The variety of life on Earth, or its biological diversity is commonly referred to as biodiversity. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth. Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, has an important role to play. For example, a larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms; and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. Almost all cultures have in some way or form recognized the importance that nature and its biological diversity has had upon them, and the need to maintain it. Yet, this balance is being impacted by man’s actions. This is driven by five principal pressures namely habitat change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change, which are either constant or increasing in intensity.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes that many species are threatened with extinction. In addition,
- 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost
- 75% of the world’s fisheries are either fully or over exploited
- Up to 70% of the world’s known species risk extinction if the global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C
- 1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction
- Every second a parcel of rainforest the size of a football field disappears
The UN-backed Economics of Environment and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative has estimated the annual cost of biodiversity loss at between USD 2 – 4.5 Trillion. This represents approximately 7.5% of global GDP.
How do we stop the loss of biodiversity? Can we restore the balance? How can we ensure that we preserve and enrich the existence of our co-inhabitants? How can we influence companies, governments and the general public to notice and take action?
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