Friday, 4 June 2010

Biodiversity is...

Its International Year of Biodiversity this year so I'm going to do a series of articles on biodiversity in the run up to and a little beyond World Environment Day tomorrow. I've posted on topics relating to biodiversity many times before, notably here summarising the range of reasons why we should protect life in all its diversity and here illustrating the incredible variety of life to be found just within common fruit and vegetables, using the carrot as an example (click on the label biodiversity in the right hand column if you want to browse through my posts on this topic).
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Some are unsure what is meant by biodiversity and it is all too often spoken of and explained as if its just about the range of species - its about so much more than that! This first post in the series thus gives my definition. Modern science has been and is learning about joined up - systems - thinking . Biodiversity is thus about the genetic variation within species, the range of all species, the interrelationships between species and between those species and their habitat(s) and the variety of habitats and ecosystems. Lets not forget that human beings are included in this of course and that the living world is tightly coupled to and dependent on the non-living ie water, rocks, air and so on. In short biodiversity is nature as a whole - and its the source of our resources and the basis of our lives - see biodiversity sample in the image above (click to enlarge).
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The level of biodiversity is a key measure of how sustainable human society is - and should feature at least as much as the often discussed carbon emissions as an indicator. If biodiversity is high then we are much more likely to have: protected natural assets; kept ecosystems healthy; retained regenerative capacity; maintained the ability to deliver goods and services; kept wastes and pollutants below environmental capacity for safe processing.

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