From bears, salmon and worms to trees, soil and fungi, it is the diversity of species living in an area and the relationships they have with one another. It is made up of three features: ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. The more they are interconnected, the more resilient the NET OF BIODIVERSITY becomes.
Ecosystems are a community of living organisms coexisting in a natural system alongside non-living components such as light, atmosphere and climate. Together, their distinct behaviour impacts their shared environment.
From fish, worms and mites to bacteria, viruses and algae, every living organism has an important role to play in an ecosystem.
Genetic diversity is the variety of genes within a single species. These genes are the source of our unique features, such as the variety of appearance in human faces. It also accounts for different populations of a single species. For example, there are approximately 20,000 known species of butterflies across the world and roughly one million species of worms. Having diversity in genes helps species adapt to changes in their environment.
As the second-largest country in the world, Canada spans a significant portion of the Northern Hemisphere and borders the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. We are home to about 30% of the world’s boreal forest and 20% of the world’s freshwater resources. We have the world’s largest coastline and one of the largest marine territories. Across our rugged, vast and varied land and seascapes, there are many distinct ecosystems—including lakes, rivers, wetlands, forests, grasslands, tundra, along with coastal and marine areas. These remarkable areas, teeming with biodiversity, are home to over 80,000 known species (excluding viruses and bacteria), with insects accounting for 70% of this figure. While biodiversity is integral to Canadian heritage and culture, it also supports our economy and our future.
Biodiversity is vital for human existence. It supplies us with the basic necessities for life like food, water, energy and building materials. It also contributes to our quality of life and wellbeing, enhances our sense of place and provides us with natural beauty. However, our perpetual demands on biodiversity will compromise its ability to provide for us in the future and sadly undermines its contributions in the present, like clean drinking water and healthy soils. The survival of humanity entirely depends on a balanced and harmonious relationship with nature.
With the collapse of biodiversity, humans will face global food insecurity and struggle to develop new medicines to treat modern diseases. We will also lose the healing power of nature, which enhances our physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Biodiversity freely provides natural benefits that are essential to human survival. Referred to as ECOSYSTEM SERVICES, these naturally occurring systems provide basic human necessities such as pure water and air along with rich soil that nurtures our food crops. Humans also rely on thousands of species a day for survival as they provide us with food, medicine, clothing and building materials.
The survival of biodiversity depends on: 1) a rich habitat that is not disturbed or stressed too often 2) the absence of pesticides, herbicides and overcrowding 3) limited manipulation by humans, the dominant species.
Photosynthesis, soil formation, nutrient cycling, pollination, habitat provision, etc.
Pest and disease control, water and air purification, carbon sequestering, climate regulation, waste management, etc.
Historical, spiritual, scientific, therapeutic, educational, recreational, artistic, folklore, etc.
6th MASS EXTINCTION
Biodiversity is being destroyed in front of our very eyes. This unprecedented loss has forced us into the sixth mass extinction, called the Holocene Extinction. Only five have occurred to date over the last half billion years. The level of loss occurring right now is by far the most extreme since the die-off of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Since 1970, we have lost 60% of our mammals, birds, fish and reptiles, and two-thirds of our invertebrate friends like bugs and bees. When compared to the human population, that’s the equivalent of emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. With the collapse of this diversity, it is estimated that already 1 million species face extinction. Scientists have estimated that a number of species are disappearing 1,000 to 10,000 times their natural extinction rate.
While natural seasonal cycles cause temporary biodiversity loss, human-caused drivers are more severe and long-lasting. They are largely the result of endless human growth, resource consumption along with land degradation. Such disruptors include industrial farming, deforestation or land-use change for agriculture and development, oil and gas production, hydroelectric power (damns) and mining. Ecosystems, species and genetic diversity can’t keep up with our demands. Without a circular system where humans give back what we have taken, biodiversity will continue to fade away.
Zebra Mussels Image Credit: Dreissena polymorpha by GerardM via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.