Throughout the world, a diversity of life – often referred to as biodiversity – exists. Most often, we hear about the importance of protecting the tropical rainforests, which contain approximately half of the world’s species. We also hear how familiar species such as the giant panda or the African elephant are in danger of extinction. Indeed, these species and the ecosystems which support them are very precious to this planet. Yet, there are many other threatened ecosystems and species, around the world and in our own countries, which are just as important, and just as worthy of protection.
The biodiversity of ecosystems, species and their genetic makeup are vital components of this planet. They provide enormous benefits and are part of the global ecosystem we rely on for survival.
Increasingly, however, a multitude of combined pressures, including population expansion, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution, climate change, urbanization and industrialization, are threatening the world’s biodiversity and, in turn, the overall quality and survivability of life on this planet. Currently more than 11,000 species of plants and animals are facing a high risk of extinction in the near future, largely because of human activities.
|Why should we protect biodiversity?
- Humans depend on it – plants and animals provide us with food, and plants are still the primary source of medicine for many people, as well as the basis for many modern pharmaceuticals.
- All life depends upon it – ecosystems provide essential services such as pollination, air and water purification and climate regulation.
- It’s good insurance – ecosystems that contain a diversity of genes and species are much more resilient and able to adapt to pests, disease and changing climate.
- Biodiversity means jobs and money – millions of people work in agriculture, fishing, forestry, pharmaceuticals and ecotourism industries.
- It’s spiritually important – many species are part of our cultural heritage, and nature is important to spiritual beliefs and psychological well-being.
- It’s an ethical obligation – all species have a right to exist, regardless of their usefulness to human life.
- Since 1900, 75% of the worldwide genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost.
- In the last 500 years, human activity has forced 816 species to extinction (or extinction in the wild). Many species are lost before they are even discovered.
- A total of 11,046 species of plants and animals are threatened around the world, in almost all cases as a result of human activities.
- Several North American ecosystems are threatened including the St. Lawrence river, North American tallgrass prairie, Midwest Oak Savannah, and many wetlands. The main culprits are pollution, urban sprawl, and conversion to agriculture.
- Eleven percent of birds, 25% of mammals, and 20% to 30% of all plants are estimated to be nearing extinction. The chief cause for species loss, according to University of Colorado scientists, is the destruction of natural habitats by logging, agriculture, and urbanization. Some 30 million acres of rain forest are destroyed each year.
- In 1960, 5 percent of marine fisheries were either fished to capacity or over-fished. Today, 70 percent of marine fisheries are in this condition.
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