What is biodiversity and why is it so important?

Image biodiversity

The term biodiversity is a combination of the two words ‘biology” and “diversity”.

“Biology” (the science of life and living things) comes from the Greek words “bios” (life, one’s life, lifetime) and “-logy” (study of).

“Diversity” has its roots in the Latin word “diversus”, meaning various.

So biodiversity simply means the variety of all living beings in Nature.

So why is biodiversity so important?

Maybe you have heard about the interconnectedness of the natural world before? When undisturbed by human activity, natural ecosystems are in coherence with their environment. All the different species live together in a way that promotes a natural balance. Every little creature, plant and microorganism has a job to do, that will affect the beings around them. It’s like a big puzzle where every single piece is needed to make up the whole. Should something external (storm, flood, frost etc.) cause a temporary imbalance, the equilibrium is usually restored quite quickly.

As far back as the 16th century, human activity has impacted Nature in practically every part of the world disturbing this natural balance. Plants and animals are at risk of extinction, invasive species cause havoc, deforestation and land degradation result in water scarcity, erosion, and the destruction of ancient habitats, I could go on…

In short, human intervention has disturbed our earth’s equilibrium in a big way, greatly diminishing and unbalancing biodiversity.

So why is this such a big deal?

From a very selfish human point of view, it’s simple: We cannot survive without healthy biodiversity! Also, the natural world is suffering because a loss of biodiversity causes devastating dominoes effects with global impact. Here are a few examples of why a loss of biodiversity is harmful for all of us:

Food:

What is on our plates every single day (if we’re lucky)? I would like you to do a simple exercise and for one day write down all the different “species” that make up our daily nourishment (don’t forget all the microorganisms that help to ferment our tea, coffee and chocolate!!). Without a large variety of food, our health would suffer greatly. Remember I spoke about interconnectedness before? The need for biodiversity goes so much further than just counting the different veg, fruit, grains, meat, sugars, fats etc. What about all the microorganisms that do their best to keep the soil healthy, the bees who pollinate our fruit trees, the birds who help control insects… you get what I mean ;-).

Clean air, water, and environment:

Nature and balanced biodiversity are pros when it comes to keeping our air and water clean. Plants, water, and microorganisms all help to filter, flush and eliminate toxins, purifying both air and water as best as they can.

So many other species help to keep our environment clean by eating and recycling harmful and dead materials. Animals and microorganisms make sure that we’re not drowning in rotting and decomposing animal and plant waste (waste sounds wrong but I can’t think of a better word ;-)).

Health:

Biodiversity is a huge contributor to our physical and mental health on so many different levels. As controversial as some medications can be, many lifesaving medicines are derived from biodiversity. Our own microbiome is essential to our immune system and overall health and of course, we all need Nature Connection for our mental wellbeing. I know I am only briefly touching on these examples but it’s just to illustrate the wide-reaching effects and need for balanced ecosystems. 

Human activity has greatly impacted global biodiversity and it’s important that we are aware of this.

Here are some examples of damage caused:

  • Habitat Loss
  • ​Exploitation
  • Climate Change
  • Pollution
  • Species extinction
  • Large scale monocultures
  • Invasive Species

One concrete example of how we damage biodiversity is the way farming has developed into the cultivation of huge areas of monocultures. Nature doesn’t operate in this way so farmers need to use pesticides and herbicides, which of course diminishes and kills thousands of organisms. The soil doesn’t get enough nutrients from a variety of species, which then requires artificial fertilisers. It’s an unsustainable cycle disregarding the interactions and systems of Nature and disturbing natural balance.

Read more about why biodiversity is in danger here:

So what can we do to help?

There are so many things we can all do to help and support biodiversity, here are just a few simple ideas:

  • Building and erecting a bug hotel, here is a simple instruction.
  • Rewilding a patch of our garden. Here are some tips.
  • Supporting organic and ethical local food producers in our area.
  • Building and putting up some nesting boxes in your garden. Instruction to build your own here.
  • Plant some native trees in your garden or support an organisation such as Tree Nation (no affiliation)
  • Speaking up. Voicing our concerns about activities endangering biodiversity to local politicians, on social media etc. ie the continuous use of pesticides and herbicides.
  • Supporting organisations like Fauna & Flora International or WWF that work to protect and improve biodiversity
  • Generally becoming mindful of how our actions and behaviours impact biodiversity. Awareness is the gateway for change.

You might think that these small “acts of restorative kindness” as the author of “We are the ARK” Mary Reynolds calls them, are not enough and won’t make any difference.

Well, that’s all a matter of a change in mindset. As the great Howard Zinn said:

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of Nature Connection for health and wellbeing, why not join one of our wonderful online trainings? Whether you’re a parent, educator or mental health professional, you will find a suitable training course here.

For 1:1 online coaching/mentoring inquiries, drop me a message at alex@rootsandwings.ie to arrange a 15 min free Zoom call here.

Looking forward to meeting you soon 😉

xx Alex

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