Biodiversity is something that affects us all whether we realise it or not. Yet, as our society develops, we inadvertently destroy the biological links to our planet’s past. So, what exactly is biodiversity and why is it so important?
What is biodiversity?
Put simply, biodiversity is every single iteration of life on our planet – every form of bacteria, plant, insect, animal, fungi and even entire ecosystems. Contracting the words biology and diversity, the term was first coined in 1985. It is such a large, complex and diverse issue – yet an eerily important one as the human race may not survive without it.
In terms of species, it’s been predicted that 8.7 million types of species are yet to be identified – with only 1.6 million having actually been identified. That’s a staggering difference. It’s feared that many of these species will go extinct before we’re able to learn of their existence and what benefits they may be able to offer us.
Why is it so important?
Our existence is closely intertwined with our ecosystem and the species that inhabit it. Obvious examples would be trees and plants that provide oxygen or bees who pollinate flowers so they can grow and produce ripe fruit. But the impact goes deeper – into the very soil we grow our food on. Our crops are dependent on all the microorganisms and species that provide nutrients to the soil.
If crops are subject to unnatural stimulation such as fertiliser or extra, routine irrigation then that affects the biodiversity that’s working to grow the crops in the first place. Put simply by our environmental consultant, if biodiversity is ignored, then our ecosystems would start to crumble – which would spell bad news for human life as we’re sustained by the air quality and ability to plant fresh food in the soil.
In addition to this, biodiversity can also be seen as a historical archive of our planet’s past. And, with their possibly being over seven million undiscovered species– there is an unmitigated wealth of knowledge that could be learnt from all the uncategorised species on the planet. There is also the possibility of finding medical or agricultural advances that could benefit our society.
Discoveries made through biodiversity
Nature is responsible for a wealth of medical advancements – and it’s frightening to think of all the possible developments that may never come to be or may be delayed due to the decline our planet’s biodiversity is facing. For example, a compound known as quinine was extracted from the bark of the Chinchona tree found in South America in the early 1800s. The bark was used by the natives to prevent fevers – but in 1820 scientists were able to use quinine as a treatment for malaria.
A more common example would be salicylic acid which is found in the bark of the willow tree – which has been synthesised into an ingredient known as acetylsalicylic acid – widely known as aspirin. Salicylic acid was used by the ancient Egyptians and other ancient civilisations – though they didn’t know of the substance at the time. They would simply use the willow tree for medicine. It was the notable Greek physician, Hippocrates, who ascertained that it was the salicylic acid specifically that gave the willow tree its ability to relieve fevers and pain. Thousands of years later and this natural ingredient has been synthesised into one of the most well-known and widely used medicines in the world.
Many third world countries and regions, as well as indigenous communities, depend on local, natural medicinal options – not just because large pharmaceutical options are in some cases unavailable, but because they have been relying on those natural sources for generations. The same can be said for agricultural methods and practises.
The future of our planet’s biodiversity
Known species are going extinct at a rate 1000x higher than the discovery of new species. The development of future medicinal and agricultural innovations (amongst others) is at risk as there are still several lifetimes worth of knowledge that we do not know about – and at this rate, there’ll be more possibilities lost than actually realised. As mentioned above, our existence is closely linked with our ecosystem and the species that inhabit it so we must take steps to preserve what we can.
Are you looking for an environmental consultant in Melbourne?
You might not think your actions make a difference but there are small things you can do. If you have a piece of land you’re thinking of building on – then you should consider an environmental site assessment to ensure it’s safe to work on and that the necessary steps are taken to protect the local species. Alpha Environmental can help you with all your environmental services – from ESA’s to soil and groundwater testing services, our environmental consultants are up to the challenge.
If you’d like to know more about what an Alpha Environmental consultant can do for you, then please contact us using the form on our website or give us a call on 1300 039 181.