E, Asian Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis)
105° E, Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
120° E, Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
135° E, Tiger, (Panthera tigris)
150° E, Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
165° E, Yellow-eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)
180°, Steller’s Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus)
165° W, Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
150° W, Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
135° W, Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)
120° W, Peary Caribou (Rangifer tarandus ssp. pearyi)
105° W, Wolverine (Gulo gulo)
90° W, American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
75° W, Red Wolf (Canis rufus)
60° W, Amazonian Manatee (Trichechus inunguis)
45° W, Maned Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus torquatus)
30° W, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

15° W, Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

Cortada installed the work at the South Pole as part of his fellowship through the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.

North Pole: About

Main | About
North Pole InstallationCortada-EW-90N-600

Cortada traveled by icebreaker to place 360 flags in a circle around the North Pole, each flag was to depict the name of one of 360 endangered animals.  By planting the flags, Cortada was to reclaim the North Pole for nature and for our planet’s biodiversity across 360 degrees in the world below.

Unfortunately upon entering the icebreaker’s port city of Murmansk, the Russian Government confiscated Cortada’s 360 white flags.

Cortada boarded the ship without the flags.  During the four and a half day journey north, Cortada wrote the scientific name of all 360 animals on two pieces of canvas.
On June 29, 2008, Cortada laid the canvas panels on the ice at the North Pole, aligning the animals’ names with the degree of the habitat in which they struggle for survival.

Cortada installed the work at the North Pole as part of “90N,” a New York Foundation for the Arts sponsored artist project.

Artist:  Xavier Cortada
Title:  Endangered World (North Pole)
Year: 2008

To learn about the 360 species featured in the work, please visit http://www.xaviercortada.com/?EW_species

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne News Release

Xavier Cortada’s “Endangered World” Biscayne National Park Installation” (Photo by Thomas R. Strom)

February 18, 2010

For Immediate Release

Gary Bremen, 305-230-1144, x007


Xavier Cortada’s Endangered World Installation and80.15 W Exhibits Open at Biscayne National Park

Miami artist Xavier Cortada’s Endangered World: Biscayne National Park installation and the 80.15 W exhibit are now open at Biscayne National Park’s Convoy Point and the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. The installation is viewable from 7:00 am to 5:30 p.m. daily along the park’s roads and trails. The indoor exhibit is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. On February 28 from 6-8 p.m., the public is invited to meet Cortada at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center for a full-moon reception featuring refreshments and a talk by the artist. The installation, exhibit and reception are all free and open to the public.

Conceptualized by Cortada, the outdoor installation features 360 brightly colored flags lining Convoy Point’s roads and trails for over a mile. Each flag represents one degree of the planet’s longitude, and 360 individuals and organizations from throughout South Florida decorated the flags with an image of an endangered or threatened animal that lives at that longitude. Participants also committed to an “eco-action” that directly or indirectly mitigates the plight of that animal.

In contrast to the exuberance of the outdoor installation is 80.15 W inside the Dante Fascell Visitor Center Gallery. Here, Cortada has created 17 somber works on paper that feature the 17 threatened and endangered species that call Biscayne National Park home. The exhibit is titled for the longitude where the Visitor Center sits to tie it in to the larger installation outside. The pieces were created using reused carbon paper, a metaphor for the impact (or “carbon footprint”) that humans have had on that animal. The work is fragile, almost ghostly, and viewers see a reflection of themselves in the dark paper under glass, in turn a reflection of their own impact on endangered wildlife. Anyone who remembers working with carbon paper will also remember how even small interactions left impressions and smudges, a further metaphor for the role humans have played in the decline of each animal.

Both projects are part of the park’s celebration of the United Nations’ “International Year of Biodiversity,” and the final countdown to BioBlitz, a 24-hour species inventory of the park sponsored by National Geographic on April 30 and May 1, 2010.

“I am honored to bring this participatory eco-art work to a national park that serves as a refuge for 17 threatened and endangered species in my community,” says Cortada. “TheEndangered World: Biscayne National Park installation has not only generated awareness about global biodiversity loss, it has engaged participants — artists, teachers, students, politicians, business owners, community organizers, concerned citizens — in local action.”

Prior to this project, Cortada created art installations around the world to raise awareness about issues like global climate change, deforestation and the plight of endangered species. In 2008, he traveled by icebreaker to the North Pole to create an installation to generate awareness about the imminent threat climate change poses to the planet’s biodiversity. In 2006, Cortada’s Reclamation Project sought to remind Miami Beach residents and visitors of the island’s origins as a mangrove forest by having over 2500 mangrove seedlings displayed in shop windows across the island. He has created collaborative works at universities and cultural institutions around the world, including those in Cyprus, Bolivia, Ireland, Panama, Switzerland, South Africa, as well as National Science Foundation’s research station in the South Pole. Details on these previous projects can be found at www.XavierCortada.com. 

Endangered World: Biscayne National Park and 80.15 W are part of the park’s Community Artists Program, started in 1997 as an outlet for the works of both established and emerging artists who are inspired by the beauty of Biscayne National Park. The program is made possible by the South Florida National Parks Trust through the generosity of Miami-Dade County’s Cultural Affairs Division, The First National Bank of South Florida and Sedano’s Supermarkets. Major additional support for this exhibit came from the South Florida Progress Foundation, Youth Leadership Miami, Project Manager Arielle Angel, and the park’s Volunteers-in-Parks program.

For more details about the exhibit and BioBlitz, visit the park’s website atwww.nps.gov/bisc or contact park ranger Gary Bremen at 305-230-1144, x007. For regular updates from the park, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BiscayneNPS.

For more information visit: http://www.xaviercortada.com/?EW_BNP

Life Wall (The Netherlands)

Xavier Cortada, Life Wall, 2009 (Holland)


Xavier Cortada created “Endangered World: Life Wall” using 360 red bricks along with stones deposited in the Netherlands by glacial forces during the last ice age.
The work is a 2.1m x 8.5m wall created near the nation’s largest neolithic gravesite at the Hunebed Center in Borger (http://www.hunebedcentrum.nl/). The 360 bricks represent 360 animals struggling for survival across 360 degrees.
On each brick, Cortada painted the longitude where each animal lives.  When a species dies out, the number is painted black. The animals are part of an interconnected web that includes humans. How many bricks can be removed before the wall of life comes tumbling down?

Life Wall (Brick detail)Artist’s Statement
When the Funnel Beaker people built their hunebeds in 3500 B.C., none of the 360 animals featured in “Endangered World: Life Wall” were in peril. Because of global climate change, most are threatened with extinction by the century’s end. Human survival is ultimately dependent on the preservation of the planet’s biodiversity.

This work invites viewers to “adopt” these endangered animals and become engaged in conservation efforts. For more information, please click here.

Cortada’s work in the Netherlands is presented by Natuurkunst Drenthe (see www.natuurkunstdrenthe.nl). The artist was a participant in the Symposium Kunst- en natuurwandeling OverLeven – 2009.