In its simplest meaning, “biodiversity” is a shortened form of the phrase “biological diversity.” Biodiversity means the diversity of life in all its forms — the diversity of species, of genetic variations within species, and of ecosystems. Biodiversity includes the whole variety of life on Earth, from coral reefs to the Arctic ice. Biodiversity is, in a sense, what we used to call “nature.”
Biodiversity provides us with a wide range of bene?ts, such as important goods (like timber and medicinal products) and essential services (like carbon cycling and storage, clean water, climate mitigation, mitigation of natural hazards, and pollination). The ?nancial value of the goods and services provided by ecosystems and species — by life on earth — has been estimated at EUR 26 trillion per year — more than half the value of what humans produce each year.
Many species and ecosystems are at risk from a variety of causes, including loss of food supplies, poisoning from pesticides, mechanisation in large-scale commercial farming practices, and land-use changes especially for residential and commercial developments. Climate change impacts on species and ecosystems threaten to eliminate substantial number of species and destroy entire ecosystems.
To address these problems, and preserve our biodiversity, the UN sponsored the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was opened for signatures at the famous Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and entered into force on December 29, 1993. Ireland and the UK, as well as other EU members, have signed the CBD. On the 10th anniversary of the CBD, the parties committed themselves “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.”
Some further ideas to explore on Biodiversity:
Can you identify all the forms of biodiversity in your immediate surrounding, whether a home and yard, an apartment, a caravan?
Identify what your governments are doing to reach the goal set out to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010? How successful are they?
Which species and ecosystems in your area are most at risk? And what can you, your school, your community do to reduce the risks?
How does one calculate the value, in economic terms, of a part of the biodiversity or of all biodiversity? Is economics the most useful form of valuation of biodiversity?
RoI EPA “Glossary of Terms.” www.epa.ie/glossary/
For programs in the RoI, see the National Biodiversity Data Centre at www.biodiversityireland.ie/
For the NI Environment Agency programs on biodiversity, see www.ni-environment.gov.uk/biodiversity.htm
For background on EU programs, see www.eea.europa.eu/themes/biodiversity