The Importance of Biodiversity

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‘Define Biodiversity and using examples, explain why it is important’ Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth. A fuller definition is given in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) from the 1992 Earth summit: ‘Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part ; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems’ (Hambler, C., 2004, 11). Within planet earth today Biodiversity forms the foundation for the vast array of ecosystem services that critically contribute to human well being. It is as important in human managed ecosystems as well as natural ecosystems (Hambler, C., 2004, 15). To begin to understand Biodiversity it must be considered on three different levels. Firstly there is species diversity, this includes bacteria and protists as well as the species of the multicellular kingdoms. Secondly there is genetic diversity, this involves the genetic variation within species among both geographically separate populations and among those individuals within single populations. The third and final level is community diversity which is related to the different biological communities and their interaction with their physical environment and ecosystems (Primack, R.B., 2002, 27). There are many biodiverse locations in the world, most of them are inhabited forests and natural resources that cater to millions of species. One example of a biodiverse location is the coral reefs in the Florida keys. Humans are greatly impacting the acceleration and deterioration of biodiversity in this certain area (Pullin, A.S., 2002, 130). Coral reefs are formed from the calcareous skeletons of corals and other such organisms. Additionally, they are limited to depths of 50m as they rely on symbiosis with a unicellular algae that in turn requires the sunlight for photosynthesis. Furthermore, as coral reefs are limited to waters of a temperature above 18°C, they are generally only found between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer (Pullin, A.S., 2002, 130). They are among the most productive and therefore helpful types of ecosystem as they produce 1-5 kg carbon m-2 per year and support a large diversity of fish (Pullin, A.S., 2002,130). As these coral reefs are positioned just off the coast in shallow waters, thus they are easily accessible and become vastly overfished. According to Pullin (2002, 131) the estimated global catch on coral reefs is 6 million tonnes. These reefs are also highly damaged by the methods of catching the fish and lobster. Some of the detrimental methods include the use of poisons and explosives which not only kill non-target species but also damage the coral which will take some years to re-grow. The beautiful and spectacular fish that inhabit these waters are also exploited for the pet trade and the aquarium market which is valued at $50million annually (Pullin, A.S., 2002, 131). Reefs are also very popular with the tourist industry and provide great interest for eager tourists, who unintentionally, also putting a strain on the reef. Furthermore, coral is also mined for the building trade and in the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, over 110,000 m3 have been used and there appears to be no sign of regeneration (Pullin, A.S., 2002, 131). This may prove costly for these little islands as they rely on these for a natural flood defence. This is particularly important as global warming is becoming a bigger issue and sea levels are rising, thus steps need to be taken. The tourist industry which was founded on the beauty of these corals is being threatened by their destruction. The effect of a change to the Biodiversity of a coral reef reverberates far from the epicentre of the tragedy. Figure 1.0 pg131

Biodiversity at all levels is an important environmental resource. On a utilitarian level, humans depend on other species for food, clothing, wood, medicines, and...
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