Most of us when thinking about biodiversity think of species variety. We think of elephants, white sharks, tigers, palm trees, tulips and microscopic bacteria. However, biodiversity is more than species diversity. Biodiversity is genetic diversity that exists within a species. And biodiversity is ecological diversity, the various ways in which different species interact with each other and their environment.It is the foundation for life. It is the sum of all living beings on Earth: it refers to all living organisms, from genes to ecosystems to the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it. And it is the foundation for all the essential services provided by ecosystems. People depend on biodiversity in their daily lives in ways that are not always apparent to them (us) and appreciated. Without Earth’s biodiversity, there would be no clean air, no drinking water, no food, no pharmaceuticals, no shelter. As understanding and knowledge of biodiversity is directly linked discovery and discovery is linked with the future, without Earth’s biological diversity, life wouldn’t (or will not) be possible at all.While the lives of all of us are dependent on biodiversity on Earth, millions of people around the world, especially those in the so called countries of the Global-South, are dependent on the environment and biodiversity for daily survival on an immediate level. 1.3 billion people on Earth depend on forests and trees for their livelihoods. This is 20% of the world population. Indigenous populations, which are estimated to be 150/180 million people around the world, depend entirely on forests biodiversity to survive. In many African countries, nature-based tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors and guarantees the survival of millions of people (the percentage share of tourism’s contribution to the GDP ranges from 8% to 16% in several African countries).
Coastal communities rely heavily on the fisheries sector for health and wealth (it is estimated that this sector provides 120 million jobs worldwide). If ecosystems are not healthy and biodiversity abundant, what will happen to these million people and their families? For these people, loss in biodiversity impacts greatly on their daily survival. But make no mistake, biodiversity loss impacts all of our lives, regardless of our location on the globe, activity sector and financial status. We all need pure air and fresh water, nutritious food and medicines.While biodiversity loss and extinction is a natural phenomenon that has always and will always occur, human activity has been causing massive extinctions at an accelerated unnatural rhythm. The Earth is proving unable to cope with the demands we place on it. The Earth is proving unable to regenerate. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 1 in 8 birds are at threat of extinction and so are 1 out of 4 mammals, 1 out of 4 conifers, 1 out of 3 amphibians, 6 out of 7 marine turtles (and this is only taking into account the species on Earth that have already been discovered by mankind – scientists estimate that there may be more than 1 trillion species). Additionally, 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost, 75% of the world’s fisheries are over exploited and up to 70% of the world’s known species face extinction if the global temperatures raise more than 3.5ºC.Biodiversity and the future are intrinsically connected. And no, one does not exist without the other, it is time we understand that. There are several ways in which we can slow biodiversity loss. We can’t stop it, but that has never been the objective. We just need to act now.