Biodiversity, what does it mean for us?
The paleontological and stratigraphical records confirm that our earth has witnessed five major mass extinctions. Certainly, these mass extinctions have raised our journey of life in threatened position, many life forms which are still unknown to humanity have lost their living status, and somehow few have been uncovered as recognisable fossils. On the other side of the journey of life, millions of life forms have appeared by the natural forces or by getting adaptation for the ever-changing climate. The journey of life is realising the ups and downs by the natural forces and sudden catastrophic forces. In conclusion; Origin and Extinction were found to be intrinsic characteristics of the journey of life and the balance between them, are shaping the planet’s biodiversity. More interestingly during human development and industrialisation, the balance between Origin and Extinction is being transformed by the direct human intervention in ecosystem and wildlife habitat loss. Indeed, the anthropogenic activities have boosted the species extinction rate at a much higher level. It has been predicted that every hour three species are going to extinct permanently from the earth. We have already lost the 20% Coral reefs, 33% Mangrove forest, 50% of Wetlands from the world’s total and we are losing the 35 million acres of native forest every year. Furthermore, the biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82%, natural ecosystems have lost about half of their area, and a million species are at continued risk of extinction. It is a horrible signal for ecosystem health and survival of humanity.
A group of small organisms, insects that is largely ignored, but it has a vast impact on the global economy through pollination services and land productivity. The reduction in the number of pollinators is posing the crop loss of almost $577 billion annually, while land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of global land.
Connecting the story, the human footprints on the earth are so large, and it is leaving very little space for anything else. The research data reveals that 75% of all land has been turned into farm fields, covered by concrete, swallowed up by dam reservoirs or otherwise significantly altered. 65% of the marine environment has also been changed by fish farms, shipping routes, subsea mines and other projects. 75% of rivers and lakes are being used for crop or livestock cultivation. By the result of such alteration, more than 500,000 species have insufficient habitats for their long-term survival on the earth, and many are on course to disappear within decades.
One more ecological concern; natural resource replenish rate and Earth Overshoot Day, which is significant for the human civilisation. In 1960, there were 3 billion humans on the earth, but today there are over 7 billion and it is predicted that by the reach of 2050, there will be 9 billion humans on earth. The ever increasing human population is consuming natural resources a more quick way than its replenish rate. With the current situation, we are consuming all the natural resources which reproduce in 12 months, earlier than its balance. As consumption grows, that Earth Overshoot Day is getting earlier. However, because of the Covid-19, the Earth Overshoot Day has been delayed by three weeks, despite the 56% increased demand for the resources. The Earth Overshoot Day provides direct evidence for human control of nature and natural resources.
Besides the constant human pressure on natural resources, the occasional human-induced natural forces have caused disasters in recent years like Australian Bushfire, Siberia Wildfire, and California Forest fire. The record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of massive bushfires across Australia in September 2019. Intense and dry summer caused the Siberia wildfire in August 2020 and California forest fire in September 2020.
The real cause behind such disasters was predicted- Climate Change. Climate change is a key driver for this trend, with warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack and earlier spring snowmelt, which created a longer and more intense dry season. These dry seasons have increased the moisture stress on vegetation and have therefore made forests more susceptible to severe wildfires.
Looking deeper for the value of biodiversity; as forest counteract the climate change by capturing the CO2, soak up rain and reduces the risk of floods; Wetlands purify and recharge the groundwater; Bacteria and Worms decompose the wastes; Microbes in the marine system produce the 50% of the oxygen for breath; Mangrove forest protects the coasts from storms; 9 out of 10 top medicines come from nature; and Ecosystem stability and health is maintained by the rich biodiversity.
Apart from this, trillions of dollar ecosystem services are being provided by biodiversity to humans. It is not worth ignoring the significance of biodiversity for human survival.