What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity, the range and varieties of life forms in an ecosystem (Wanjui, 2013)
Levels of Biodiversity;
Genetic diversity- This is the genetic makeup of an organism which entails genes residing within species and responsible for their traits. They are given special consideration in the field of biodiversity conservation because of their role in preserving a species and in allowing the species to adapt to changes
Species the diversity-the exact number of species can only be estimated.
Ecosystem diversity– this is composed of a diversity of ecological systems consisting all of the animals, plants, and micro-organisms as well as physical aspects of the area.
Existence of different life forms acts as a major factor in enhancing ecosystem resilience. For instance in natural disturbances a biodiverse ecosystem, if the environment changes and some organisms can no longer thrive, others can take their place and fulfill essential ecological functions. It is often the most overlooked species that are the most important to healthy ecosystems. E.g. insects play an essential role in pollinating flowering plants—a large part of the food we eat depends on animal pollinators.
Why biodiversity is important?
The practice of protecting and preserving wealth and variety of species, habitats, ecosystems, and genetic diversity on the planet, is important for our health, wealth, food, fuel, and services we depend on. It plays an integral role in supporting humankind and many sectors of development (USAID, 2018)
a) Food Security- Food security depends upon natural resources that form the basis of food production. Biodiversity conservation protects the plant, animal, microbial and genetic resources for food production, agriculture, and ecosystem functions such as fertilizing the soil, recycling nutrients, regulating pests and disease, controlling erosion, and pollinating crops and trees. At the same time, unsustainable agricultural production and use of wild species for food or fuel can reduce biodiversity.
b) Economic growth and poverty alleviation- Biodiversity conservation is vital for economic growth and poverty reduction. A majority of the worlds poor live in rural areas and depend upon forests, water, wetlands, fields, and pastures for their livelihoods. Some 1.6 billion people in the world rely on forests and non-timber products for income and subsistence. In the developing world alone, 2.6 billion people depend on fisheries for protein and livelihoods. Seafood is also the most highly traded food commodity internationally. In 2008, fish and shellfish exports from developing countries exceeded the value of coffee, rubber, cocoa, tea, tobacco, meat, and rice combined.
c) Reduces the effect of climate change- Conserving habitats can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Conserving mangroves and other coastal ecosystems can lessen the disastrous impacts of climate change such as flooding and storm surges. Green projects that reduce the vulnerability of species and ecosystems to climate change impacts can safeguard essential ecosystem services such as air and water purification, pollination and food production, and carbon sequestration.
d) Provision ecosystem services- Conserving biodiversity helps in safeguarding essential ecosystem services such as air and water purification, pollination and food production, and carbon sequestration which in turn, can help in addressing the problem of climate change and its impacts
e) Provision of ecosystem goods- This entails Food, skins, water and timbers and construction materials
f) Diversity makes species resistant- If the species is reduced to a small number, then inbreeding will compromise its genetic diversity. It will not be able to maintain in the face of stresses like disease or compromised air or water quality and it will face imminent extinction
g) Enrich the survival of individuals of a species- According to Red Queen Hypothesis, a complex variation of genes allows organisms to adapt to changes in environments. Consider the case of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) virus, a super-strain virus that has developed a resistance to the most commonly used antibiotics It is proving very difficult to control
h) Cultural benefits- Biodiversity is an integral part of culture and identity. Most of the time in human history, conservation means protecting nature for the spiritual gifts it provides and protecting sacred places in the local landscape. Species are frequently integral to religious, cultural and national identities. All major religions include elements of nature and 231 species are formally used as national symbols in more than 140 countries.
i) Medical use- Many animal and plant species have been useful in the past for finding new treatments and cures. One of the most famous examples is digitalin which is derived from the foxglove and is used to treat heart conditions. Another is vincristine, taken from the rosy periwinkle of Madagascar and used to treat childhood leukemia.
j) Social benefits- Biodiversity is also useful in a number of social practices education and monitoring, recreation and tourism as well as cultural values
k) Research and advancement of science and technology- A number of non-human organisms are used for studying different biological phenomena all over the world. Through these studies, scientists have come up with insights that are used in improving man kinds.
To sum up a bio-diverse ecosystems support life on all levels;
Healthy ecosystems contribute to:
1.Clean air and climate regulation through carbon sequestration and gas exchange
2.Clean water through filtration
3.Rich soil through decomposing and cycling organic matter
4.Soil detoxification and maintenance of soil structure through filtration and root stability
5.Plant growth control through symbiotic relationships between insects and companion plants
6.Food source for native animals
Ways of Conserving Biodiversity;
1. Bicultural approach
2. Open source knowledge sharing
3. Boosting local subsistence
4. Incentives and legislation
5. In-situ and ex-situ conservation methods
6. Preserving crop variety
7. Species relocation and monitoring programs
Causes of Biodiversity Losses
1. Habitat loss
3. Agricultural intensification
4. Climate change
6. Invasive species
USAID, 2018, Statements by the United States at the August 27, 2018, DSB Meeting
Wanjui J (2013) Biodiversity Conservation Needs and Method to Conserve Biological Diversity. J Biodiversity Endanger Species 1:113. doi:10.4172/2332-2543.1000113
F. Stuart Chapin m, Osvaldo E. Sala, Ingrid C. Burke, J. Phillip Grime, David U. Hooper,
William K. Lauenroth, Amanda Lombard, Harold A. Mooney, Arvin R. Mosier, Shahid Naeem,
Stephen W. Pacala, Jacques Roy, William L. Steffen, and David Tilman. Ecosystem Consequences of Changing Biodiversity
Shahid Naeem., Lindsey J.Thomson., Sharon P. Lawler., John. Lawton and Richard M. Woodfin. Empirical evidence that declining species diversity may alter the performance of terrestrial ecosystems
Robert C. Lacy. Importance of Genetic Variation to the Viability of Mammalian Populations