The variety of life on Earth, its biological diversity is commonly referred to as biodiversity. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth. Appropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this as being integral to any approach. Almost all cultures have in some way or form recognized the importance that nature, and its biological diversity has had upon them and the need to maintain it. Yet, power, greed and politics have affected the precarious balance.
Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, a larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms; and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. And so, while we dominate this planet, we still need to preserve the diversity in wildlife.
It has long been feared that human activity is causing massive extinctions. Despite increased efforts at conservation, it has not been enough and biodiversity losses continue. The costs associated with deteriorating or vanishing ecosystems will be high. However, sustainable development and consumption would help avert ecological problems. Despite knowing about biodiversity’s importance for a long time, human activity has been causing massive extinctions. As the Environment New Service, reported back in August 1999 (previous link): “the current extinction rate is now approaching 1,000 times the background rate and may climb to 10,000 times the background rate during the next century, if present trends continue [resulting in] a loss that would easily equal those of past extinctions.”
Preserving species and their habitats is important for ecosystems to self-sustain themselves. Yet, the pressures to destroy habitat for logging, illegal hunting, and other challenges are making conservation a struggle. Unfortunately, despite the effort put into conservation by organizations and activists, their work can easily be undermined by those who have other interests. This occurs, for example, from habitat destruction, illegal poaching, to influencing or manipulating laws designed to protect species.
Rapid global warming can affect an ecosystems chances to adapt naturally. The Arctic is very sensitive to climate change and already seeing lots of changes. Ocean biodiversity is already being affected as are other parts of the ecosystem.
The link between climate change and biodiversity has long been established. Although throughout Earth’s history the climate has always changed with ecosystems and species coming and going, rapid climate change affects ecosystems and species ability to adapt and so biodiversity loss increases.
One type of ecosystem that perhaps is neglected more than any other is perhaps also the richest in biodiversity—the coral reefs. Coral reefs are useful to the environment and to people in a number of ways. However, all around the world, much of the world’s marine biodiversity face threats from human and activities as well as natural. It is feared that very soon, many reefs could die off.
Ecologically speaking the value of coral reefs is even greater [than these estimates] because they are integral to the well being of the oceans as we know them. … as the undersea equivalent of rainforest trees. Tropical waters are naturally low in nutrients because the warm water limits nutrients essential for life from welling up from the deep, which is why they are sometimes called a “marine desert”. Through the photosynthesis carried out by their algae, coral serve as a vital input of food into the tropical/sub-tropical marine food-chain, and assist in recycling the nutrients too. The reefs provide home and shelter to over 25% of fish in the ocean and up to two million marine species. They are also a nursery for the juvenile forms of many marine creatures.
At the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development [the "Earth Summit"], the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was born. 192 countries, plus the EU, are now Parties to that convention. In April 2002, the Parties to the Convention committed to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity loss by 2010.
Perhaps predictably, that did not happen. Despite numerous successful conservations measures supporting biodiversity, the 2010 biodiversity target has not been met at the global level.
Although some dislike the thought of trying to put an economic value on biodiversity (some things are just priceless), there have been attempts to do so in order for people to understand the magnitude of the issue: how important the environment is to humanity and what costs and benefits there can be in doing (or not doing) something.