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Declining Biodiversity

Biological Diversity or Biodiversity is a term used to describe the enormous variety of life on Earth and refers to all living things - microorganisms, plants, animals and humans. Scientists have estimated that there are around 8.7 million species of plants and animals in existence. However, only around 1.2 million species have been identified and described so far, most of which are insects. This means that millions of other organisms remain a complete mystery. 

Biodiversity is important to humans for many reasons. The Biodiversity Book by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO; Morton & Hill 2014) describes 5 core (and interacting) values that humans place on biodiversity:

  • Economic - biodiversity provides humans with raw materials for consumption and production. Many livelihoods, such as those of farmers, fishers and timber workers, are dependent on biodiversity.
  • Ecological life support—biodiversity provides functioning ecosystems that supply oxygen, clean air and water, pollination of plants, pest control, wastewater treatment and many other ecosystem services.
  • Recreation - many recreational pursuits rely on our unique biodiversity, such as birdwatching, hiking, camping and fishing. Our tourism industry also depends on biodiversity.
  • Cultural - Indigenous cultures across the world are closely connected to biodiversity through the expression of identity, spirituality and aesthetic appreciation. Indigenous people have strong connections and obligations to biodiversity arising from spiritual beliefs about animals and plants.
  • Scientific - biodiversity represents a wealth of systematic ecological data that help us to understand the natural world and its origins.

Any loss or deterioration in the condition of biodiversity can compromise all the values outlined above and affect human wellbeing. 

The bad news, however, is that biodiversity is declining. Currently, there are more than 134,400 species on the IUCN Red List, with more than 37,400 species threatened with extinction, including 41% of amphibians, 34% of conifers, 33% of reef building corals, 26% of mammals and 14% of birds.

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities according to the United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Much of the Earth’s biodiversity is in jeopardy due to human consumption and other activities that disturb and even destroy ecosystems. Deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, climate change and population growth are all threats to biodiversity. These threats have caused an unprecedented rise in the rate of species extinction. Some scientists estimate that half of all species on Earth will be wiped out within the next century.

Source: IUCN Red List
Updated On: Jan, 2021

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