Human activities have many negative effects on the environment and one of the most obvious is threatening biodiversity. Species go extinct, or are on the verge of extinction, due to reckless hunting, fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, climate changes and so on. What can be done to stop this trend?
Changing Our Economy
Modern economic activities have the worst impact on wildlife. What can we do?
- Cut down pollution – our industry releases lots of toxins in the environment, killing many organisms.
- Recycle – not only toxins affect the environment, but also non-biodegradable waste and the continuous exploitation of resources, in order to produce new goods.
- Equity – an unequal economic system means that many people in various parts of the world still rely on the local biodiversity to support all their needs. A more equitable economic system would mean less poverty and less overexploitation of natural resources.
Implementing Conservation Means
Wild species need protected areas, where they can regenerate their populations in peace.
This means natural reserves, parks, marine protected areas, corridors and others. All these need to be backed by proper legislation and regulations and, where it is necessary, financial incentives. But, all these measures need to be really implemented and not remain just figures on paper.
Changing Our Agriculture
There are quite some problems with our current agriculture. First of all, expanding cultivated fields is usually done by destroying natural ecosystems. Furthermore, bad planning leads to soil erosion, so the land quickly becomes unsuitable for agriculture and new areas need to be cleared. By destroying natural ecosystems, we obviously threaten biodiversity. What needs to be done?
- Increasing efficiency – this means more productivity on the same land area.
- Searching for new crops – more efficient, more resistant to local conditions in each part of the world.
- Mixing crops – by conserving part of the natural vegetation (agro-forestry) and cultivating various plants in the same area (intercropping), we open way for a sustainable agriculture that conserves part of the original wildlife and protects the soil.
- Valuing small land areas – by overcoming the obsession for large-scale agriculture, we can greatly improve the overall efficiency.
Stopping Anthropogenic Global Warming
Climate changes threaten wildlife, just as they threaten our assets and our way of life. By developing new technologies and implementing penalties for carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere, we can stop this phenomenon.
Humans are part of the global biodiversity and whatever affects wildlife also affects us.
When you want to find high biodiversity, the first idea that crosses your mind would probably be to go to a tropical rainforest. Do not bother! Just take some mud from the nearest pond or lake! Each gram hosts billions of organisms. Microbes form the vast majority of life on Earth and they also make up for most of the biomass. Why are they so often neglected?
Assessing Microbial Diversity – What Is the Problem?
Well, beyond the obvious fact that they are tiny, they are hard to study, and most people lack interest in such subjects, unless those microbes are somehow pathogenic and give them a more profound reason.
If you open a biology book, you will probably find only some few thousand bacterial species cited. How can that be?
The concept of species is quite clear for organisms having sexual reproduction. For those lacking such things and, furthermore, being able to exchange genetic material with other species, things get complicated. The threshold for two bacteria to belong to the same species has been progressively raised from around 90% to 97% DNA equivalence. But humans and chimps share 98% of their DNA.
How can you assess biodiversity without a clear definition on what a species is? Everyone knows E (scherichia) coli. We find it in our intestines, in freshwater, in a pond, up in the Andes or in the feces of a kangaroo, and it is supposed to be the same species. Does it not sound odd?
Microbes – What Is Their Habitat?
The whole planet and beyond: no matter how weird and hostile an environment is, it certainly hosts some microbes. Here are some examples:
- Deepwater thermal vents – extreme temperatures and pressure, no oxygen – many bacteria love this.
- Hellish depths – bacteria were found kilometers below ground; actually there is quite a varied biodiversity in there.
- Up in the air – dozens of kilometers above ground, spores are to be found.
- Petroleum deposits – some microbes just love petroleum and oil products; so much that they sometimes live in the water above such deposits.
- Ice, snow, glaciers (above, inside and beneath), permafrost.
- The final frontier – it is unclear whether they live on other planets, but we surely take them when we travel to space.
What Does It Mean?
Microbial diversity comprises various kinds of organisms:
- Bacteria – a simple word, but differences between various groups are huge.
- Various protists.
- And, maybe, the elusive nanobacteria and nanobes.
Small, but many, extremely important to the whole biosphere, microbes constitute the bulk of the biodiversity on our planet.
