What is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the term used to describe the variety of all living things and includes the diversity (number and variation) of places where animals and plants live, the genetic diversity within (a population of a) species and diversity of species. When talking about biodiversity we mean 'wildlife', which includes bacteria, algae, lichens, plants, trees, mammals, insects, reptiles, butterflies, moths, birds, aquatic life - in fact, all living organisms.
Although humans are not always included in the biodiversity definitions, they are an intrinsic part of the whole process. The fact that humans have viewed themselves as separate is probably a key reason for the loss of species and habitats. Here we use the word 'wildlife' to mean all living things and not just animals. The places where wildlife live, such as forests, deserts, oceans, rivers, canals and parks are what we refer to as 'habitats'.
Biodiversity conservation means sustaining the diversity of species in each ecosystem as we plan human activities that affect the use of the land and natural resources. Protecting and enhancing biodiversity is not only important for the intrinsic worth of the wildlife itself, but also because it provides opportunities for us to be in contact with, and enjoy the natural environment.
Why Does Biodiversity Matter?
Biodiversity is the foundation of the natural world. It is our life support system, providing air, water, food, raw materials for manufacturing and protection from ultra-violet light. Without biodiversity we simply would not be able to survive.
Extinction rates are currently very significant. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (made up of 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over four years conducting the most comprehensive audit to date of the health of our planet), found that:
"A third of all amphibians, a fifth of mammals and an eighth of all birds are now threatened with extinction. It is thought 90% of the large predatory fish in the oceans have gone since the beginning of industrial trawling. And these are just the vertebrates - the species we know most about. Ninety percent of species, maybe more, have not even been catalogued by science yet."
"Changes in biodiversity were more rapid in the last 50 years than at any time in human history," said Dr Georgina Mace, the director of science at the Institute of Zoology, in London, UK, and a MA synthesis team member". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4563499.stm
As it is not known what we are losing, undiscovered species are disappearing, some of which could have had a significant use to humans. We also do not really know what the significance of losing each individual species is, i.e. how much and what we can lose before one of the world's life support systems starts to malfunction, such as water and soil systems.
Biodiversity conservation is not just important in the National Parks or the countryside. The mosaics of different habitats in the urban environment also provide a home to a large variety of wildlife and everyone living and working in London has the right to enjoy an environment where biodiversity is protected and encouraged to flourish.
Bees – essential for human life
Albert Einstein once predicted that if bees were to disappear, man would follow only a few years later….
There are 130,000 plants for example for which bees are essential to pollination, from melons to pumpkins, raspberries and all kind of fruit trees - as well as animal fodder - like clover. Bees are more important than poultry in terms of human nutrition. Bees from one hive can visit a million flowers within a 400 square kilometre area in just one day.
Recently there have been reports in the United States of bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), with some beekeepers losing up to 95% of their bee colonies. Colony Collapse Disorder, formerly called Fall Dwindle Disease, refers to the unexplained disappearance and dying off of many honey bee colonies currently being observed across the United States.
In the UK since the 1970’s some species have declined by over 60%. This is because their natural habitats have been slowly reducing in size since modern farming was introduced. Flower rich habitats are disappearing and therefore nectar – essential to the bees’ survival is becoming scarce.