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Biodiversity: What's in it for me?

Updated Friday 4th June 2010

World Environment Day celebrates environmental issues, including biodiversity. But what's in it for you?

World Environment Day annually celebrates environmental issues that are facing Earth. The aim of such a celebration is not only to raise awareness but also encourage action by the general public. The 2010 theme for the day, which takes place on 5th June, is 'Many Species. One Planet. One Future' which celebrates the incredible diversity of life on Earth. What makes it even more special is that 2010 has been declared as International Year of Biodiversity by the UN.

What is biodiversity?

Loosely defined, biodiversity is a term used to describe the variety of life on Earth – be it plants, animals, microorganisms – living in the oceans, on land, air or even deep underground.

Why should we care for it?

Biodiversity is the essential fabric of life on our planet and has an important role to play, including provision of food, shelter, fuel and health. There is also a less direct, but probably even more important role in the form of natural ecosystem services. This, for example, could be in helping purify the water we drink or the air we breath through decomposition of wastes and cycling of important nutrients – all of which is mediated by different forms of life. The value on such services is so huge, it has been estimated to be almost twice that of the total gross national product of all countries in the world (WRI).

So, it is very important we take care of such diversity because our life depends on them and we can ill-afford to find a substitute (if there is any).

What is facing biodiversity now?

Throughout the Earth’s history, new species have appeared while earlier ones disappeared through natural processes. However, currently there is an accelerated loss of biodiversity happening, mainly due to the interference by human beings. There are many ways this is happening, eg due to over-exploitation of resources (imagine the hunting to extinction of the dodo), habitat destruction (massive deforestation in the Amazon), pollution (industrial wastes in water bodies). There is also the threat of man-made climate change, which will have far-reaching global impact by affecting where species live.

What can I do?

Apart from celebrating biodiversity and helping bring attention to it, you can help by getting involved or supporting local conservation organisations; learning more about biodiversity and teaching others; voting for authorities that have positive roles and also getting involved in research such as Citizen Scientist.

 

Find out more:

 

Find out about the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (South Africa)

More on the Defra, Darwin Initiative (UK)

Information about Global Environment Facility

United Nations Environment Programme

Fragile Web publication from the OU's Jonathan Silvertown

Saving Species radio series

More on Open University courses

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

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