Clearly, from an evolutionary point of view, there is no clear separation between one species and another, and biodiversity is never in a static state: all types of life change progressively over time. All living things, from an aerospace engineer to lettuce in a salad, can trace their genealogy back to a common organism known as the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA), estimated to have lived about 4.3 billion years ago. However, for convenience, different species are classified using the same system of biological taxonomy. Carl Linnaeus in 1735 as a Swedish scientist. The scientist assigned a Latin two-part name (binomial nomenclature) to each of the organisms on Earth. For example, in 1758 he named the house sparrow, which is Latin for “finch” and “house.”
Why is biodiversity so important?
Biodiversity is fundamentally linked between environments and species that depend on each other. Humans benefit from the many undervalued environmental services that biodiversity provides and are vital to our well-being. For example, earthworms help regulate water and provide mineral nutrients to the soil, contributing to soil fertility and plant growth.
The diversity of living organisms also provides us with direct products such as food and medicine. For example, the development of pharmacological drugs has a wide range of natural products, and this is not counting the millions of people in the world who continue to use local plant species as medicine.
Where can biodiversity be found?
Biodiversity is everywhere, but there are some habitats and ecosystems in the world that contain huge numbers of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. One of the most famous places of this type is Madagascar, an island country with a very high rate of occurrence (of species that are exclusive to that place). The vast majority of species of living creatures found on the island, including the famous lemurs and baobabs, evolved and thrived only there, isolated from the rest of the world.
Is biodiversity under threat?
Every now and then the level of biological diversity drops dramatically and many species become extinct at the same time. These are events known as mass extinctions, and so far we’ve experienced five of them over hundreds of millions of years. The last extinction occurred approximately 65 million years ago, when an asteroid impact wiped out 75% of Earth’s species, including all non-avian dinosaurs (and yes, that means today’s birds are, taxonomically speaking, actual dinosaurs).
The alarming fact is that scientists believe that we are currently approaching the sixth mass extinction, given that the rate of species extinction is 1000 times higher than normal. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services indicates that biodiversity continues to decline in all regions of the world and calls for urgent action. In this case, however, it is not an extinction caused by natural disasters as in the past, but by human activity. Habitat destruction and fragmentation due to urban sprawl and overexploitation, along with the spread of invasive alien species – enabled by rapidly growing tourism, trade and processing – are among the key factors. Together, they pose a serious challenge to biodiversity conservation.
Is it possible to improve biodiversity?
Because habitats are so important to survival, it is imperative that we learn to take the necessary steps to better protect them and the biodiversity they support. Fortunately, there are things we can all do.
People who live in urban areas can contribute by providing food, shelter and nesting opportunities for insects and birds by planting animal-attractive flowers in gardens, patios and balconies. In many city parks, local authorities plant flower beds to increase biodiversity.
In the fields, improved agricultural practices can contribute to the conservation of biodiversity. This is especially true in intensively cultivated areas: where fewer habitats remain, a balance must be found between land for production and land for conservation. Here, habitat restoration and maintenance initiatives play a key role in enhancing biodiversity, as they contribute to the creation of a network of habitats in the environment. In other areas of the world where
production levels are low, improving best practices and supporting technologies can prevent land from being traded for crop production.
Natural parks designed to protect wildlife also help the development of biodiversity. Some targeted efforts can even reverse population declines, as happened with the southern rhinoceros These efforts are increasingly supported by digital tools and databases, these tools can help conservationists better monitor the effectiveness of their efforts and determine where they are best used, and can help others, such as farmers, to carry out their daily tasks in the most sustainable way possible.
Biodiversity is all about interconnectedness: creating habitat corridors throughout the environment will benefit all organisms, large and small.