“As we take more from nature than nature can give, we weaken the Earth’s ability to provide the clean air, fresh water, and food we all depend on.” – Conservation International
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, describes the variety of life, encompassing ecosystems and species. It is the source of the food we eat and foundation for all we do on earth. Biodiversity aids the adaptability and resiliency of the natural world to challenges such as climate change.
There are three levels of biodiversity: in ecosystems, in species and in genetics.
Biodiversity in ecosystems is the variety of habitats across our globe, including deserts, forests, grasslands and marine environments. For example, compare forests in Northern California and New Hampshire; from the types of trees to animals to rainfall, each ecosystem is unique. Differences in habitats keep our planet in balance and resilient to threats of environmental pollution and worsening climate crisis.
Biodiversity in species refers to the variety of species within an ecosystem. Examples of tree species are redwoods, oaks, willows, evergreens, palms and countless more. Variety helps ecosystems adjust to disturbances like extreme weather. Different species of trees, plants, predators and prey within an ecosystem are critical to support a healthy circle of life.
Biodiversity in genetics means that within a species, there are many distinct traits and genes. This keeps a species adapting, evolving and surviving, not extinct. The far too common practice of monoculture crops put countless food sources, like bananas, at higher risk of dying out. Monoculture is the cultivation of a single crop in one given area, significantly reducing the genetic variety and increasing vulnerability to disease. The natural alternative is polyculture, when more than one crop is grown in that same space at the same time. Such practices create genetic abundance and benefit both people and planet. Without a variety of genes and species in a crop area, species ability to protect themselves from predators is perilously reduced. Intricate ecosystems are what shapes our world.
Right before our eyes, this planet is experiencing its sixth mass extinction. Dozens of species go extinct every day. A 2019 UN report estimates that 1 million species are currently at risk for extinction, a rate that is sadly accelerating. Global biodiversity has declined 50% in the past 40 years. We have lost half of all species on earth in a geological blink of an eye.
Why is this mass extinction happening?
Unlike previous mass extinctions, the current precipitous loss of biodiversity is caused almost entirely by human activity. Deforestation and urban expansion, spreading of invasive and non-native species, and climate change all dramatically reduce habitats and the earth’s biodiversity. When diminished, ecosystems become imbalanced and unable to function effectively, putting our lives and those of all species at risk.
Solutions like land and water conservation, more stringent protections for endangered species, and a shift away from industrial animal agriculture are possible. If we envision a global transition away from a consumptive and exploitative worldview, towards one prioritizing conservation and biodiversity, we can live in harmony.
Luckily, many businesses and organizations are driving incredible, innovative work to ensure the health of our planet for future generations of all species. Annie’s works to cultivate a healthier and happier world by spreading goodness through nourishing foods, honest words and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet. Friends of the Earth works to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and promote the shift to organic farming systems that are healthier for bees, butterflies, people and the planet, among many other invaluable campaigns.
Individuals can also help combat biodiversity loss. How? Planting pollinator-friendly plants (check out Center for Food Safety’s guide to pollinator-friendly plants), stopping the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and buying organic all directly support increased biodiversity.
Today, we hope you complete this challenge with an understanding of the breadth and magnitude of biodiversity. And with that, rise to assume your place in finding and creating solutions to the greatest crisis of our time.
“Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature. Our food, our water, our health, our jobs – they all rely on the health of the planet’s ecosystems.” – Conservation International
Upload a PDF Document your response. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school. And post your picture on your social media of your choice.
There is a lot to know about biodiversity! Knowledge is the first step in making change and while it may seem like an overwhelming concept, our team’s favorite resources make it easy to get a real sense of the issue.
First, take a look at these great resources!
Inspiring, right? Now, create a concept map. Write biodiversity in the center of the page. Put everything you have learned about the topic on that page in words, icons and images. Draw lines to connect and build upon different concepts creatively.
Upload a PDF Document with your response. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Glyphosate is a toxic chemical destroying our world’s biodiversity and negatively impacting human health. Unfortunately, you are likely exposed to its harmful effects daily. Countless high schools and universities use Roundup on greenspaces, a weed killer with the main ingredient Glyphosate. What can you do about this massive challenge to human and environmental health? More than you think! Let’s get started.
Design a campaign to ban glyphosate on your campus! If it is not currently used, design a campaign to increase biodiversity on your campus. Develop actionable steps you could take to make a difference on this issue.
Upload a PDF Document with your call to action and any photos and a screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
5 submissions will be randomly selected to receive:
Each time you submit a challenge, you get an entry. Complete Green, Greener, and Greenest to triple your chances!
Extended deadlines and extra credits do not apply.