Biodiversity is the complex variability of all living organisms on Earth, within or between species and ecosystems. Without it life as we know it would not exist. Earth would be a lifeless, barren wasteland, and uninhabitable. All species in an ecosystem, plants, and animals, big and small, are dependent on one another to survive. When one species is lost that could lead to catastrophic effects on the entire ecosystem. In the larger picture, every biological change will eventually affect every species, including us who will be one of the last to know. By then it may be too late.
There are many factors, both biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living), that can affect this rich diversity. Yes, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes are creating problems for diversity, however, we humans have the most detrimental impact on biological diversity. Pollution, habitat loss, illegal hunting and fishing, invasive species, and carbon emissions are just a few examples.
Pollution is one of the most serious problems facing all life on Earth. Every year it has been estimated that about eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean killing over one million marine animals from the ingestion or entanglement of plastic products. There are literally floating islands of trash known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” which is twice the size of Texas and up to nine feet deep. Because this accumulation is in the middle of the ocean, not ONE nation has stepped up to start working on solutions to the problem. While everyone is arguing why it’s not their fault the mass of garbage continues to grow and kill more animals.
Habitat loss is also something that needs addressing. There is no need to continue cutting down trees for new homes when there is estimated to be over eighteen million vacant ones in the United States alone. We need to be remodeling those homes or tear them down and rebuild more eco-friendly ones on that land. What about the lumber industry you say. Move into the construction business. We have many alternatives to wood for construction so why are we not utilizing them? For example 3-D printing, stone, earthbag, and rammed earth homes are all incredibly more environmentally friendly than cutting down billions of acres of trees every year. Or my person favorites, which are not only sustainable, but also involve upcycling, are earth ships, pallets, and shipping containers.
Hunting and fishing regulations may sound incredibly strict however the enforcement of these laws are sad. There need to be ways to better enforce the laws, especially on the sizes and amounts you are able to keep. Both fish and birds are incredibly vital to humans. Birds are pollinators just like bees and control insect and small rodent populations. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to either of those populations to get any larger, ew! Overfishing and commercial fishing are also serious problems. Most people just keep everything they catch with no regards to the size, breed, and number restrictions. Commercial fishing is even worse because they use extremely large nets that are weighted and drag on the bottom of the ocean floor tearing everything up in its path. Not to mention there are always substantial numbers of bycatch which is usually dead or dying by the time they pull in the nets. Then overseas in several countries whales and sharks are mass slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands creating ripples of decreased biodiversity throughout our oceans
Fossil fuels are great, but there are much more sustainable options to power our machines like solar, wind, and water. Fossil fuels will eventually run out and at the rate we are using them, will be sooner than later. Carbon emissions are poisoning our atmosphere and sadly could easily be dramatically reduced. The invention of eco-friendly vehicles is nothing new, but they need to be more readily available and affordable for the average individual. The same goes for wind turbines and solar panels. Industrial businesses should also be forced to adhere to some sort of emission output limit as well.
Also, we could easily cut down the number of invasive species overrunning our native ones by not allowing people to have exotic pets. For example, many people want exotic snakes, but when they become too large to care for they release them into the wild and they take over the habitats of the native snakes, outcompeting them for food, and in turn the native species population decreases.
Many people may not realize or take for granted the sustainable benefits from having a healthy biologically diverse planet. Trees break down and absorb pollution, mangroves and dunes help preserve our coastlines from floods and deterioration, many plants and animals could hold the cure to the next medical cure, and many species are a major food source. Not to mention, the loads of money tourism brings in from beaches, hunting, fishing, diving, and many other natural attractions that could be lost from our own ignorance. We must take a stand before it’s too late.
At this rate, we are on the verge of the sixth mass extinction. We need to start becoming more aware of these biological changes and start taking sustainable conservative action before there is nothing left to protect. Stand up for biodiversity. Stand up for Earth.
By Brittany Houchin