Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to the diverse kinds of life in one area. Meaning the variety of living species. For example, a natural forest has a great biodiversity of plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. These all work together in so-called ecosystems, which are like support systems that maintain the balance of life.
The subject of biodiversity has come up on the global agenda when talking about climate change. This is because the biodiversity on the whole Earth has been threatened by humans for a very long time. For example, deforestation, when the habitat of many different species is destroyed, has contributed to many endangered species.
Why is biodiversity important?
Biodiversity is incredibly important. It is crucial for the processes that support life on Earth. If just one part of a biodiverse ecosystem disappears, it can disturb the balance of an entire system. For example, one species might grow too big and cause the extinction of another. As mentioned, humans are threatening the biodiversity of the Earth today. Through climate change, population growth and pollution. According to WWF, there has been a 68 % decline in the global populations of mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians (e.g. frogs) since the 1970s.
As biodiversity supports all life on Earth, it also supports humans. We are part of the Earth’s ecosystem and depend on the survival of other life. For example, we depend on plants for air and food. These plants depend on other parts of an ecosystem, such as bees (for pollination) that ensure their survival.
Biological diversity across the world
Some areas on this planet have more biological diversity than others. For example natural tropical forests, or rain forests, around the equator. Such as the Amazon rainforest in South America and the Congo Basin in the heart of Africa. The Amazon is home to over 3 million species, out of which 2.500 are different kinds of trees. In fact, Brazil, which is where most of the Amazon rainforest spreads out, is the country with the most biological diversity in the world.
Other areas are the Daintree Rainforest in Australia and the Cloud Forests of Ecuador. Scientists suggest that all these areas have been ecologically stable for long periods. Which is why evolution has been able to evolve undisturbed. Therefore, places with much biodiversity are like the Earth’s library of species. Hence they are fascinating places that should be protected and allowed to keep evolving.
36 areas on the planet qualify as biodiversity hotspots. These are places that contain species that are found nowhere else on the planet. More so, the areas are under threat. Which in this case is when over 70 % of the natural vegetation is lost. In other words, biological diversity hotspots are marked to try to protect irreplaceable areas. For example Madagascar, Cerrado in Brazil, the Himalayas and the Atlantic Forest. Importantly, it is not only tropical areas but mountain areas with broadleaf forests as well.
Efforts to protect biodiversity
The Sustainable Development Goal 15 of Agenda 2030 highlights the importance of this subject. It aims to: “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.