Biodiversity is a word thrown around by a lot of environmental groups as something really important. What is it, exactly?
It’s short for biological diversity, and it refers to the entire variety of life on earth that comprise of all the ecosystems and elements that make the planet “work.” From mushrooms to minke whales, corals to cassowaries, we need everything to exist because of the intricate balance of life they create. It’s taken around 4 billion years for our planet to evolve in the way that permits us humans to thrive. If we throw that balance out of whack, if we lose elements of biodiversity, we threaten our own lives in the process. So, it’s pretty clear #WhyItMatters.
Biodiversity is responsible for supporting healthy ecosystems, economies, and can even hold answers to climate change. For example, mangrove habitats are renowned for their ability to store carbon. Forests and wetlands play an integral role as buffers to storms and flooding. For complex ecosystems to serve these functions, their biodiversity must be in tact.
As the planet’s people reel from 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, a new discipline called planetary health comes to the forefront. The discipline considers whether human activity, like land development for the purposes of infrastructure, mining, logging, etc., has connections to the overall well-being of humans and animals alike. Research indicates that outbreaks of infectious diseases (Ebola, bird flu, COVID-19, etc.) are on the rise. The substantial threat these diseases pose to the global economy, national security, and global health is obvious.
How can you help?
Be aware! A lot of the things you can do to help all animals in my Why It Matters series are the same. Knowing what kind of impact you have, even as just one person, is a great first step. Make concessions where possible. Can you retrofit your home with solar energy? Can you forgo that disposable cup of coffee or plastic bottle of Gatorade? Can you purchase from a local farmers market instead of a grocery store?