By Rubina Karki/Nepal
Graphic by John Carl T. Alonsagay/ATO-ClimatEducate Project
The Convention on Biological Diversity gives a formal definition of biodiversity in its article 2: “biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.
In simpler terms, biodiversity is the variation in living organisms found all around the world which is necessary for maintaining balance in the global as well as local ecosystem.
Why is Biodiversity Important?
Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play.
Have you ever wondered why Giant Panda is found only in China? and Kangaroos only in Australia? Why isn’t there only one type of species? Why are there different varieties of Plants and Animals? This is because of biodiversity.
A healthy biodiversity offers many natural services
Ecosystems such as the Amazon rain-forest are rich in diversity.
A healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone:
All these services we get for free!
These are some of the reasons why Biodiversity is an important part for continuous and progressive development of humankind. In present context, the threat to biodiversity due to human impact is more than the natural process. Biodiversity extinction has been found to occur due to two elements, i.e. rare itself in nature and declining number of species.
At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes that many species are threatened with extinction.
There are a number of issues that threaten the biodiversity, some of which are given below:
1. Climate change
Naturally, climate change has always occurred with the impact of changing the life on Earth in the long run.
But, rapid human-made climate change boosts the process without giving time for the organisms to adapt. Overall, climate is a major factor in the distribution of species across the globe; climate change forces them to adjust. But many are not able to cope, causing them to die.
2. Deforestation and habitat loss
Extinction and loss of biodiversity is the direct result of deforestation. Approximately, 18 million acres of forest are lost each year due, in part, to logging and other human practices that destroy the ecosystems on which many species depend. The biodiversity-rich tropical rain forests of the Amazon are highly threatened by destruction.
From over-hunting, to over-harvesting, human made approaches are highly threatening to biodiversity. Over-fishing, mining in an unsustainable way, all lead to biodiversity loss. These activities have resulted in killing of hundreds of species, increasing their rate of extinction. They cause imbalance in the ecosystem.
When nature cannot work in its own way, catastrophic consequences are bound to occur in the ecosystem.
4. Invasive species
These are species that are not native to a certain ecosystem but when introduced to that ecosystem, impact on the health of the ecosystem. In the context of Nepal, Mikania micrantha and Eupatorium adenophorum locally known as Banmara are the invasive species of Bardia National Park and Chitwan National Park which have affected the survival of locally present species in the park.
From excessive burning of fossil fuels to excessive usage of plastics, pollution impacts on the health of ecosystem. Pollutants influence the species in habitats.
Nineteen percent of the world’s reptiles are estimated to be threatened with extinction, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Reptiles include species such as snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises.
Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats and tough environmental conditions, so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world. However, many species are very highly specialized in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes.
- Dr Monika Böhm, Almost one in five reptiles struggling to survive, IUCN, February, 2013
From the buildings we live in, to the foods we eat, they all come from nature through biodiversity. It has been the topic we choose to ignore, but, for the human world to develop progressively, it must go hand in hand with nature. Hence, a sustainable environment is ensured only when human society works together with nature.
Hence, Biodiversity conservation is a necessary measure for the welfare and well-being of all the living organisms on Earth. It is to be noted that, all the species in the world hold an important part in maintaining balance in nature. If one aspect of the nature gets affected in anyway, the entire ecosystem gets affected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rubina is currently our Project Chief Director since January 2021. She studied Environmental Science in Kathmandu, Nepal and currently pursues her Master's degree in Disaster Management and Risk Reduction in Bangladesh. She is a firm believer of grassroots leadership and climate action.