Biodiversity is one of the key factors for the well-being of the planet and the different ecosystems. When it is violated, the imbalance generated becomes a problem that can be critical for everyone.
Today, biodiversity is a key concept. Awareness of the need to care for the environment is constantly growing, leading people to demand new protection measures from governments and companies. However, it is essential to understand what it consists of in order to find the best solutions, because every minute the planet loses an area of forest equivalent to 27 football pitches, as WWF points out. This independent international organisation dedicated to the defence of nature and the environment points out that the populations of vertebrate species have decreased by 68% in the last 50 years, and that half of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost.
What is biodiversity?
The term biodiversity encompasses, in a simple way, the amount and variety of life on Earth, which includes all living things, from micro-organisms to animals and plants. Biodiversity is also used as a measure of the richness and variety of species, and how they relate and interact within their ecosystems.
It is precisely biodiversity that is essential for maintaining the balance and stability of ecosystems. Each species plays a unique role in its environment. For example, it can perform vital functions such as pollination, decomposition of organic matter and climate regulation. It also forms the basis for economic progress or health, providing humans with food, clean water, as well as medicines and natural resources.
Types of biodiversity
Beyond what biodiversity is, it is useful to understand the different types that exist. This division is used to classify living things according to their origin, the ecosystem in which they live or other relevant factors. In general terms, we can find the following.
- Genetic biodiversity. This refers to the variety of genes within a single species. Each species has a certain number of genes, which helps to ensure adaptation to the environment, i.e. it has a direct impact on the survival capacity of living beings. The higher the number, the lower the risk of extinction. It is also important to note that it is the most basic component of biodiversity.
- Species biodiversity. The different species found in a specific ecosystem or geographical area. It includes all living things that are present, as each one fulfils one or more functions, all of which help to maintain long-term stability and keep the environment viable.
- Ecological biodiversity. This refers to the variety of ecosystems and habitats in a given geographical area. Each has its own characteristics and different species that interact with each other and with the environment. Understanding these relationships is essential to ensure proper conservation, for example by understanding the impact of human action. In order to understand biological diversity in an ecosystem, three concepts are used to facilitate understanding:
- Alpha diversity: This is the number of species existing in a specific place.
- Beta diversity: This focuses on the species composition of animal communities.
- Gamma diversity:This is the number of species found in a region and how they interact with each other and with the environment.
Why is biodiversity so important?
Biodiversity is vital because without it, ecosystems become fragile, threatening such important issues as food security, mental health, climate change and the economy, as it plays a role in everything from protecting water quality to protecting against pandemics or natural disasters such as floods.
It also ensures the resilience of the ecosystem to imbalances caused by human activity. Even if there is a prolonged drought, for example, ecological processes will continue to unfold.
Similarly, ecosystems play a vital role in the development of biological processes and in ensuring that the planet is habitable. For example, a forest acts as a carbon sink, helping to regulate its presence in the atmosphere in a natural way. This in turn will have implications for the climate.
On the other hand, although it could be seen as superficial, ecosystems also have aesthetic, cultural and spiritual value. Contemplating an environment full of vegetation and animals contributes to an experience of connection with nature. They also help us to expand our knowledge on many subjects, from philosophy to physics and, above all, biology.
Biodiversity is a guarantee for the long-term survival of the entire planet. The greater the diversity, the more resilient the ecosystems. Given this reality, we must strive to care for and maintain it, as human activity often poses a serious threat. It is our responsibility to ensure that damaging events, such as fires, do not occur.