Humanity is burning the library of life.
The variety of life on earth, with all its forms and interactions, is the driving force of biodiversity, and the interactions between species within communities consists the backbone of all ecological dynamics. Unfortunately, with the urbanization and modernization of the world, wildlife has become nothing more than watching National Geography while the reality is that our daily lives, from the air we breathe to the food we eat, rely on biodiversity. The most simple example that comes to mind is pollination; without bees, there won’t be any fruits or nuts for us to consume. With wildlife now only being a bunch of Instagram posts and television shows and documentaries, little do people realize the atrocities it’s suffering, and little do they know we are the reason.
Earth already endured five mass extinctions, of which the reasons were mostly announced as climate change, geologic catastrophes, etc. But researchers believe now the beginning of a sixth extinction period, maybe the worst of all, but this time not due to any natural events, rather caused by one single voracious predator – us Humans.
How diverse is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity refers to the genetic variation found within and between all organisms and species, as well as their ecosystems. Scientists believe that the globe has at least 10 million species, although only 1.2 million have been identified so far, with rates of discovery varying across terrestrial and aquatic environments.
The easiest way to think about the diversity of the globe is to think about species or species richness. Many indices exist to quantify biodiversity, with the majority focusing on species number or species number and evenness, i.e. the distribution of the community over its habitat. There is also genetic variability, which has grown in popularity and has enhanced researchers’ estimates of global variety since this approach presents genetic diversity on the molecular or phenotypic levels within a single species.
Based on the enormous diversity of insects, other arthropods, angiosperms, and microorganisms, land life might account for up to 85% of all species on the planet.
What about under the sea? The ocean is incredibly varied, encompassing everything from microscopic bacteria and viruses to the biggest animal ever to have lived on Earth—the blue whale—as well as all plants and fungus.
However, to truly appreciate biodiversity, geological time scales must be used to investigate the history of species clades, and doing so has allowed scientists to infer throughout time how awful evolution is doing and how biodiversity is being tragically lost.
How is Biodiversity destroyed? And can it be a greater threat to humanity than climate change?
What is destroying Biodiversity?
Biodiversity has been declining at alarming rates in recent decades, with human activities being a significant contributor. In this section of the article, we will be approaching two major ways in which humanity is harming world diversity.
Human action has already impacted more than three-quarters of land-based habitats, making land use the leading direct source of biodiversity loss with the greatest global impact.
Land use refers to the clearing of natural vegetation (forests, etc.) that alters plant variety and dominance on a first level, and leads to habitat loss for many species on a second level.
The accumulation of such aggressive activities over time appears to have triggered the start of a sixth non-naturally induced mass extinction and hence the burning of the library of life on earth.
Overexploitation of natural environment:
Overexploitation of natural resources including overhunting and overfishing stands for the consumption of these resources to such levels that don’t ensure the viability of populations anymore.
In other words, overexploitation occurs when a flow resource (renewable) is harvested to the point of declining returns, resulting in a deficit. Overexploitation affects not just fish stocks and flora, but also water aquifers, game animals, and other ecosystems.
The creation of such mass deficits had a negative influence on biodiversity in recent years, as well as ecosystem productivity, and was predicted to eventually lead to the triggering of a human threat.
How the loss of organisms is affecting ecosystems? Can it be a greater threat to humanity? Are we next?
Ecosystems appeared to be impacted by biodiversity loss at least as much as other direct human activities like pollution and climate change. Over the last several decades, studies have shown that more biologically varied ecosystems are more productive, implying that the loss of creatures and mass extinctions has resulted in a loss of global species diversity as well as ecosystem productivity rates.
Biodiversity not only denotes nature’s riches but also its health; hence, a biodiversity deficit jeopardizes the environment’s capacity to maintain healthy ecosystems by reducing its ability to operate efficiently and effectively.
Ecosystem functioning may be influenced in a variety of ways, the most basic of which is through influencing species interactions. Different relationships between creatures are known to occur, and whether such connections are based on mutualistic benefits, parasitism, or even predation, a significant shift in these might affect more than a single creature, causing further changes on other levels.
An example would be the extinction of a predator, which would result in the overabundance of prey, affecting not only the ecosystem’s balance but also other organisms because the prey could be parasitic to another species or cause interspecific competition among other communities, triggering a harm cascade.
Extinction and ecosystem balance changes do not just harm animals; they also have the ability to reduce an environment’s plant production, resulting in the loss of additional habitat and, eventually, the extinction of more species.
These environmental degradations affect not just nature and creatures, but resource overexploitation also endangers the long-term viability of many human requirements, such as irrigated agriculture, on which billions of people rely. So, YES, this might become a human threat, with humans as the next target.
Human consumption and other activities that disrupt and even destroy ecosystems have put much of the Earth’s biodiversity at peril. Biodiversity is threatened by pollution, climate change, population increase, and much more. These dangers have resulted in an unprecedented increase in the rate of extinction of species. According to some researchers, at least half of all species on Earth will be extinct within the next century. To conserve biodiversity and endangered animals and their habitats, as well as safeguard humanity, conservation measures are required.
Writer: Fatima Ezzahra Rekkass
Editor: Kıvılcım Ekin Karkın
Benton, M. J. (2010). NCBI – The origins of modern biodiversity on land. Ncbi. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2982001/
Biodiversity loss – more than an environmental emergency. (2021, September 20). International Institute for Environment and Development. https://www.iied.org/biodiversity-loss-more-environmental-emergency
Carrington, D. (2021, October 29). What is biodiversity, and why does it matter to us? The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/12/what-is-biodiversity-and-why-does-it-matter-to-us
Dybas, C., & Erickson, J. (n.d.). Ecosystem Effects of Biodiversity Loss Rival Climate Change and Pollution. NSF – National Science Foundation. https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=124016
Land and Biodiversity | UNCCD. (n.d.). United Nations- Convention to Combat Desertification. https://www.unccd.int/issues/land-and-biodiversity
Overexploitation – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (2005). Science Direct. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/overexploitation
Poisot, T. (2015, March 1). Beyond species: why ecological interaction networks vary through space and time. Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/oik.01719
Species diversity or biodiversity? (2005, April 1). ScienceDirect. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479705000149
Vermeij, G. J., & Grosberg, R. K. (2010, July 2). The Great Divergence: When Did Diversity on Land Exceed That in the Sea? OUP Academic. https://academic.oup.com/icb/article/50/4/675/650584