Why should we care about biodiversity?

Biodiversity exists on three scales: ecosystems, species, and genetic.  Biodiversity is a key indicator of the health and stability of an ecosystem.  An ecosystem consisting of a variety of populations which are genetically diverse will cope better when threatened by pollution, climate change, or human activities.  Healthy biologically diverse ecosystems are resilient to change and more able to adjust to disturbances.

Healthy ecosystems and their species perform important ecosystem services.   Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen which helps keep the environment healthy and fit for human life.  Vegetative cover also helps to protect soils from erosion and desertification. 

Biodiversity provides us with an array of foods and materials and it contributes to the economy. Without a diversity of pollinators, plants, and soils, our supermarkets would have a lot less produce.  Wild varieties of domesticated animals and crops are also crucial as some will have already solved the challenge of, for example, coping with drought or salty soils.

The sheer richness of biodiversity also has human benefits. Many new medicines are harvested from nature, such as a fungi that grows on the fur of sloths and can fight cancer.  Alonin from Aloe plants is used in as an ingredient in lotions and gels to soothe burns, including sunburns.  The Madagascar periwinkle is the source of drugs used treat diabetes and certain cancers, such as Hodgkin’s disease and acute leukemia.

Aldo Leopold said it best, “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” 

Protecting biodiversity will help lead to more stable and healthy ecosystems.  This is what we all need.

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