“We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity”-E. O. Wilson
1. What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is defined as the totality of genes, species and ecosystems of a region. Biological diversity in short known as biodiversity is a term that is used to describe variety of life found on earth and all the natural processes. These processes include ecosystem, genetic and cultural diversity and also their connection with all the species. Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms and is a measure of the health of ecosystems. The species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth. There are many different aspects of biodiversity and all of them have influence on each other in one or the other way. Biodiversity is a part of the climate and is very useful in day-to-day life. As the release of greenhouse gases in to the atmosphere is causing climate change, this climate change is a major threat to biodiversity.
Biodiversity has been identified at three levels and they are:
• Species diversity: It is the number of various species represented in a collection of datasets. Diversity of these species is incredible and it is estimated that around 1.7 millions of species have been discovered on earth. This consists of two components i.e. species richness and species evenness. Species richness is the count of species and species evenness measures how equal the abundances of the species are.
• Ecosystem diversity: It refers to the diversity of a place at the level of ecosystems. It can also be referred as the variety of ecosystems present in the biosphere.
• Genetic diversity: It refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic species. It provides a way to human beings to adapt to changing environments. It is important for group of plants and animals, including people, to have genetic diversity.
2. What is the importance of Biodiversity?
Biodiversity resources are like the pillars for building civilizations. It forms the web of life of which we are an integral part and we also totally depend on it. Biodiversity offers a huge amount of goods and services that maintain our lives. Protecting biodiversity is very important as it supports many industries like agriculture, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, horticulture, construction and waste treatment. It is the biodiversity on Earth that allows animals, plants and humans to share the planet- if one species is destroyed, several, maybe even hundreds more, may follow. It is also important because few organisms have economic value like rainforest plants are used to prepare medicine, they have value to the ecosystem, and they are a source of natural beauty and recreation.
40% percent of world’s economy and up to 80% of the poor needs are derived from biological resources. If the diversity is rich, then the opportunity for medical discoveries and economic development will also be great. It improves the ecosystem productivity like huge variety of species leads to larger variety of crops. If the ecosystem is healthy, then it can easily withstand and recover from variety of disasters.
• The air we breathe is a product of photosynthesis by green plants.
• More than 90 percent of the calories consumed by people worldwide are produced from 80 plant species.
• Almost 30 percent of medicines are developed from plants and animals, and many more are derived from these sources.
3. What are the benefits of Biodiversity?
Biodiversity increases the ecosystem productivity. It is very useful for mankind and there are many benefits of this biodiversity.
Some of the major benefits of biodiversity are as follows:
• Plenty of food, fuel and fiber provision
• Shelter provision and building materials
• Water and air purification
• Detoxification and moderation of wastes
• Earth’s climate will be stabilized and moderated
• Moderation of floods, droughts, temperature extremes and the forces of wind
• Soil fertility generation and renewal including nutrient cycling
• Plants pollination including several crops
• Pest and disease control
• Maintenance of genetic resources as key inputs to crop varieties and livestock breeds, medicines, and other products
• Cultural and aesthetic benefits
• Many recreational areas benefit from a healthy ecosystem, which promotes tourism.
4. What are the reasons to lose Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is one of the major concerns and we are losing this biodiversity to major extent. There are many reasons behind losing biodiversity. Many species are disappearing and it is estimated that around 34,000 plants and around 52,000 animal species are facing extinction including bird species. This is one of the major concerns of why we are losing biodiversity. Disintegration, poverty and absolute loss of forests, wetlands, coral reefs and other ecosystems are also one of the major reasons for losing biodiversity. Some of the other reasons could be:
• Loss of habitat: Due to changes in the land use especially the conversion of natural ecosystems to cropland, is the biggest direct cause of biodiversity loss. More than half of the Earth’s 14 terrestrial biomes have had between 20% and 50% of their total area converted to cropland.
