What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the amazing variety of life on Earth. It encompasses diversity on many levels; the vast number of species of plants and animals, the genetic diversity within and between these species and the different biomes and ecosystems of which they are part, including rainforest, tundra and desert. Biodiversity also includes the diversity within microscopic organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. Another way to think about it is simply, ‘Big Nature!’
How does biodiversity affect us?
Biodiversity allows us to live healthy and happy lives; it provides us with food directly or through pollination, medical discoveries and ecosystem services. The latter include everything from cleaning water and absorbing chemicals, which wetlands do, to providing oxygen for us to breathe. Biodiversity also provides aesthetic and cultural value to our lives, and has been shown to increase mental well-being.
Threats to biodiversity
Sadly, the Earth’s biodiversity is in decline due to activities such as deforestation, land-use change, agricultural intensification, over-consumption of natural resources, pollution and climate change.
Some scientists believe that there is enough evidence to confirm that we are in the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. This is where there is a widespread loss of 75% of species over a relatively short geological time period of two million years. There have been five mass extinctions so far, perhaps the most well-known one is the loss of the dinosaurs caused by the asteroid. But this current mass extinction is different, because it is caused by humans.
Whilst the scale of biodiversity loss may seem overwhelming, it is important that we act and recognise that multiple small and local actions add-up. For example, we can support local conservation initiatives, travel as sustainably as we can, recycle and consider our everyday food choices.
Fundamentally, we need to take time to enjoy nature and spread the word; talk to our neighbours, friends and community about the biodiversity in the places we live.
Embrace the biodiversity on your doorstep
Biodiversity really is something spectacular, and you don’t have to travel to the Amazon rainforest or the plains of Africa to see a wide range of species. Go to any natural area and you may be amazed at all the different types of invertebrates, birds and small mammals you can find.
Alternatively, plant a small tree, a windowsill-allotment or let a large patch of grass grow in your garden and let the species come to you! You can even document what you find on a range of citizen science apps on your smartphone, and help contribute to saving biodiversity that way.
Biodiversity and the National Trust
The National Trust is committed to creating 25,000 hectares of new wildlife habitats by 2025 which will provide us with more opportunities to connect to nature. The Trust also promotes ethical consumerism as an important way of life by supporting farms and tenants to produce local, seasonal and certified products, which are often served in National Trust cafes and restaurants.
The National Trust supports biodiversity offsetting. This is when one area is exploited for development, another area is created or restored with the aim for an overall biodiversity gain. This means economic activity can occur and the environment can continue to flourish.