“Biodiversity is our most valued, but least appreciated resource.” — Edward O. Wilson, American biologist, naturalist and writer
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, describes the variety of life, encompassing ecosystems and species. Not only is it the source of the food we eat and foundation for all we do on earth, it also aids the adaptability and resiliency of the natural world to pressing challenges such as climate change. It encompasses all biological levels, from the smallest genes to entire ecosystems. Let’s take a look at how biodiversity spans different ecosystems!
Oceans. Scientists say the number of species that live in the ocean is unknown, and 91% of species have yet to be identified. Various ocean environments allow for unique animals to thrive – with cold water ecosystems housing kelp forests and otters, and tropical island ecosystems including a larger array of coral reefs and more. Many organisms have biodiversity in genetics, as distinct genes and traits allow for ongoing adaptation to and evolution in a changing environment. Some coral reefs, for example, may have the genetic capability to adapt to survive warmer and acidic water, an important discovery for an environment which is extremely valuable for marine animals, although decimated by ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and pollution runoff, killing many corals.
Forests. From the smallest of soil organisms to the tallest of trees, there are many diverse species living in forests. But not all forests are the same, ranging types of trees, animals, rainfall, other unique characteristics. Rich biodiversity is threatened by wildfires, an ever growing reality on the west coast of the United States and around the world. Some forests rely on natural wildfire to maintain proper function and health, but not in the massive scale and severity we are experiencing in the present day due to climate change.
Urban and Agriculture. Biodiversity exists everywhere! Many plants and animals have adapted to urban settings, creating ecosystems that allow fragments of the natural world to thrive even in the middle of huge cities. Biodiversity in species refers to the variety of species in ecosystems — the different trees, plants, predators, and prey critical to support a healthy circle of life and adjust to disturbances. Ever think about how all of the plants in cities, suburbs, and rural areas are pollinated? Various species of bees and butterflies pollinate 75% of flowering plants and nearly 75% of crops. However, these pollinators cannot thrive when farmers and communities use toxic pesticides and herbicides, such as glyphosate.
Right before our eyes, this planet is experiencing its sixth mass extinction, as dozens of species go extinct every day. A 2019 UN report estimates that 1 million species are currently at risk for extinction, a statistic accelerating at an alarming rate. As a result, 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 Earth’s biodiversity. Humans directly disrupt nature as well, through movement, usage and actions such as tourism, ships, and dams. When diminished, ecosystems become imbalanced and unable to function effectively, putting ourselves and other species at risk.
There are many conservation solutions to protect against the loss of biodiversity, which include preserving land, establishing more protected areas, limiting tourism, and reducing specific threats to species. Other solutions like land and water conservation, stringent protections for endangered species, and a shift away from industrial animal agriculture are also possible. If we envision a global transition from a consumptive and exploitative worldview to one that prioritizes conservation and biodiversity, we can achieve harmony and live in harmony among all species and the Earth.
Businesses and organizations champion these practices, driving innovative work to ensure the health of our planet for future generations. Everyone’s plant-based body care products are made of safe, natural, organic, and sustainably-farmed ingredients. And the company is fully transparent about the integrity and sourcing of every ingredient in every bottle. Friends of the Earth aims to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and promote the shift to organic farming systems that are more beneficial for bees, butterflies, people and planet.
Individuals (like you!) can also help combat biodiversity loss. How? Planting pollinator-friendly plants, not using pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and buying organic all directly support biodiversity. What you learn throughout Project Green Challenge can also help! By decreasing your carbon footprint and water consumption, living a low waste lifestyle, using eco-friendly products, supporting local farms, and advocating for justice, you are preserving 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 climate crisis!
“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
Take a few minutes to watch a few short videos from the series, “Nature is Speaking,” created by Conservation International. In addition, watch this short film from Patagonia Provisions to understand how bees create genetic biodiversity in crops.
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There is a lot to know about biodiversity. Knowledge is the first step in making change and quality resources make it easy to get a solid sense of the massive issue.
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.
Post it on Instagram with a brief caption about biodiversity to raise awareness, tagging @TurningGreenOrg, @everyoneproducts and #PGC2020.
Where do you fit in? Do some research and find an impactful way that you can personally help biodiversity. Tell us how you will implement it in your own life.
Upload a PDF Document your concept map, reflection and screenshot of your social media post. Include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school. And post your picture on your social media of your choice.
Glyphosate is a toxic chemical destroying our world’s biodiversity and negatively impacting human health, and we can easily be exposed without even knowing. Countless schools, universities, and community parks use Roundup on green spaces, a weed killer made my Monsanto with glyphosate as the active ingredient. What can you do about this massive challenge to human and environmental health? More than you think! Let’s get started.
Then, get inspired by reading this piece about two of Turning Green’s heroes successfully banning glyphosate on the University of California campuses. And get more information about Herbicide Free Campus!
Now, design a campaign to ban glyphosate on your campus or in community parks and increase biodiversity. Develop actionable steps you could take to make a difference on this issue.
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.
Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.