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Biodiversity – how we depend on differences

Vocabulary

Biodiversity means the diversity of all biological life on Earth.

Ecosystem is a functional entity consisting of organisms and inanimate environmental factors.
It is including nature’s both living and nonliving actors in the specific area, like for example in
the forest.

Watch the video and answer the questions:

How we depend on biodiversity? Give your own ecxapmles?

Can you still remember, what were the three levels of biodiversity mentioned in the video?

Do you think about nature’s presence in your own life?

Transcript

Hello, I’m Carolina and I was an intern in Bellona foundation some years ago. I’m currentl living in Brussels, Belgium.

Have you ever wondered why our facial features are unique? Or why there are so many different animals and trees around us – wouldn’t it be enough to have just a couple of different kinds of trees or only one type of dogs? Why do we need different kinds, why is diversity important?

The existence of all life on our planet depends on biodiversity. But what exactly is biodiversity? Shortly biodiversity means the co-existence of different species, communities of species and whole ecosystems – the web of connection and dependence between them. In simpler way, you could say biodiversity means the diversity of all biological life on Earth.

It covers all forms of life, from smallest micro-organisms to large, complex ecosystems. Biodiversity is all these forms of life but also a system of connections between them. There are three levels of biodiversity: diversity of species, diversity of genes, diversity of ecosystems.

These three levels of biodiversity are essential for maintaining healthy living conditions for all life on Earth. The richer the biodiversity, the healthier and stronger nature we will have. Our everyday lives depend on biodiversity. Our everyday lives depend on the nature that a diverse biological life provides.

But what do we consider nature and how is it present in our daily life?

Nature in our everyday lives

For us, especially for those of us who live in urban areas, nature most often means the forest areas outside the city. However, nature’s biodiversity is firmly present in our everyday life in the commodities we use, the materials we take advantage of, the air we breathe and the water we use.

Sometimes nature’s presence in our daily lives is less obvious and therefore we don’t always notice or appreciate it. But it’s here, everywhere around us, and we would not survive without a healthy nature.

So, now I will take six examples to show you of how we depend everyday on biodiversity.

FOOD

Maybe you had bread, yoghurt, or juice at breakfast? Or some fruit? The existence of any of these products is completely dependent on biodiversity. The production of food is based on the co-existence of plants, animals, and micro-organisms. Nearly all the food that ends up on our plate requires different species working together. Grown vegetables and grains, farm animals or plants and animals that live in the wild, wouldn’t survive without the web of biodiversity, without different forms of life supporting each other.

HEALTH

Nature also functions as our pharmacy. So, from food our bodies get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need for staying healthy and protecting themselves from diseases. However, when we do fall ill, we use medication and treatments that nature has provided us. Even though most of modern Western medicine is now produced synthetically, medical industry still relies on the diversity of biological life. Medical compounds have been discovered in plants, animals, fungi and bacteria in all kinds of different ecosystems of the planet.

For example, up to 80 % of all the medicinal compounds in the anticancer drugs have been found in the rich variety of plants in rainforests. Another example: the commonly known drug aspirin is based on substance, that can be derived from birch-trees that grow in the Northern areas of the globe.

In fact, all ecosystems are potential sources of future’s medicine.

COSMETICS

Did you wash your hands with soap today? Soaps and shampoos are part of our daily routines. They can seem like purely chemical products but they, too, contain key ingredients derived from plants. There’s a chance an olive or a coconut tree was part of the process of making that soap that you used. Oils derived from trees and other plants are used for making different cosmetics.

Ingredients derived from animals and insects have also been used in different cosmetic products. For example, cow or goat milk are popular in creams and lotions as well as honey and beeswax, which are very common ingredients in various cosmetics.

MATERIAL

Now, take a moment to picture the following items: a pile of books, a house, chairs, toilet paper, eyeglass frames. What do they all have in common? They can all be made using tree. More precisely, materials derived from wood. Clothes we wear are made of nature’s products, too. The raw material used for making textiles such as cotton, viscose and silk are all obtained from the nature.

AIR

Another example, pretty obvious one, the air is essential for human life. We need the oxygen in the air in order to survive. And in order to have oxygen, we need all the different plants, animals and organisms. Plants and ecosystems around the world produce oxygen as an exchange for carbon dioxide that animals release.

Rainforests, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, have a big role in oxygen production, but surprisingly, the biggest part is played by the smallest creatures. Planktons, the microorganisms that live in the oceans of the world, produce roughly 50 % of all the oxygen in the world.

WATER

Last example and I think the one of the most important, water. Another crucial element for human life. Our bodies consist 70 % of water and we depend on clean water in our daily lives: We drink it, use it for cooking, to clean ourselves and for cleaning our homes and we also feed our plants with it.

Biodiversity, the co-operation of different plants, organisms, and other life, helps keeping the waters clean by improving the quality of water and helps ecosystems to stay healthy.

WHY DO WE NEED DIFFERENCES?

I will ask you the question again; What would our world look like, if we only had one breed of dogs, just a few different trees and us humans would all look more similar everywhere around.

the world? Our surroundings would look quite a bit more boring. But having less diversity in genes, species and ecosystems would also threaten our wellbeing. We would not be able to maintain a healthy life for long eating only one type of food or having limited medicine available to us. For staying healthy, nature needs variation, differences, and diversity. And the more, the better. The more difference and variety there is in biological life, the richer and stronger it stays. That is why we should nourish, celebrate, and preserve all these differences. That is the base of life, after all.