Biodiversity and Species Diversity
Species are disappearing from the planet 100 to 1000 times faster than the long-term extinction rate would suggest. Man is responsible.
The development of human societies goes hand in hand with the destruction and fragmentation of habitats, pollution, overexploitation, the spread of invasive species and rapid climate changes. Not only is biodiversity endangered, but biodiversity. Both are often equated, but there is much more to the term biodiversity: the diversity of ecosystems, the diversity of species and the genetic diversity within species. Sounds complicated? It is!
Biodiversity is also called biological diversity. It describes the variability of all living organisms and the biological interrelationships between them and their natural environment. Over millions of years, through these interactions, nature has developed into what it is today.
Researchers compare the extinction of species of our time with the five great mass extinctions of the past 500 million years, except that meteorites or gigantic volcanic eruptions are not responsible today. And dying does not take place over millions of years, but within decades.
Why do we need biodiversity?
There are numerous reasons to preserve and preserve biodiversity – ecological, economic, social and also ethical. The most obvious is that biodiversity is the basis of life on earth and of what we call “ecosystem services”. That is, if we destroy it, then we saw off the branch we are sitting on.
For example, forests regulate the climate, they store carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen that we breathe, they filter and store water (and thus protect against erosion and flooding, for example). In addition, around a billion people worldwide are directly dependent on forests. Around 300 million people live in tropical rainforests, of which around 50 million belong to the indigenous peoples. These live in close connection with the forest. The forest not only provides their complete economic livelihood, but also their cultural identity.
Other “service providers” are bees. They pollinate our fruit trees and other flowering plants. Much of the food we eat is heavily dependent on insect pollination. Not particularly charismatic, but still important are the microorganisms that break down our waste and return its minerals to the cycle. They clean our waters and are indispensable in soils and fields.
About three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water. The species, the habitats and the processes there are connected with the water as well as with the air and the land. Due to climate change, phytoplankton is decreasing by around one percent per year. This can have catastrophic consequences for the food chain.
Phytoplankton are tiny organisms, some of which belong to plants. As so-called primary producers, these form biomass with the help of photosynthesis from carbon dioxide and nutrients – and oxygen is created in the process. Phytoplankton is eaten by zooplankton and many animals that live on the bottom of inland waters and seas. One of the most direct food chains is: phytoplankton is eaten by zooplankton such as krill and krill, for example, by whales.
How long is it fine?
Nobody knows whether the ecosystems will still be able to provide their services when 30 to 50 percent of the species have become extinct or when the systems will noticeably reduce their performance; Nobody knows which unknown remedies or other usable chemicals may still be found in little-studied or even unknown species. When we destroy ecosystems or their components (species, populations, genetic diversity), we also change their ability to provide these services. It’s like removing parts from a car that we don’t know what they mean. All levels of biodiversity play a role here.
A contribution from GREENPEACE:
Photo: Pixabay (CC0)