What is biodiversity? How can biodiversity be improved?

Biodiversity is often defined as the variety of life that exists on earth. It is the sum of all biological life-forms. A few scientists think that diversity can be managed, and nature protected from destruction and pollution. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people believe that nature should be managed with minimal human interference.

What is biodiversity?

In his “A Biodiversity Manifesto”, biologist E. O. Wilson said biodiversity “consists of all the different forms of life that can be considered to exist on earth”. To illustrate this, he wrote: “If all the forms of life on the earth were represented in a natural pool, we would expect this pool to be rich in biodiversity, because only a small fraction of them could possibly survive”.

Scientists are currently hard at work, trying to quantify biodiversity. Many are searching for better ways to measure it. One key measure is biodiversity per unit of land cover. A study published in the American Journal of Botany found that it could be calculated for 22 of the world’s biomes, such as grasslands, grasslands, savannahs, boreal forests, and temperate forests.

Why biodiversity?

While biodiversity has been understood since the 18th century, scientists do not agree on what is the proper reason for conserving biodiversity. Some researchers explain the question by highlighting its economic value. They point to the fact that many crops are biodiversity-rich and that healthy ecosystems have been found to contribute to food security. Biodiversity has also been linked to food safety. Some researchers point out that it reduces diseases.

Some researchers, however, are stressing other benefits. For example, biodiversity protects our ability to predict disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and wildfires. In one case, where there was a severe drought, scientists suggested that the drought was caused by lower levels of biodiversity.

Other scientists try to explain the value of biodiversity in terms of biodiversity’s intrinsic value. This value is something intrinsic to all life on earth. Most scientists say that intrinsic values are more important than external benefits. And many biodiversity researchers think that biodiversity should be protected as part of a common good for the future.

On a brighter note, the benefits of biodiversity do not only go in one direction. In one of his most popular books, Davos author Kofi Annan put the value of biodiversity back into the limelight. He said biodiversity would support all of life if it were protected.

What is biodiversity and what are its benefits?

Biodiversity affects every aspect of our life, from growing food to cleaning water, to maintaining air quality, and so on.

According to one influential idea, the importance of biodiversity goes beyond understanding its benefits. For example, a study by Lorne McAlpine and Aaron Allen of the University of Maryland suggests that the diversity of life helps us build our understanding of biological systems.

To illustrate this, they wrote: “When a system is highly non-linear or has very diverse complexity, such as the ocean, its response to environmental changes, particularly natural disasters, is very sensitive to initial conditions. The faster the initial environment, or the more diversified the initial environment, the faster the system’s response”.

Another important point is that diversity can be studied from the outside. It is easier to observe the interactions among species in an ecosystem than to understand the interactions in a single organism. In nature, biologists look for connections. For example, it might be easier to identify an endangered butterfly species, and what happens when it is lost, than to identify changes in the food chain that can explain the disappearance.

Other research teams have also been investigating how biodiversity affects climate change. To understand the complexity of how ecosystems respond to climate change, it is important to study a variety of climate variables. A study published in Science found that biodiversity plays a key role, such as in the sensitivity of ecosystems to the effect of carbon dioxide.

How can biodiversity be improved?

Researchers working on biodiversity have focused on improving the collection and understanding of biodiversity. This is the starting point of what scientists call conservation.

Such efforts can increase the amount of biodiversity in a particular environment. One example is the program to manage the biodiversity of the coastal zone of New Zealand’s North Island. According to scientists, improving biodiversity in such areas is one of the best ways to improve the ecological and economic value of such ecosystems.

Taking environmental conservation to its full potential requires strong and continuous support. This is something governments can do in many different ways, especially with financial and scientific support.

Good news for biodiversity

The scientists and conservationists working on the problem of biodiversity have described some of the most important reasons why biodiversity should be protected. The majority of biodiversity researchers agree that biodiversity benefits humans and many other living things in the environment.

However, some people still believe that biodiversity is valuable for its intrinsic value alone. But that is not true. The intrinsic value of biodiversity is certainly important, and we do not know exactly why it is worth conserving. But it is clear that the environmental benefits from biodiversity go both ways.

Key quotes

“No one will ever be as rich, or as secure, or as happy, in a species devoid of other species as in a species whose biodiversity is valued” – John Durant, conservation biologist, and ecologist, University of Victoria.

“Plant and animal life should be valued in terms of its contribution to human wellbeing” – John Durant, conservation biologist, and ecologist, University of Victoria.

“Endangered species and their habitats can often represent valuable places where humans can learn how to manage resources and conserve biodiversity” – Kathryn Griffin, conservation biologist, and ecologist, University of Wyoming.