The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
The theme for 2023 is, “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity.” Biodiversity is the living fabric of our planet, and it underpins human well-being in the present and in the future. Its rapid decline threatens nature and people alike. The IDB aims to raise awareness of the vital importance of preserving biodiversity and to promote the idea that, now that we have an action plan agreed upon at a global level, we must implement all the measures that the agreement contemplates before 2030. This essay will explore the importance of biodiversity conservation, its role in supporting many sectors of human life, and why protecting biodiversity is vital for economic growth and poverty reduction.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated annually on May 22nd to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect it. Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns it forms. It includes all living organisms, from the smallest bacteria to the largest mammals, and the ecosystems they inhabit. Biodiversity is essential for the survival of all species, including humans, as it provides us with food, medicine, clean air and water, and other ecosystem services. In this article, we will explore the significance of biodiversity, the threats it faces, and the actions we can take to protect it.
What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the result of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and human activities. Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems. It includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered but also every living thing—from humans to organisms we know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertebrates. Biodiversity has three levels: genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the variety of genes within a species, while species diversity refers to the variety of species within an ecosystem. Ecosystem diversity refers to the variety of ecosystems within a region. Biodiversity is not evenly distributed across the globe, rather it varies greatly within regions and across the planet. The diversity of all living things depends on temperature, precipitation, altitude, soils, geography, and the interactions between other species. The study of the spatial distribution of organisms, species, and ecosystems is the science of biogeography.
Diversity consistently measures higher in the tropics and in other localized regions such as the Cape Floristic Region and lower in polar regions generally. Tropical moist forests harbor much of the world’s biodiversity, but this diversity is not evenly distributed globally, with tropical moist forests covering less than 10% of Earth‘s surface and containing about 90% of the world’s species. Rain forests that have had wet climates for a long time have particularly high biodiversity. Marine biodiversity is usually higher along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans.
Why is Biodiversity Important?
Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of ecosystems and the survival of all species, including humans. It provides us with food, medicine, clean air and water, and other ecosystem services. For example, pollinators such as bees and butterflies are essential for the production of many crops, while forests and wetlands help regulate the climate and prevent soil erosion. Biodiversity also has cultural and aesthetic value, as it inspires art, music, and literature, and provides recreational opportunities for people. Biodiversity is essential for the processes that support all life on Earth, including humans.
Here are some reasons why biodiversity is important:
- Healthy ecosystems: Biodiversity is necessary for healthy ecosystems that provide us with the air we breathe and the food we eat. Wildlife supports healthy ecosystems that we rely on.
- Climate change: Biodiversity is an essential part of the solution to climate change. Protecting biodiversity plays a crucial part in achieving emissions reductions needed to prevent climate catastrophe.
- Economy: Biodiversity is good for the economy. At least 40 percent of the world’s economy depends on biological products and processes.
- Human health: Biodiversity is essential for human health and well-being, economic prosperity, food safety and security, and other areas critical to all humans.
- Cultural identity: Species are frequently integral to religious, cultural, and national identities.
- Utilitarian values: We value biodiversity for many reasons, some utilitarian, such as the many basic needs humans obtain from biodiversity such as food, fuel, shelter, and medicine. Ecosystems provide crucial services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests.
- Intrinsic values: We also value biodiversity for the value it has in its own right. Biodiversity shapes who we are, our relationships to each other, and social norms. These relational values are part of people’s individual or collective sense of well-being, responsibility for, and connection with the environment.
- Development: Biodiversity conservation protects plant, animal, microbial and genetic resources for food production, agriculture, and ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycling and soil formation that are essential for sustainable development.
Biodiversity is important because it supports all life on Earth including humans by providing healthy ecosystems, mitigating climate change, supporting the economy and human health, preserving cultural identity and intrinsic values, and promoting sustainable development.
Threats to Biodiversity
Despite its importance, biodiversity is under threat from a range of human activities, including habitat destruction, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, climate change, and invasive species. These threats are causing the loss of species at an unprecedented rate, with some estimates suggesting that up to one million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The loss of biodiversity has significant consequences for human well-being, including the loss of ecosystem services, reduced food security, and increased vulnerability to natural disasters.
Actions to Protect Biodiversity
Protecting biodiversity requires a collective effort from individuals, communities, governments, and international organizations. Some of the actions that can be taken to protect biodiversity include:
- Protecting and restoring habitats: This involves preserving natural areas such as forests, wetlands, and coral reefs, and restoring degraded ecosystems.
- Sustainable use of natural resources: This involves using natural resources in a way that does not deplete them, such as sustainable forestry and fishing practices.
- Reducing pollution: This involves reducing the release of pollutants into the environment, such as greenhouse gases, plastics, and chemicals.
- Controlling invasive species: This involves preventing the introduction and spread of non-native species that can harm native ecosystems.
- Climate action: This involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise and increased frequency of extreme weather events.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is an opportunity to celebrate the variety of life on Earth and raise awareness about the importance of protecting it. Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of ecosystems and the survival of all species, including humans. However, it is under threat from a range of human activities, and urgent action is needed to protect it. By taking collective action to protect biodiversity, we can ensure a sustainable future for ourselves and for the future generations.
- United Nations. (2022). International Day for Biological Diversity. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/observances/biological-diversity-day
- Convention on Biological Diversity. (2023). International Day for Biological Diversity – 22 May. Retrieved from https://www.cbd.int/idb/2023
- Wikipedia. (n.d.). Biodiversity. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiversity
- MDPI. (n.d.). Diversity | Instructions for Authors. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/journal/diversity/instructions
- Walden University. (n.d.). EDUC 8112 Module 2 Assignment 2. Retrieved from https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/educ8112
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