An introduction to biodiversity
Biodiversity is short for biological diversity, which means the huge variety of life on earth. Biodiversity is the genetic variety of plants, mammals, fish, fungi and the ecosystems and habitats that they live in.
Life on Earth relies on the interaction of many different plants and animals; this means that biodiversity is essential for our survival. Loss of biodiversity affects us all and it is in our best interest to take responsible steps now so that we can continue to enjoy a beautiful and healthy countryside in the future.
The importance of biodiversity
Every species no matter how small plays an important role within an ecosystem. A diverse ecosystem is better equipped to carry out important processes like forming soil, storing nutrients, breaking down pollutants and adapting or responding to unpredictable events, like climate change.
Over 40% of the world’s economy comes from biological resources like food, wood and medical products. The richer the biodiversity, the higher the opportunity for economic development and medical discoveries. Biodiversity also brings social benefits related to leisure and tourism and as a result of that, further economic gain.
Biodiversity under threat
Major threats to biodiversity are:
- Human population growth
- Loss or degradation of habitat due to increased demand for agriculture, pasture, roads, industry and settlements
- Introduced species
- Exploitation of natural resources such as overfishing
- Climate change
Although biodiversity will reduce naturally, our demand on the planet has increased the rate of extinction and caused irreversible species loss. Changes affecting one species have a knock-on effect on the others relying on them, causing further loss.
Climate change is predicted to be one of the main causes of biodiversity loss. Our climate is already changing as our past emissions make it impossible to avoid climate change altogether. It is estimated that over a million species could be lost in the next 50 years. Symptoms of climate change include:
- Habitat loss/alteration – e.g. glacial retreat threatening polar species.
- Changing season length and timing – e.g. affecting migration behaviour, breading seasons, availability of food.
- Shifting of ecological zones – e.g. shifting forests creeping North will displace Arctic Tundra and the species relying on it. Climates may become favourable to introduced species.
- Weather extremes – e.g. decreasing/increasing snow or rainfall, changing temperatures, flooding and storms. It is predicted that Snowdon could lose its snow within 5 years.
- Extinction – for those species unable to adapt quickly enough to these changes like the Costa Rican Golden Toad or the King Penguin.
Further information on Climate Change and its impact on biodiversity can be found on websites such as the BBC (new window), World Wildlife Fund (new window), Environment Agency (new window) and UK Climate Impacts Programme (new window) plus in your local library.
Tackling biodiversity loss is everybody's responsibility. We can prevent further loss of biodiversity through individual, local, national and international action. The key is to act now.
- Find out how you can get involved and make a difference.
- Find out how we are protecting Flintshire’s biodiversity.
- Find out more about biodiversity education and training.
- Read about biodiversity projects in Flintshire (PDF.doc, 25Kb, new window)
- Read about the legislation that helps conserve biodiversity (PDF.doc, 25Kb, new window)