Biological diversity, commonly known as biodiversity, is a term used to describe the wide variety of living organisms and ecosystems found on Earth. Biodiversity is the extremely complex unification of innumerable species of flora, fauna and microbes that exist into one environmental system, and is the foundation for life on Earth, which is exactly why preserving biodiversity is important.
"Biodiversity is the totality of all inherited variation in the life forms of Earth, of which we are one species. We study and save it to our great benefit. We ignore and degrade it to our great peril." --E.O. Wilson ('Father of Sociobiology')
The conservation of biodiversity is of global importance, the 22nd May marks International Biodiversity day, first declared by the UN in 1993. Conservation of biodiversity is important for many ecological, economical and spiritual reasons. A diverse ecosystem means a productive ecosystem, as each small part that makes up the larger whole plays a vital and important part in keeping the machine functioning. With millions of species in the world, biodiversity is one of our biggest economic resources for medicine, food and natural materials, as well as flora helping to absorb greenhouse gases and the natural beauty of biodiversity for pure enjoyment. With so many species still undiscovered there is a strong anthropologic argument for preserving biodiversity as it could still hold the discovery to cures for the many illness and diseases we suffer. A healthy and diverse ecosystem is also a lot more likely to withstand and recover quicker from natural disasters, and equally helps to stabilize Earth's climate.
"There is grandeur in this view of life . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." --Charles Darwin ('Father of Evolutionary Theory')
It is hard to place a value on biodiversity, yet its inherent importance in our lives makes it a priceless asset. It is even harder to comprehend the wealth of biodiversity Earth holds; it is estimated Earth holds anywhere between five and 30 million different species, yet we have only discovered roughly 1.7-2million of these - less than half the smallest estimate. Yet scientists have acknowledged we are facing an extinction challenge, with at least 0.01% of species becoming extinct each year. Unsustainable development and exploitation of natural resources by humankind are largely to blame for this biodiversity crisis.
It is at this time that wildlife conservation projects, which also address issues such as reforestation and the socio-economic needs of communities, become crucial to the prevention of further losses. By working alongside local communities to help provide environmental education and economic solutions, there are many conservation organisations and volunteers fighting to safeguard biodiversity and raise awareness for the protection of the fragile ecosystems in which we all coexist.
Maria Sowter is Online Content Editor at Frontier, an international non-profit volunteering NGO that runs 320 conservation, community, and adventure projects in 57 countries across the globe. She can be found blogging on Frontier's Gap Year Blog or posting on the Frontier Official Facebook page.