On the 22nd of May each year the world celebrates International Biodiversity Day. The Convention on Biological Diversity who founded the day is celebrating 25 years this year. This day is set aside to celebrate and acknowledge the variety and beauty which surrounds us all around the world. Biodiversity, which when broken up into separate parts, literally means natural variety. The world with all its continents, islands and oceans holds an immense amount of different organisms and life forms and without them the world would be a very dull place indeed. For instance I went to Kirstenbosch https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch/(a botanical garden in Cape Town) this past weekend and there were so many different types of plants with many different types of leaf shapes and sizes, and that’s not even looking at the variety of different flowers each one had with their wonderful colors and inflorescence. That’s just in a small area within a city.
These were just some of the species I saw at the Botanical gardens.
Different areas around the world hold varying levels of biodiversity, for instance a desert will have less biodiversity in it than a forest or coral reef which support the most bio-diverse ecosystems in the world. The three most bio-diverse areas in the world are:-
An archipelago of around 10,000 islands or more, Indonesia has a wide variety of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, including areas of the world’s third largest rain-forest and the well-known Coral Triangle. Indonesia has the largest amount of mammal species of any country and is edged slightly out by Australia in regards to fish species. It ranks fourth with 1615 bird species. Indonesia is the only location on earth where rhinos, orangutans, elephants, bears, and tigers can be found living in the same forest.
Colombia’s amazing bird, amphibian, and plant richness allow it to jump ahead of Indonesia, with 1826 species. Colombia has more species of birds than anywhere else on earth. Colombia’s biological richness is due to its array of ecosystems, including tropical forests in the Amazon rain forest and Choco natural region, mountain range habitats like the Sierra Nevada and Andes, the grassland areas of the llanos and páramos, as well as the islands like Gorgona in the Pacific and San Martin in the Caribbean.
Brazil is the Earth’s biodiversity winner. Between the Amazon rainforest and Mata Atlantica forest, the woody savana-like cerrado, the incredibly large inland swamp known as the Pantanal, and a range of other terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, Brazil paves the way in regard to the world’s plant and amphibian species counts. It ranks second in mammals and amphibians and third in birds, reptiles and fish.
Why is Biodiversity so important?
Each and every plant, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish have a role to play on this earth, they are not here just to look pretty for us or for our benefit. Larger species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms. It creates better ecosystem functioning and healthy ecosystems are able to withstand and recover from a variety of natural disasters. The more species of plants that live in the world, the better it will be for humans and our future generations. Agriculturalists and crop breeders, for example, need large gene pools from which to make disease resistant and high-yielding seeds to prevent famine and feed the expanding world population. Plant diversity is unevenly distributed across the world, so centers of high plant diversity “hotspots” need special attention.
An example of a hotspot is the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) in the Western Cape, South Africa. The CFR has been acknowledged as a global priority for conservation action for many years now. In regards to its high concentration of endemic taxa,( meaning that that animal or plant is found only in that specific area in the world) especially of plants, 70% of the region’s 9000 species are endemic. Globally, the region is also listed as a Centre of Plant Diversity, an Endemic (which means that organism is only found in that specific area in the world) Bird Area and a Global 200 Ecoregion. It is also a centre of diversity and endemism for other vertebrates (freshwater fish, amphibia 192 and reptiles, and many invertebrate groups). The region is home to 1406 Red Data Book plant species, one of the highest known concentrations of such species on earth. The stand out feature of the CFR’s biodiversity is the extraordinary high diversity and endemism of flowering plants and invertebrates. The CFR is one of 35 global biodiversity hotspots. Biodiversity hotspots are representative of a view that links conservation success with the protection of high levels of species and habitats.
Loss of Biodiversity
Peoples needs have been, and will carry on being satisfied at the expense of altered land use, climate, biogeochemical cycles and species distributions. As a consequence, biodiversity is decreasing many times faster now than at rates found in the fossil record, raising concerns about ramifications of such loss for ecosystem functioning, the supply of ecosystem services and human well-being. On top of this, the processes driving extinction are eroding the environmental services on which humanity depends. Humans care most about what is close to them, so most responses to this problem will be at local or national levels. Thus, approximately 90% of the $6 billion of annual conservation funding originates in and is spent within economically rich countries. These resources are frequently the only ones available where conservation is most needed, given that biodiversity is sporadically distributed and the most bio diverse places are more often than not the most threatened and poorest financially.
A large and increasing proportion of our population lives in close proximity to the coast; and so the loss of services such as flood control and waste detoxification can have large consequences. Changes in marine biodiversity are directly caused by exploitation, pollution, and habitat destruction, or indirectly through climate change and related disturbances of ocean biogeochemistry. Although marine extinctions are only slowly found at the global scale, regional ecosystems such as estuaries, coral reefs as well as coastal and oceanic fish communities are increasingly losing populations, species, or entire functional groups. Worldwide, 75% of ecosystem services are degraded or disturbed. These ecosystems provide food, shelter, recycling, and other support processes that human communities require, but basic services are declining as ecosystems are failing due to human impacts. Marine ecosystems provide an array of services: they produce food, protect shorelines from storms, regulate the climate and atmosphere, generate tourism income, and provide recreational opportunities. The amazing diversity of the world’s oceans across the different levels of ecosystems, habitats, species, functional roles, and genetic diversity and the interconnections of marine, coastal, freshwater, and terrestrial ecosystems make managing ocean ecosystems vital for long-term prosperity. The ecosystems which are affected the most are coral reefs and forests. Increased seawater temperatures are the main cause of mass coral bleaching and the loss of pigmentation because of the collapse of the symbiotic relationship between the coral host and its outer layer dinoflagellate algae (zooxanthellae). Bleached corals are susceptible to disease and reduced carbonate accretion, and prolonged bleaching will lead to death. Forest biodiversity is at risk due to expanding agricultural land, logging companies as well as subsistence farming. Europe is one of the most strenuously studied areas of the world with respect to its biota and holds around 1,500 vertebrate( has a spinal column) species, 20,000–25,000 species of flowering plants, and well over 100,000 invertebrate (no spinal column) species. Ocean protection lags behind that of terrestrial areas. A 2013 assessment reported -10,000 marine protected areas covering 2.3% of the oceans.In addition to the high diversity of European plants and animals, a high amount of European species are endemic to the region. However, European landscapes have been subjected to an almost unparalleled level of human disturbance and industrial development. In 2011, the European Commission put into place a new strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and improve the state of Europe’s species, habitats, ecosystems, and the services they provide over the next ten years. Hopefully after those ten years an assessment of the environment will be conducted and adaptations will be made for another 10 – 20 years.
How can you help preserve the biodiversity on earth?
- Try not waste the food that you or your family eat.
- Try eat less red meat, have a Meatless Monday.
- Plant indigenous plants in your garden.
- Grow your own vegetables.
- Teach your children the importance of nature.
- Recycle as much plastic as possible.
- Try live as minimalisticaly as possible, i.e don’t buy items you don’t need.
By incorporating these simple tasks into your daily life, it will relieve some of the human pressures being exerted onto this earth.
Take home Message
We share this planet with so many other species which are beautiful, unique and serve a purpose just like us humans. Just because we humans are more intelligent does not mean all other organisms are not important. Nature can survive without humans but humans cannot survive without nature. To quote Sir David Attenborough “It’s surely our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on earth”. The world would be a very dull and monotonous place if there were only one plant species, one mammal species (excluding livestock), one bird species and so on. So go outside to your local park or reserve and go explore the diversity and beauty that this world has to offer.
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