by Fatimah Mahmood
Biodiversity in its simplest form is the variation in the organisms that exist in a certain area ranging from ecosystems to the entire Earth. The distinction could be in species, genes, ecosystems and culture. It is an asset that has both intrinsic and monetary value, which silently plays a myriad of roles.
From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, biodiversity caters to our needs; a sustainable supply of raw materials that form the core of our very existence. The products we purchase in shops too come from an extensive and complicated web of interlinked biodiversity clusters that all contribute to its final form. Moreover, biodiversity has proved its assistance in finding cures for various diseases in form of vaccines and drugs. Another aspect, which is usually side-lined is the ecological services of biodiversity. This includes the processes such as cleaning of water and protection of coastlines by wetlands and mangroves. Or even simply the carbon sequestration and oxygen provision that plants carry out every day.
Despite the uncountable provisions of biodiversity, they are at constant risk of depletion. This can be due to a natural process of speciation, or human activities, the latter being the chief culprit in today’s industrialized world. These mainly include habitat loss/ degradation, over-exploitation of resources, spread of non-native species that in return provide greater competition and sometimes overrule the native population. Other human activities have indirect but far-reaching effects on biodiversity, including climate change and pollution.
Accumulatively these forces are posing an immense strain on the diversity of species on Earth. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), globally about one third of all known species are threatened with extinction. Continuation of this menacing unsustainable expenditure of biodiversity makes another mass extinction inevitable. Resulting in dire consequences to both the environment and human livelihood and health.
In order to preserve the invaluable biodiversity for our future generations, it is essential to introduce sustainable usage and development. However, protection should not be restricted to mere numbers, but also towards preservation of variation. The importance of a varied gene pool means that organisms are more likely to adapt to changing environment and disturbances whether natural or anthropogenic. Allowing the overall maintenance and survival of the ecosystem and what it encompasses.
2015 has been declared as the year of Biodiversity for Sustainable Development by the United Nations. The basic vision of this theme entails that “By 2050 biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.” The following goals have been put into place:
Goal 1: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.
Goal 2: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
Goal 3: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity.
Goal 4: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Goal 5: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.
Hence, sustainable development is key to the successful existence of these silent hard workers. As the famous Native American saying goes, “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money”. Each and every action we take has an equal reaction, hence it is important that we take the right action. The action to protect, to sustain, and rightfully operate as the stewards of biodiversity. As only in the sustainability and preservation of biodiversity lies the essence of the fragile biosphere we live in.
Fatimah Mahmood is an Environmental Sciences graduate, who actively writes/ blogs on local and global environmental & social issues.