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Biodiversity and the Healthy Society

Gene: A unit of inherited material. An organism’s collection of genes determines what it is, what it looks like, and often how it behaves.

Organism: An individual living thing.

Species: A group of populations of similar organisms that reproduce among themselves, but do not naturally reproduce with any other
kinds of organisms

Community: Populations of organisms of different species that interact with one another.

Population: A group of individuals belonging to one species living in an area.

Ecosystem: Any geographic area with all of the living organisms present and the nonliving parts of their physical environment. Involves
the movement and storage of energy and matter through living things and activities.

What is Biodiversity?

Short for biological diversity, biodiversity is the variety of life forms in the entire Earth.
It includes all organisms, species, and populations; the genetic variation among these; and all their complex assemblages of
communities and ecosystems.
It also refers to the interrelatedness of genes, species, and ecosystems and their interactions with the environment.
It is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystem and the
ecological complexes of which they are part
It is source of the essential goods and ecological services that constitute the source of life for all and it has direct consumptive
value in food, agriculture, medicine, and in industry.

Levels of Biodiversity:
 Genetic diversity is all the different genes contained in all individual plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms. It occurs within a
species as well as between species.

• Species diversity is all the differences within and between populations of species, as well as between different species.

• Ecosystem diversity is all the different habitats, biological communities, and ecological processes, as well as variation within individual
ecosystems.

Sustainability of the ecosystem ensures a better survival rate against any natural disaster. Therefore, we, as human inhabitants of the
ecosystem, must preserve and conserve the biodiversity of all creatures.

Threats to Biodiversity
The loss of biodiversity is a significant issue for scientists and policy-makers and the topic is finding its way into living rooms and
classrooms. Species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate known in geological history and most of these extinctions have been tied to
human activity.

1. Habitat loss and destruction. Usually as a direct result of human activity and population growth, is a major force in the loss
of species, populations, and ecosystems. Major contributing factor is the inhabitation of human beings and the use of land for
economic gains.

2. Alterations in ecosystem composition. Alterations and sudden changes, wither within species groups or within the
environment, could begin to change entire ecosystems. Alterations in ecosystems are a critical factor contributing to species
and habitat loss.
For example, efforts to eliminate coyotes in the canyons of southern California are linked to decreases in song bird populations
in the area. As coyote populations were reduced, the populations of their prey, primarily raccoons, increased. Since raccoons
eat bird eggs, fewer coyotes led to more raccoons eating more eggs, resulting in fewer song birds.

3. Over – exploitation. Overhunting, overfishing, or over collecting of species can quickly lead to its decline. Changing
consumption patterns of humans is often cited as the key reason for this unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.

4. Pollution and contamination. Biological systems respond slowly to changes in their surroundings environment. Pollution and
contamination cause irreversible damage to species and varieties.

5. Global climate change. Both climate variability and climate change cause biodiversity loss. Species and populations may be
lost permanently if they are not provided with enough time to adapt to changing climatic conditions.
Supplementary Reading
Why is Biodiversity Important?
The diversity of life enriches the quality of our lives in ways that are not easy to quantify. Biodiversity is intrinsically valuable and
is important for our emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Some consider that it is an important human responsibility to be
stewards for the rest of the world’s living organisms. Diversity breeds diversity. Having a diverse array of living organisms allows other
organisms to take advantage of the resources provided. For example, trees provide habitat and nutrients for birds, insects, other plants
and animals, fungi, and microbes. Humans have always depended on the Earth’s biodiversity for food, shelter, and health.

Biological resources that provide goods for human use include:


• food—species that are hunted, fished, and gathered, as well as those cultivated for agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture;

• shelter and warmth—timber and other forest products and fibers such as wool and cotton;

• medicines—both traditional medicines and those synthesized from biological resources and processes.

Biodiversity also supplies indirect services to humans which are often taken for granted. These include:
 drinkable water
 clean air
 fertile soils.

