Biodiversity (from “biological diversity”) refers to a wide variety of organisms, from genes to ecosystems, at all levels of the earth, and includes evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life.
Not only are we considered a rare, threatened, or endangered species in terms of biodiversity, we don’t know much about them from humans to microbes, fungi, and invertebrates.
At the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, we include humans and human cultural diversity as part of biodiversity. We use the term “culture of life” to describe the changing, constantly evolving, and interconnected nature of people and space, and the interrelationships of social and biological dimensions. This concept recognizes that human use, knowledge, and beliefs are influential, in turn, human communities are affected by the ecosystems of which they are apart. This relationship creates all the biodiversity, including the creatures, the land, and the seas, and the cultural connections to the places where we live. We must be right where we are or in distant lands.
Why is biodiversity important?
Biodiversity is important for most aspects of our lives. We value biodiversity for a number of reasons, some ineffective and some inherent. This means that we value biodiversity for providing it to humans and for its own value. Application values include many of the basic needs that humans receive from biodiversities, such as food, fuel, shelter, and medicine. In addition, ecosystems provide important services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate control, water purification, nutrient cycling, and agricultural pest control. Biodiversity also has value for yet unrecognized potential benefits, such as new drugs and other unknown services. Biodiversity also has cultural value to humans, for example, spiritual or religious reasons.
The intrinsic value of biodiversity refers to its intrinsic value, which is independent of its value to anyone or anything else. It is a philosophical concept that can be considered an inalienable right to exist. Finally, the value of biodiversity can also be understood through the lens of relationships we create and strive for with each other and with other parts of nature. We can respect biodiversity because of who we are, how we shape our relationships and social norms with each other. These related values are part of people’s personal or collective well-being, responsibility, and interaction with the environment. Different values placed on biodiversity are important because they can affect the safety decisions that people make every day.
Over the past century, humans have dominated the planet, causing rapid environmental change and loss of biodiversity throughout the planet. This led some to refer to the time we now live in as “anthropology”. Although the earth has always experienced change and destruction, today they occur at an unprecedented rate. The main direct threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and fragmentation, sustainable resource use, invasive species, pollution, and global climate change. The underlying causes of biodiversity loss, such as the growing human population and overcrowding, are often complex and arise from a number of interrelated factors.
The good news is that it is within our power to change our actions to help ensure the survival of organisms and the health and integrity of ecosystems. By understanding the threats to biodiversity and how they operate in the environment, we can best prepare ourselves to manage security challenges. The conservation efforts of the past decades have brought about a significant change in biodiversity today. More than 100,000 protected areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges, sports reserves, and marine protected areas managed by governments and local communities, provide habitat for wildlife and help control deforestation. In addition to protecting habitat, other types of conservation measures such as restoration, reintroduction, and control of invasive species have had positive impacts.
These efforts have been enhanced by ongoing efforts to improve environmental policy at the local, regional and global levels. Finally, the lifestyle choices of individuals and communities can have a major impact on their impact on biodiversity and the environment. While we cannot prevent negative human impacts on biodiversity, knowledge can work to change the direction and shape of our effects throughout Earth’s lifespan.