Climate Change and Biodiversity: What Is the Connection?
We are all talking, nowadays, about biodiversity and climate change, and there are many international conventions regarding the two of them. Most people acknowledge that we are undergoing a period of climate changes, and that is, at least partially, imputable to our industrial activities.
It is no secret that carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning any kind of fuel, is a greenhouse gas and an increase in its atmospheric concentration leads to global warming. We are aware of the effects that this phenomenon has on our society, but what about its effects on wildlife?
How Does Climate Change Affect Biodiversity?
Well, there are several ways:
- The shrinking of the ice sheets means serious troubles for the local animals, such as polar bears. It is not only about the big mammals, but also about the changes in the polar marine life, including plankton, fish etc.
- The flooding of the coastal areas due to the rising sea level will have a devastating impact on the communities living in littoral ecosystems. Beaches, deltas and estuaries host a rich wildlife that is under serious threat. Not to mention entire islands or archipelagos, such as the Maldives, under the menace of total destruction.
- Ocean acidification is due to the reaction between a growing level of carbon dioxide and seawater. Carbonic acid consumes the calcium in the water, and calcium is essential for many plankton organisms in order to produce their shells: from microalgae to crustaceans.
- Ocean stratification is caused by an increase in the temperature gradient between the upper, warm layers and the lower, cold ones. It greatly affects nutrient supply to phytoplankton and, thus, the overall biodiversity.
- Ocean anoxia. When the water gets warmer, the amount of dissolved oxygen decreases. Insufficient oxygen will cause growing “dead zones” in the lower parts of the marine basins.
- Dying corals. Coral reefs host an incredible variety of life forms. The entire basis for these ecosystems is represented by the tiny animals producing the reef. But they depend on symbiotic algae to get food and, thus, they need light. Corals cannot grow at depths below a certain limit and a steep increase in the ocean’s level only means mass mortality.
- Desertification. Turning wildlife-rich forests, savannahs and steppes into arid regions is another phenomenon partially imputable to Global warming.
- Extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes, severe drought and wildfires increase their rate due to climate changes. They not only affect humans, but also have a significant impact on the local biodiversity.
One of the most debated issues regarding biodiversity, nowadays, is that of introduced or invasive species. What is this all about?
Each species, be it plant, animal or microbial, has its own habitat and, through various trophic and non-trophic relations, it is part of an ecosystem. When it reaches a different ecosystem, it can adapt or not. If it adapts, it can cause lots of trouble, since native species are, often, incapable of adapting to the invader.
If this occurs naturally, why should it be a problem? Well, simply because the rate of such events has greatly increased due to human activities. Sometimes, humans deliberately introduce a new species in an ecosystem, usually for economic reasons, while, many times, they do it accidentally. These days, while you can quickly transport any kind of item to the other side of the world, by land, sea and air, carrying some invasive organisms is a common thing.
How Do Invasive Species Affect Biodiversity?
There are quite a few mechanisms. Here are the main ones, along with historical examples:
- Sometimes, a new species can easily prey on local organisms, bringing them to extinction, simply because the natives have no defense means. This is how the brown tree snake decimated the native bird populations in Guam. But things can get worse, destroying many local species may cause a cascade of effects that turn the entire ecosystem upside down, just like the introduction of the Nile perch did to Lake Victoria.
- In other situations, native species are not destroyed by predation, but by competition. When gray squirrels came to North America, they started taking the place of local red squirrels. They are simply more efficient in finding and getting the food. Natives have no other option than starvation.
- Finally, the most severe threat to local biodiversity is when the invader changes the whole ecosystem. This is especially true for vegetal species. Acacia and eucalyptus trees from Australia, or staghorn sumak from North America were introduced to various other parts of the world. Not only that they grow quickly, taking all the soil resources, but they efficiently shade the ground beneath, deterring other plants from growing. Another example is that of the highly-flammable Australian paperbark tree that greatly increased the rate of wildfires in Florida?
The big problem with invasive species is that they can affect the local biodiversity in totally unpredictable ways, and that is why such events need to be avoided.
