Thursday, March 6, 2014

Biodiversity: Guardian of Your Health

Harvard biology professor Edward O. Wilson once said about ants, “We need them to survive, but they don’t need us at all.”

Biodiversity is the foundation for human life and we cannot imagine that we are independent from it. Without an environment that can support a healthy diverse mix of species, no human population can exist. If that’s not enough to impress the importance of preserving biodiversity, here are a just a few important ways that biodiversity stimulates and protects your health:

Nutrition 
A diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods is fundamental to long term health. Biodiversity is crucial to ensure the sustainable productivity of soils that in turn support healthy crops. Excessive use of fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural practices that promote intensively growing single variety crops year after year have greatly affected plant and soil biodiversity and our access to a diet rich in varied nutrients. See Dangers of Monoculture for more.

Infectious Diseases 
Changes in the environment from human influence such as deforestation, uncontrolled urbanization, and climate change can impact both the evolution and the transmission infectious diseases. Outbreaks of SARS, Ebola, Bird Flu and Malaria can all be attributed to human impacts on biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity also affects the availability of medicines to treat diseases of all kinds.

Prevention/Mitigation of the Effects of Natural Disasters 
One need look no further than Hurricane Sandy to understand the protective effects that natural structures, such as the dunes in the case of the Jersey Shore, can have. The areas where development had encroached on the dunes suffered far more damage than the areas where the dunes were still intact. Natural, diverse habitats also provide protection against floods, droughts and landslides.  

To read more ways your health depends on biodiversity click here.

Arian Elsass

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