Conserving biodiversity means that the diversity of ecosystems, genes and species present on the planet will be protected. According to the IUCN which is the International Union for Conservation on Nature, ecosystems, genes and species represent the full range of variety on Earth which requires preservation1.
Sadly, the rate at which biodiversity is being lost is higher now than ever before because of the negative impacts which humanity exerts upon the environment. Currently, the biodiversity loss which is being experienced is the greatest extinction crisis since about 65 million years ago, which is when dinosaurs were lost1. When analyzing the most critical threats to biodiversity, it is undoubtedly evident that human civilization is responsible:
- Over exploitation of natural resources
- Habitat degradation and loss
- Climate change induced by humans
- Pollution leading to disease (such as excessive fertilizer causing lake eutrophication)
- The spread of invasive species due to human introductions
Biodiversity conservation is a complex issue and it is not practical to believe that one rigid set of principles could be applied to stop this crisis. According to the IUCN, biodiversity and climate change are intimately related. The IUCN proposes that one way to minimize the effect of climate change is to put additional effort into diminishing the appearance of the other current threats to increase ecosystem resilience against climate change1. Although climate change can benefit from the carbon absorbed and stored in healthier ecosystems, stable ecosystems promote biodiversity which will assist in adapting to the effects of climate change.
Small losses in biodiversity may seem negligible. However, that is a misconception. Once lost, biodiversity cannot be retrieved and it is this diversity which allows for the array of ecosystem services which humanity depends upon, such as the production of medicinal plants, to be available.
1. IUCN (International Union for Conservation on Nature). (2013). Conserving the diversity of life. Retrieved from http://www.iucn.org/what/biodiversity/
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