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What is Biodiversity?
The Basics

What is Biodiversity?

The Basics is a series that breaks down the essential questions of purposeful business.

3 minute read

24th Jun 2021

What is it? 

Biodiversity is the biological variety of all life on earth at the genetic, species and ecosystem level. It  includes humans, animals, plants, bacteria and plankton, which are not evenly distributed across our globe. The tropics alone are home to over half of all species on Earth; forests, and in particular tropical rainforests, are hotspots for biodiversity.  

From providing new medicines to stabilising the air that we breathe, biodiversity is essential for human survival on our planet.

Why is it important? 

Biodiversity is critical to the health of our planet. The air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink all rely on biodiversity. There are some better-known reasons as to why we need it, such as plants creating oxygen and bees pollinating crops. Others are more obscure, like mangroves and coral reefs providing protection against cyclones and tsunamis, which in turn protects inland terrestrial ecosystems. 

Perhaps the most famous example of the power of biodiversity is the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, which created a positive chain reaction, causing beavers to return, plant growth to increase, and a river to change its course. This is largely seen as one of the most successful rewilding efforts to date. 

There are an estimated 1.7 million species that have been recorded by science, but the reality of different life forms on Earth is estimated to be closer to eight or nine million (and likely even more). 

From providing new medicines to stabilising the air that we breathe, biodiversity is essential for human survival on our planet. 

When did the term start being used? 

The concept of biodiversity was discussed as early as 1916, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the term itself – a contraction of biological diversity – was solidified in the scientific community. 

Today, use of the term is widespread. An understanding of what biodiversity is, and why it is so significant, is a crucial piece in the complex puzzle of how the climate crisis is affecting our planet. 

How can I get involved?

Biodiversity is under threat. Extinction rates are up to 1000 times higher than they would be naturally and they are accelerating; up to 1 million species are threatened by extinction

In the last 40 years, there has already been a 60% decline in biodiversity. Human actions threaten more species with global extinction now than ever before. It’s vital that we have an awareness of our impact on the natural world and the ways in which we can safeguard biodiversity. Here’s how you can help:

  • Sustainable business. From recyclable products to sustainable supply chains, corporations can ensure the protection of biodiversity through their business practices. 
  • Rewilding. Support rewilding projects at a local, national and international level.
  • Protect pollinators. Bees pollinate more than two thirds of plant species and contribute to over 35% of global food supplies. Support them by growing and protecting wildflowers and other native plants.  
  • Plant native flora. Planting native flowers, fruits and vegetables supports the ecosystem in your local area. Support reforestation efforts that focus on planting a range of native trees, rather than harmful monocultures. 
  • Read up. The Living Planet Report of 2020 is an excellent resource summarising the importance of protecting biodiversity, and how we can most effectively do so.