Significance of biodiversity to the ecosystem

  • The diversity of life enriches the quality of our lives in ways that are not easy to quantify. Biodiversity is intrinsically valuable and is important for our emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Diversity breeds diversity. Having a diverse array of living organisms allows other organisms to take advantage of the resources provided. For example, trees provide habitat and nutrients for birds, insects, other plants and animals, fungi, and microbes. Humans have always depended on the Earth’s biodiversity for food, shelter, and health. Biological resources that provide goods for human use include:
    • Food—species that are hunted, fished, and gathered, as well as those cultivated for agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture.
    • Shelter and warmth—timber and other forest products and fibers such as wool and cotton
    • Medicines—both traditional medicines and those synthesized from biological resources and processes.
  • Biodiversity also supplies indirect services to humans which are often taken for granted. These include drinkable water, clean air, and fertile soils. The loss of populations, species, or groups of species from an ecosystem can upset its normal function and disrupt these ecological services. Recent declines in honeybee populations may result in a loss of pollination services for fruit crops and flowers.
  • Biodiversity provides medical models for research into solving human health problems. For example, researchers are looking at how seals, whales, and penguins use oxygen during deep-water dives for clues to treat people who suffer strokes, shock, and lung disease.
  • The Earth’s biodiversity contributes to the productivity of natural and agricultural systems. Insects, bats, birds, and other animals serve as pollinators. Parasites and predators can act as natural pest controls. Various organisms are responsible for recycling organic materials and maintaining the productivity of soil.
  • Genetic diversity is also important in terms of evolution. The loss of individuals, populations, and species decreases the variety of genes—the material needed for species and populations to adapt to changing conditions or for new species to evolve.
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