Why is Biodiversity important?
The natural environment provides the basic conditions without which humans could not survive. This seems intuitive enough: we need to breathe, eat, drink and shelter ourselves and we get all this from the natural world.
trees provide habitat and food for birds, insects, other plants and animals, fungi, and micro-organisms;
insects, bats, birds, and other animals serve as pollinators;
parasites and predators act as natural population controls;
various organisms, such as earthworms and bacteria, are responsible for recycling organic materials and maintaining the productivity of soils;
green plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replenish it with oxygen. Forests, for example, are particularly important "sinks" for the absorption of carbon dioxide and thus are key factors in reducing global climate change;
wetlands serve as sponges to reduce the impacts of floods and to cleanse streams by filtering sediments, nutrients, and contaminants from inflowing waters.
The interaction of all these natural processes forms a complex web of life. If any part of this web suffers or breaks downs, the future of the other parts is threatened. Humans are in many cases degrading and destroying the ability of biological diversity to perform the services mentioned above.
food: species are hunted (e.g. antelopes, birds), fished (e.g. cod, tuna fish), and gathered (e.g. fruits, berries, mushrooms), as well as cultivated for agriculture (e.g. wheat, corn, rice, vegetables) and aquaculture (e.g. salmons, mussels). It is interesting to know that, of the about 80,000 available comestible plants, humans use less than 30 to satisfy 90% of our planet's alimentary needs;
fuel: timber and coal are only two examples of natural resources used to produce energy;
shelter and warmth: timber and other forest products (e.g. oak, beech, pine) are used as building materials and for shelter. Fibers such as wool and cotton are used to make clothes;
medicines: both traditional medicines and processed drugs are obtained from biodiversity: penicillin is produced by a mould, codeine is obtained from poppies, digitalis from foxglove and quinine from the bark of cinchona trees;
other goods such as paper and pencils come from raw materials provided by the Earth's diversity.
Indirect services: clean and drinkable water: only a small amount - about 1% - of the water on our planet is usable directly. The rest is either salty (97%) or frozen (2%). Forests around the world filter our usable water again and again, constantly replenishing the water we use for drinking, bathing, and growing crops;
air to breathe: plants around the world take carbon dioxide out of the air and put oxygen into it - oxygen that almost all creatures need to breathe;
fertile soils: micro-organisms recycle the soil's organic matter and maintain its fertility;
pollination: insect, bird and bat species carry pollen from one plant to another (or from one part of a plant to another), thus fertilising fruit crops and flowers.
Cultural importance: plants and animals are often used as symbols, for example in flags, paintings, sculptures, photographs, stamps, songs and legends.
finally, biodiversity is also beautiful: it is a pleasure to see and smell flowers in a field, to listen to birds singing, etc.