Biodiversity simply means all the living beings that are currently found on our planet. There are countless millions of microbial, plant and animal species, and us, humans, being one of its most important components. Each species has from a few dozens to billions of individuals.
When we simply mention the numbers, we may get the impression that everything is in order, but the truth is quite the opposite.
While a species with many individuals can easily regenerate when some of the representatives die, things are much harder for species with few members. When a species goes extinct, it is gone forever.
Unfortunately, there are many species of organisms that are currently under threat, and, while species come and go, this time, their extinction is accelerated by a new factor: us.
We are part of the global biodiversity, but our activities are often a menace. How exactly do we threaten various species? Here are the three main mechanisms:
The living world offers lots of resources: food, raw materials, energy, and, the good thing is that it can regenerate them, with one condition, though: the exploitation rate should not overcome the regeneration potential.
A growing human population, obviously, needs more natural resources. Reckless exploitation does nothing but bringing numerous species on the verge of extinction, destroying ecosystems and cutting off the access to those resources for the future generations. Here is how exactly we do it:
- Deforestation, in order to exploit lumber and expand agricultural areas, is threatening many vegetal species and the animals that use these forests as their habitat.
- Overhunting and overfishing – indiscriminate mass collection of animals, for food or other purposes, without considering their natural reproduction rate.
- Soil erosion due to badly-planned agricultural activities and grazing.
Global transportation means have brought a new threat to biodiversity. Introducing non-native species to various ecosystems greatly disturbs local balances. It causes unfair competition and can lead to extinction.
Agriculture, industry and our daily activities produce lots of waste. Some of these waste products are hardly biodegradable, while others are toxic. Toxines are released into the air, water reserves and soils, killing many indigenous organisms.
Even growth factors, such as fertilizers, can be extremely noxious, disturbing local equilibriums. Algal blooms and eutrophication of many water bodies are some of the best examples of how human activity can affect ecosystems.
We should always keep in mind that, by threatening biodiversity, we threaten our future.
The word biodiversity is the contracted form of two words, Biology and Diversity. Biodiversity defines the presence of diversity in the living world. The diversity has three fundamental facets and it can be traced hierarchically from genetic material to species up to whole ecosystem. These three components are interwoven and their interactions create biome. Genetic diversity is the result of variable number combinations of genetic materials called nucleic acids in DNA, the unit of life. Diversity of species signifies number of species in a habitat. To be more precise it refers to number of animals of different taxonomic groups present in a single habitat or in the world. Ecosystem refers to the community of living organisms, their interaction among themselves and with non-living components like soil, water air etc.
The biodiversity is facing immense threat from human practices, which is destroying the sustainability of the ecosystem. Untenable harvesting of natural resources, animals, and plans is the major cause behind biodiversity. Incursion of alien or nonnative species is changing the structure of ecosystem. Loss, degradation, and fragmentation of land are caused by rapid transformation of the character of lowlands, forests for agricultural and industrial needs. Apart from these reasons pollution, climate change, excessive population growth is an over exploitation of natural resources, which has put biodiversity on the verge of destruction.
Biodiversity Reporting award is a combined effort of Conservation International (CI), Fundación Biodiversidad, International Center for Journalists and International Federation of Environmental Journalists.The award appreciates the reportage of environmental and biodiversity issues. It felicitates the talented environmental journalists for their unmatched contribution in highlighting environmental issues. The award provides winning journalists for their quality works a life changing opportunity to attend training, building capacity and chance to attend the International Media & Environment Summit. It provides a platform, where all the media people from different parts of the world get the chance to interact and exchange views. This award ceremony is a high profile event, where who's who of government, private sector enterprises ,media houses are invited to provide winners industry exposer and help them to continue with due remuneration and incentive.
The organization uses online system for judging works by a 5-member panel from each country. These panel members are eminent media personalities and the target is to bring these people to a common podium to support, recognize and stimulate excellent environmental media initiatives. These panel members see the works from a secure BDRA webpage and evaluate them by specific instruction. According to the organizers, the process has made it possible for them to select qualified environmental journalists, academics for judging the articles. The initiative is working towards creating environmental awareness and corporate social responsibility in a sustainable form.