• Over exploitation: Weak use of ecosystems and over-exploitation of biodiversity continue to be major threats. Many species are used by humans to fulfill basic needs. Many species are in a state of decline because they are being used at unsustainable levels or are being harvested in such a way that threatens the ecosystems on which they depend.
• Change in climate: Climate changes such as ozone depletion and global climate change are becoming increasingly more significant threats to biodiversity. Global warming is already changing habitats and the distribution of species. Even one-degree rise in the average global temperature, will push many species over the edge. These types of changes can alter food chains and create mismatches within ecosystems where dissimilar species have evolved coordinated inter-dependence.
• Animals and plants exporting: Plants, animals and micro-organisms are being transported intentionally or unintentionally to an area outside their natural geographical ranges. This will cause huge harm to native species by competing with them for food, eating them, spreading diseases, causing genetic changes through inter-breeding with native species or populations.
• Release of dangerous gases: Many gases like phosphorus and nitrogen, largely from excess fertilizers, sewage and other effluents, cause the build-up of algae. The algae are toxic and create a health hazard, but the greatest damage to biodiversity is caused when they decompose and use large quantities of oxygen in the water, creating dead zones to other forms of life.
5. How can we protect Biodiversity?
Protecting biodiversity is very important because loss of biodiversity decreases the productivity of ecosystems and this in turn shrinks the nature basket of goods and services. Loss of biodiversity destabilizes the ecosystem and decreases the ability to natural disasters like floods, droughts, pollution and climate change. The reduction in biodiversity also hurts us in other ways. Our cultural identity is deeply rooted in our biological environment. Government and also each and every citizen are responsible to save the natural resources and to protect biodiversity. There is need to develop national biodiversity strategies and actions plans and also integrate them in to broader national plans for environment and development. Here are some of the initiatives to be taken to protect biodiversity:
• There is a need to identify and monitor some important components of biological diversity which have to be preserved and used sustainably.
• Protected areas have to be established to preserve biological diversity.
• There is a need to rehabilitate and restore the degraded ecosystems and to promote the recovery of threatened species in association with local inhabitants.
• We have to preserve and maintain the use of biological diversity.
• Providing knowledge and creating awareness about the use of biodiversity among people and communities.
• There is a need to eradicate the alien species that threaten the ecosystem, habitat and species.
• Planting trees and plants and not cutting off the trees. Saving the wildlife
• Encouraging public contribution, particularly when it comes to assessing the environmental impacts of development projects that intimidate biological diversity.
Apart from the government, other private and public sectors should get actively involved in this. Fortunately, some companies that have more revenue have decided to apply the principles to the sustainable use of diversity. Many projects have been successfully developed in recent years that involve the contribution of local communities in sustainably managing biodiversity, by taking the valuable support of NGOs and other intergovernmental organizations. Individual citizens can also create great impact in this regard. We can begin to guide the world towards sustainable growth.
Convention on biodiversity:
A convention on biodiversity took place in 1992 in Brazil and this was the largest ever meeting of the world leaders. Two major agreements were signed in this meeting, one is on the convention of climate change and other was on the convention of biodiversity.
The convention includes 3 major goals:
• Biodiversity conservation
• Sustainable use of the components of biodiversity
• Sharing the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way
2010 to 2012 has been declared as the international decade of biodiversity. Recently 11th conference on the convention on biodiversity was held in Hyderabad, India. This is also one of the largest international conferences held in India. COP 11 will bring together more than 15,000 people from more than 193 countries to coordinate international efforts to achieve the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Purpose of this conference is the parties will develop a framework and various approaches for achieving the objectives of the Convention. Ultimately, the conference will be judged by its results, and its success will depend on whether residents of Hyderabad, NGOs, NPOs, academic
Institutions and private enterprises adopt biodiversity loss as their own issue and maintain their environmental initiatives for years to come. This conference presents a great opportunity for national and local governments, residents of Hyderabad, NGOs, NPOs, academic institutions, private enterprises, and many other organizations from around the world to present, discuss, and share their projects and issues focused on biodiversity.