The loss of populations, species, or groups of species from an ecosystem can upset its normal function and disrupt these
ecological services. Recent declines in honeybee populations may result in a loss of pollination services for fruit crops and flowers
Biodiversity provides medical models for research into solving human health problems. For example, researchers are looking at
how seals, whales, and penguins use oxygen during deep-water dives for clues to treat people who suffer strokes, shock, and lung
disease.
The Earth’s biodiversity contributes to the productivity of natural and agricultural systems.
Insects, bats, birds, and other animals serve as pollinators.
Parasites and predators can act as natural pest controls.
Various organisms are responsible for recycling organic materials and maintaining the productivity of soil.
Genetic diversity is also important in terms of evolution. The loss of individuals, populations, and species decreases the variety
of genes—the material needed for species and populations to adapt to changing conditions or for new species to evolve.

■ Biodiversity benefits people through more than just its contribution to material welfare and livelihoods. Biodiversity contributes to
security, resiliency, social relations, health, and freedom of choices and actions.

■ Changes in biodiversity due to human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, and the drivers
of change that cause biodiversity loss and lead to changes in ecosystem services are either steady, show no evidence of declining over
time, or are increasing in intensity. Under the four plausible future scenarios developed by the MA, these rates of change in biodiversity
are projected to continue, or to accelerate.

■ Many people have benefited over the last century from the conversion of natural ecosystems to human-dominated ecosystems and
from the exploitation of biodiversity. At the same time, however, these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of losses
in biodiversity, degradation of many ecosystem services, and the exacerbation of poverty for other groups of people.

■ The most important direct drivers of biodiversity loss and ecosystem service changes are habitat change (such as land use changes,
physical modification of rivers or water withdrawal from rivers, loss of coral reefs, and damage to sea floors due to trawling), climate
change, invasive alien species, overexploitation, and pollution.

■ Improved valuation techniques and information on ecosystem services demonstrate that although many individuals benefit from
biodiversity loss and ecosystem change, the costs borne by society of such changes are often higher. Even in instances where knowledge
of benefits and costs is incomplete, the use of the precautionary approach may be warranted when the costs associated with ecosystem
changes may be high or the changes irreversible.

■ To achieve greater progress toward biodiversity conservation to improve human well-being and reduce poverty, it will be necessary
to strengthen response options that are designed with the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as
the primary goal. These responses will not be sufficient, however, unless the indirect and direct drivers of change are addressed and the
enabling conditions for implementation of the full suite of responses are established.

■ Trade-offs between achieving the 2015 targets of the Millennium Development Goals and the 2010 target of reducing the rate of
biodiversity loss are likely, although there are also many potential synergies between the various internationally agreed targets relating
to biodiversity, environmental sustainability, and development. Coordinated implementation of these goals and targets would facilitate
the consideration of trade-offs and synergies.

■ An unprecedented effort would be needed to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss at all levels.

■ Short-term goals and targets are not sufficient for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems. Given the
characteristic response times for political, socioeconomic, and ecological systems, longerterm goals and targets (such as for 2050) are
needed to guide policy and actions.

■ Improved capability to predict the consequences of changes in drivers for biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and ecosystem services,
together with improved measures of biodiversity, would aid decision-making at all levels.

■ Science can help ensure that decisions are made with the best available information, but ultimately the future of biodiversity will be
determined by society.
Changes in drivers that indirectly affect biodiversity, such as population, technology, and lifestyle (upper right corner), can lead
to changes in drivers directly affecting biodiversity, such as the catch of fish or the application of fertilizers to increase food production
(lower right corner). These result in changes to biodiversity and to ecosystem services (lower left corner), thereby affecting human
wellbeing. These interactions can take place at more than one scale and can cross scales. For example, international demand for timber
may lead to a regional loss of forest cover, which increases flood magnitude along a local stretch of a river. Similarly, the interactions can
take place across different time scales. Actions can be taken either to respond to negative changes or to enhance positive changes at
almost all points in this framework. Local scales refer to communities or ecosystems and regional scales refer to nations or biomes, all
of which are nested within global scale processes.