Sunday, March 16, 2014

Biodiversity: The Impact on Humanity

The most unique feature of Earth is the existence of life, and the most extraordinary feature of life is its diversity. Approximately 9 million types of plants, animals, protist and fungi inhabit the Earth. So, too, do 7 billion people. Two decades ago, at the first Earth Summit, the vast majority of the world’s nations declared that human actions were dismantling the Earth’s ecosystems, eliminating genes, species and biological traits at an alarming rate. This observation led to the question of how such loss of biological diversity will alter the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide society with the goods and services needed to prosper. The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world’s ecosystem, In fact human beings have deeply altered the environment, and have modified the territory, exploiting the species directly, for example by fishing and hunting, changing the biogeochemical cycles and transferring species from one area to another of the Planet; the same, in fact, could be said about countless other insects, bacteria, fungi, plankton, plants and other organisms. Yet, we humans often act as if we are totally independent of our environment, as if our driving thousands of other species to extinction, and disrupting the life-giving services they provide, will have no effect on us whatsoever.

The fundamental truth is that biodiversity matters profoundly to human health in almost every conceivable way. The roles that individual species, and the ecosystems they make up, play in providing food, fuel and unique medicinal compounds; air, water and soil purification services; and natural regulation of infectious disease, to name a few, are critical to our health and survival. The loss of species as a result of human activity and the degradation of ecosystems ongoing around the world lower the quality of the planet’s natural resources and destabilize the physical environment.
Because of the very high level of current extinctions, scientists say we have now entered the "sixth great extinction" event, the fifth having occurred sixty-five million years ago, when dinosaurs and many other organisms went extinct. That event resulted from natural causes, perhaps a giant asteroid striking the Earth; this one we are causing and we can’t blame anyone but ourselves.

Posted by: David Ferguson

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