“We’ve decimated our forests, wildlands, polluted and overfished our rivers and oceans; all the key ecosystems that not only serve as a home to our planet’s biodiversity, but also make life here for us possible.”
– Leonardo DeCaprio, Actor & Environmentalist
On a small scale, you can see biodiversity within a single ecosystem, like a creek, a community garden, or even your body! Biodiversity exists in a number of forms, so let’s take a look at how it operates. There are three levels of biodiversity; biodiversity in ecosystems, biodiversity in species, and biodiversity in genetics.
Biodiversity in ecosystems is the variety of habitats across our globe that include deserts, forests, grasslands, and marine environments. An example of ecosystem biodiversity would be the forests in Northern California (the ones that are burning this month) compared to the forests in New Hampshire. From the types of trees, to the animals in the forests, even the rainfall — each ecosystem is unique. Not only do these make a continent or country interesting to visit but they keep our planet in balance.
Biodiversity in species is the variety of species within an ecosystem. Example of tree species would be: redwoods, oaks, willows, evergreens, and palm trees. This variety helps ecosystems adjust to disturbances like extreme weather. It is important to have many different species of predators, prey, and plants in an ecosystem so that if one species dies off, the whole system is not thrown out of whack.
Biodiversity in genetics means that within a species, there is a lot of different traits or genetics. This keeps a species from going extinct. The common practice of monoculture crops put food sources like bananas at a higher risk of dying out. Monoculture means a cultivation of a single crop in a given area, significantly reducing the genetic variety. This practice makes crop much more vulnerable to disease. The natural alternative is polyculture, which is when more than one crop is grown in the same space at the same time. Practices like permaculture create genetic abundance and benefit people and the planet.
Identifying species and understanding their intricate relationships is a significant challenges, but biodiversity is one of the most powerful pieces of our planet; it literally shapes our world.
Extinction may seem like only a worry for the dinosaurs, but right now our planet is experiencing a sixth mass extinction! Dozens of species are going extinct every day. Global biodiversity has declined 50% in the past 40 years. We have lost half of all species on Earth, in a geologic blink of an eye.
Why has this mass extinction been happening? Unlike previous mass extinctions, the current loss of biodiversity is caused almost entirely by human activity. This looks like habitat loss such as deforestation and urban expansion, the spread of invasive species, and of course, climate change, all of which have dramatically reduced the earth’s biodiversity. When biodiversity is diminished, ecosystems can’t function as effectively, putting all of our lives are put at risk.
Our biodiversity crisis has put a tremendous pressure on the most vital organisms on the planet: pollinators (such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats) These types of animals transfer pollen from one plant to another, allowing plants – including the fruits and vegetables we eat daily – to reproduce and thrive. Bees and other pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat.
The U.N. estimates that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species are on the brink of extinction.
Bee pollination contributes significantly to world food production, adding more than $15 billion to the US economy and over $217 billion to global economies. Yet bees are dying at an alarming rate. Between 2014 and 2015, beekeepers lost 42.1% of their hives. What’s causing these important insects to die off? A growing body of scientific evidence links pollinator declines to pesticide use, particularly a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids or neonics. A recent study found that over 75% of global honey samples contain neonics and half of samples contain a cocktail of chemicals. These pesticides can make it harder for bees to reproduce. To protect the health of our environment and all it’s inhabitants, we must re-examine and eliminate the widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers.
Luckily, there are individuals and organizations dedicated to protecting pollinators. For example, Friends of the Earth are working to #savethebees by actively petitioning big businesses to cease the use of these toxic chemicals. They’ve already been successful in getting more than 65 retailers, including Home Depot and Lowe’s (the two largest garden retailers in the U.S) to eliminate the use of neonics from plants and off-the-shelf products.
And our partners at the Center for Food Safety landed a major victory for both bees and consumers. They’ve successfully encouraged major popcorn retailers, like Pop Weaver, Pop Secret, and Preferred Popcorn, to phase out neonics from their entire supply chains. Not to mention, their latest win included a commitment from Preferred Popcorn to launch their first certified organic popcorn line. Also check out how even the youngest are saving the bees through simple things like lemonade. It shows that everyone can save pollinators and promote the biodiversity of our planet!
Did you know that just 16 oz of honey requires 1,152 honeybees to travel 112,000 miles and visit 4.5 million flowers? This is typical work for a pollinator, yet we take their role in our ecosystems for granted. Start to consider the role of pollinators in your life.
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We can all be part of the solution to the pollinator crisis. We must do our part by cutting back on pesticide use, growing native plants, and getting involved politically in our communities. Check out the Center for Food Safety’s guide to find pollinator-friendly plants that are native to your area.
Design your dream pollinator-friendly habitat or garden on Pinterest or create your own collage.
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Due on 10/26 at 6am PT. We will award up to 90 bonus points based on quality of work.
With the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth, Turning Green has launched The Pollinator Toolkit. The goal is to aid students in eliminating neonics from campuses and to support pollinator life and the health and wellbeing of our planet. Your school is the perfect place to create a biodiversity-rich habitat. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, get down to business, and lead the movement to #protectthepollinators on your campus.
Use The Pollinator Toolkit to take the first steps toward integrating pollinator-friendly habitats on your campus.
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