The subjects of Biodiversity and Climate Change are rarely out of the News. While most of us support the active conservation of our beautiful planet, some are confused about what we can actually do to play our part to sustain it. Identifying and trying to understand the relationships between all living things on Earth are some of the greatest challenges in science.
Biodiversity involves the huge variety of life on Earth. It can be studied on many levels. At the most challenging level, we can study all the different species on the whole planet. On a tiny scale, you could study biodiversity within a small garden pond ecosystem.
Conservation is very important to prevent floods, fires, new deserts and drought. It is important to protect animal and human habitats and natural areas like rainforests. We know that the destruction of rainforests will increase the production of greenhouse gases which make the world warm up. This results in melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, rising sea levels and flooding of low lands, like the Seychelles. The rising temperatures of Earth result in less water and less vegetation - and barren land.
The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) observes that humans are behind the current rate of species extinction, which is at least 100 – 1,000 times higher than nature intended. WWF’s recent Living Planet Report found wildlife populations of vertebrate species — mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish — have declined by 52 percent over the last 40 years. The impacts will reach far beyond the potential cultural loss of iconic species like tigers, rhinos and whales.
The bad news is not inevitable, however. WWF has been part of successful wildlife recovery stories ranging from southern Africa’s black rhino to black bucks in the Himalayas. And this in turn is helping protect rich and varied ecosystems while ensuring people continue to benefit from nature.
Biodiversity allows us all to live healthy and happy lives. It provides us with a wide range of foods and materials and it contributes to the economy. Without a diversity of pollinators, plants and soils, we would have less to eat. Additionally, most medical discoveries to cure diseases and lengthen life spans were made because of research into plant biology and genetics. Every time a species goes extinct or genetic diversity is lost, we will never know whether research would have given us a new vaccine or drug.
We must not forget the wonder of it all. There are few things as beautiful and inspiring as the diversity of life that exists on Earth. The array of species on Earth is wondrous. And it must remain for all of the generations that come after us. This much is obvious: we cannot afford to fail in our mission to save the living planet.
The Academy of Distance Learning provides a range of courses associated with conservation. Check out the Ecology section of the course links, as well as Wildlife Conservation and Environmental Studies.