The United Nations has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life and ecosystems on Earth; the result of billions of years of evolution.
Around 1.75 million species of plants and creatures have been identified on our planet, but it’s believed there are actually about 13 million species, though estimates range from three to 100 million.
Biodiversity also includes variations within each species – for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock.
Another part biodiversity is the variety of ecosystems – deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, and agricultural landscapes. The land, water, plants, creatures and even the air in an area can form a unique community seen nowhere else in the world.
It’s a fragile balance; one that humans continue to disturb, usually not understanding the full consequences of our actions.
The insect we crush beneath our heels may be the primary food source for another creature higher up the food chain. The few acres we clear may be the last remaining habitat of a particular lizard.
Based on current trends, an estimated 34,000 plant and 5,200 animal species – including one in eight of the world’s bird species – face extinction. The Earth has faced 5 major extinction events in the past; all of those due to natural phenomenon. Some believe we are now in the midst of the sixth great extinction – one primarily caused by the human race.
Some of the destruction is a side effect of humans pushing into areas and deforestation. Some of it is attributed to pollution and some climate change.
A more insidious cause of extinction, one that impacts our food security, is agricultural companies taking control of the seed market. In the USA, only 5% of the apple varieties that existed 200 years ago still remain. In the UK, 90% of vegetable varieties have disappeared over the last century.
Biodiversity is more than a buzz-word. It’s an important term we should grow to understand.
Learn more about the International Year Of Biodiversity