Biodiversity

What is biological diversity?

In science, biological diversity is also called “biodiversity” (from the Latin “diversitas” meaning “diversity”). This term means that there are lots of different plants and animals on Earth, living in different places and and in different ways.

So, diversity includes:

- species
- symbiotic relationships (e.g. clownfish and sea anemone)
- habitats (e.g. meadow orchards, forest floors) and
- landscapes (savannas, mountains, rainforests)

Biodiversity Biodiversity - Photo collage: l i g h t p o e t (monkey), Mircea BEZERGHEANU (kingfisher), lkordela (bee), Svetlana Foote (frog), jurra8 (squirrel), Rich Carey (turtle) / Shutterstock

• Species diversity

Species diversity doesn’t just mean that there are different insects like bees, ants, butterflies and beetles. It also means diversity within a species, different genetic lines.

Example: There are 20,000 different kinds of bees , including the honey bee, mining bee, mason bee, carpenter bee, plasterer bee, melitta bee, face-masked bee, panurgus bee etc. This raises the question:

Bee and Bumble Bee Bee and Bumble Bee - Illustration: Silke/tierchenwelt.de

WHY Are There so Many Different Kinds of Animals?

Would one kind of bee not be enough? Maybe the honey bee - it gives us tasty honey. But if there were only honey bees, it would be a disaster for nature. Clover, peas and beans are almost only pollinated by bumble bees. And if the spring is really cold and the honey bees aren’t flying yet, bumble bees will take over their jobs. Each type is indispensable in its own way.

• Symbiotic relationships

Biodiversity isn’t just about species diversity, but also the diversity of different symbiotic relationships. A good example is symbiosis between different animals.

Example: The sea anemone offers the clownfish (Nemo) protection with its poisonous, nettle-like tentacles and the sea anemone snaps up the clownfish’s leftovers.

• Landscapes

There are different forests, like coniferous forests, rainforests and mountain forests, but also different landscapes e.g. deserts, mountains, steppe and savannas. Each zone provides plants and animals with a habitat, and all of them are very important for the overall climate on Earth.

Example: The Arctic hare lives in the Arctic tundra. A tropical bird like the toucan would freeze there. But it suits living in the rainforest. Even the unbearable heat and dryness of the Namib desert in Namibia provides animals with a habitat e.g. desert elephants.

Artcic Hare and Arctic Fox Artcic Hare and Arctic Fox - Illustration: Silke/tierchenwelt.de

Why Biological Diversity is Important

The more diverse nature is, the better it can adapt to changes in temperature, landscape or conditions. The more landscapes that are destroyed and the more animals that die out, the faster nature goes out of balance and becomes a difficult habitat even for us humans.

What’s Destroying Biodiversity

It’s mostly humans that threaten biological diversity. We destroy habitats to build cities or farms. We over-fish the oceans, soil the environment, over-fertilize fields and drag animals to new places, where they breed too much too fast.

What Can We Do?

As one person? What is there to do? A lot! As the Dalai Lama, an important Buddhist monk, said: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Such as:
- Don’t litter, always take your garbage with you
- Use electricity and water sparingly
- Take the bus or your bike instead of being driven
- Help with the recycling and sort the garbage (lots of things can be used again)