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Biodiversity refers to all the varieties of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms) as....

Biodiversity refers to all the varieties of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms) as well as to the communities that they form and the habitats in which they live.

Types of Biodiversity

  • It can be understood at three levels:
    • Species diversity refers to the variety of different species (plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms) such as palm trees, elephants or bacteria.
    • Genetic diversity corresponds to the variety of genes contained in plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms. It occurs within a species as well as between species. For example, poodles, German shepherds and golden retrievers are all dogs, but they all look different.
    • Ecosystem diversity refers to all the different habitats – or places – that exist, like tropical or temperate forests, hot and cold deserts, wetlands, rivers, mountains, coral reefs, etc. Each ecosystem corresponds to a series of complex relationships between biotic (living) components such as plants and animals and abiotic (non-living) components which include sunlight, air, water, minerals and nutrients.

Importance of Biodiversity

  • Ecological role: Species capture, store and utilise energy, produce and decompose organic materials, are part of cycles of water and nutrients throughout the ecosystem, fix gases in the atmosphere and also help regulate the climate.
    • Thus, they help in soil formation, reducing pollution, protection of land, water and air resources.
    • These functions of biodiversity are important for ecosystem functions and stability.
  • Ecosystem services: Biodiversity underpins the basis of all the ecosystem services on the planet.
  • Provisioning Services: Various plants, animals and microorganisms which form the biodiversity, provide us with foods such as cereals, fishes etc. , fibre for our clothes such as cotton, wool etc., fuelwood for survival as well as pharmaceutical products such as neem, tulsi etc.
  • Regulating services: Biodiversity regulates the local as well as global climate, manages the global levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gases, maintains freshwater quality by vegetation slowing runoff, absorbs carbon by acting as carbon sinks etc. Thus biodiversity regulates the life and life processes on the planet.
  • Supporting services: Biodiversity helps in pollination, nutrient cycling as well as recycling, greenhouse gas reduction by sequestration.
  • Social and cultural services:  It provides recreational avenues and rich biological diversity encourages tourism in the region.
    • Many communities and cultures have co-evolved with the surroundings and the resources provided by a biologically diverse environment.
    • Important services which are provided by biodiversity are: Recreation and relaxation Tourism especially ecotourism Art, Design and inspiration Spiritual experiences and a sense of place
  • Food web maintenance: Biodiversity helps in maintaining food webs as higher the diversity of an ecosystem, more complex is going to be the food webs because there are so many options to eat.
    • Therefore, higher chances of survival of every species are there. This results in more stable food chains and food webs.
  • Scientific role: Biodiversity help in scientific research, education and monitoring.
    • For example, research about new genetic materials with the help of gene pools.
    • Biodiversity, thus, helps in understanding the functioning of life and the role that each species plays in sustaining ecosystems of which we humans are also a part.

Loss of Biodiversity

  • The loss of biodiversity in a given area may result in:
    • Decrease of plant production
    • Reduction in resistance to environmental perturbations
    • Increase in variability in specific ecosystem developments, such as water use, plant productivity, disease cycles, and pests.

Reasons for Loss of Biodiversity

Natural Reasons
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Landslides
  • Species rivalry
  • Lack of pollination and diseases
Machine-Made Reasons
  • Habitat destruction
  • Uncontrolled commercial exploitation
  • Hunting and poaching
  • Conversion of a bio-diversity-rich area for human settlement and industrial development
  • Pollution
  • Extension of agriculture
  • Wetland filling
  • Coastal devastation

Also Read : Concept of Demography

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