A Decrease in Biodiversity: Is This Something We Should be Worried About?
Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Global Environment Facility
Currently, we have identified over 1.5 million organisms, but scientists believe that there may be as many as 2 billion species. Humans account for just 0.01 percent of the world's biodiversity.
Biodiversity is the variety of life present on Earth. It involves variation in genes and bacteria and in plants and animals, going beyond the creatures that are seen.
Unfortunately, several species are declining in number and becoming endangered because of climate change and habitat loss. The depletion of biodiversity affects nature almost as much as climate change, deforestation, and other sources of environmental stress.
The loss of biodiversity is characterized as the decrease in the number of species and biological populations in a region, genetic heterogeneity, and variety. The correlation of biodiversity loss with organisms alone undermines the effect and threat it has on the long-term health of an ecosystem.
Impact on Ecosystems
Biodiversity preserves the health of an ecosystem–a loss of biodiversity decreases its productivity and resource efficiency.
A rapid decline in a species' population upsets social systems and makes it difficult to attract partners. With only a small pool of members in a species, they are pressured to inbreed, which leads to a decline in genetic diversity.
Lack of genetic variation can lead to many health problems; they are more susceptible to infections and are often endangered by their long-term survival. The lack of different genes raises the chances of extinction of species with a limited population.
The niche of that species also declines along with the population. A niche is the role played by a species in its ecosystem. For example, if a lion plays the role of a predator in the Sahara, it is difficult for another species to occupy the position if its populations decrease, and because of the absence of predators, the number of 'prey' rise.
This destroys the ecosystem's entire foundation, such as the food chain, and contributes to the detrimental effects of the loss of biodiversity.
With the acronym HIPCO, we can easily define the causes of biodiversity loss.
Habitat Loss → This entails the thinning, erosion, and deterioration of established natural ecosystems because of logging, mining, ocean floor destruction while fishing, etc. Destruction of habitats diminishes food supplies as well as breathing space for species. These species would die out without nutrients or shelter.
Invasive species → Invasive species are nonnative organisms that destroy habitats and hurt native species. Non-native competition for food and resources with native species can lead to the endangerment of native species, which is proven to be fatal.
Pollution → Pollution is the release of toxic products at a rate that is greater than it can be distributed or recycled. Increasing pollutants in an environment may create health issues for many species that are often fatal .
Climate Change → This influences the climate of the Earth and causes temperatures to rise from fossil fuel combustion. When fossil fuels are burnt, they emit greenhouse gases that trap heat energy from the sun in the atmosphere. This trapped heat influences the Global temperature and weather cycles. Any animals unable to respond to temperature or the environmental fluctuations die, resulting in biodiversity loss.
Over-Exploitation → This includes hunting game animals, fish, and other species above the capacity of the organisms to replace their losses. This could contribute to the depletion of biodiversity, as being diminished to a low population number forces them to the brink of extinction.
Ecologists say that the strongest influence on biodiversity loss is habitat loss and invasive species, but as the years go by, climate change will become the primary cause.
Impact on Humans
Humans rely on the biodiversity of animals for resources such as food and medicine.
We extract many medicines from chemicals in rare plants and animals. But now, as extinction is becoming more common, cures to many viruses and diseases may never be found. Diverse species ensure our ability to make more medical developments in the years to come.
Regarding agriculture, crops are more vulnerable to disease, pests, invasive species, and climate change because of a lack of biodiversity among crops. This means it is easier to ruin seeds, resulting in an inadequate supply of food.
There will also be a similar pattern among livestock, particularly with the top-producing breeds of cattle and livestock. However, varied crops and livestock have a range of foods and are not as vulnerable.
How You Can Help
It is important to concentrate on conservation in order to preserve biodiversity and prevent further species from going extinct. This includes safeguarding the remaining species against excessive hunting, overfishing, and over-cultivation.
It is equally important to protect habitats from environmental degradation and invasive species which could harm the ecosystem.
The government, non-governmental organizations, and the scientific communities need to work together for this to happen. They should establish laws and policies that avoid over-exploitation, set requirements for protecting high-risk endangered species, and prosecute those who do not comply with the laws.
Anyone can help protect biodiversity by contributing to environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and Ocean Conservancy. Making simple changes like not using pesticides, planting pollinator-friendly plants, and adding an open water source to your gardens can make a big difference.
These actions will help save global biodiversity and prevent the extinction of millions of species.