Essay : Biodiversity and Climate Change

Biodiversity and Climate Change

Introduction : Biodiversity is a broad concept. Life on earth depends on the interaction of many different plants and animals. Each has unique abilities, some of which include absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, filtering water and producing food and medicines. This variety also enriches our own lives with natural beauty and mystery.

Definition : In biodiversity, ‘bio’ means life and ‘diversity’ means variety. In essence, biodiversity means “variety of life”. The most straightforward definition of biodiversity is variation of life at all levels of biological organization.

Background : Biodiversity found on Earth is the result of 4 billion years of evolution. The origin of life is not well-known to science, though limited evidence suggests that life may already have been well-established only a few 100 million years after the formation of the Earth. Until approximately 600 million years ago, all life consisted of bacteria and similar single-celled organisms.

Over the next 400 million years or so, global diversity showed little overall trend but was marked by periodic, massive losses of diversity classified as mass extinction events. Modern biodiversity is not much different from biodiversity 300 million years ago.

Threats to biodiversity : During the last century, erosion of biodiversity has been increasingly observed. Some studies show that about one of eight known plant species is threatened with extinction. Some estimates put the loss at up to 1,40,000 species per year. This figure indicates unsustainable ecological practices. Almost all scientists acknowledge that the rate of species loss is greater now than at any time in human history.

Destruction of habitats : Most of the species extinction’s from 1000 AD to 2000 AD are due to human activities, in particular, destruction of plant and animal habitats. It is estimated that more than 40% of the Earth’s biomass is tied up in only a few species that represent humans, livestock and crops. Global warming or climate change is driven by human activity. These factors, while all stemming from overpopulation, produce a cumulative impact upon biodiversity.

Biodiversity and climate change : Since the mid-1800s global temperatures have increased by about 0.6° Celsius, impacting the entire world from low lying islands in the tropics to the vast polar regions. During the last century:
  • The largest glacier on Mount Kenya has lost 92% of its mass.
  • Sea levels have risen by 10-25cm.
  • The thickness of sea ice the Arctic has decreased by 40%,
Current climate change predictions are not encouraging; they estimate further increases in temperatures of 1.4° Celsius to 5.8° Celsius by 2100. Predicted impacts from a temperature increase of only 2.5° Celsius include :
  • 210 million more people at risk of malaria.
  • Up to 3.2 billion more people suffer from water scarcity.
  • 50 million more people facing hunger. Even if all human sources of greenhouse gas emissions are stopped immediately the impacts of climate change would continue for 50 years.
Benefits of biodiversity : There is a multitude of benefits of biodiversity such as :

Food and drink : Biodiversity provides food for humans about 80 percent of our food supply comes from just 20 kinds of plants. Although many kinds of animals are utilized as food, again most consumption is focused on a few species.

Medicines : A significant proportion of drugs are derived directly or indirectly from biological sources. In most cases, these medicines can not presently be synthesized in a laboratory setting. Moreover, only a small proportion of the total diversity plants has been thoroughly investigated for potential sources on new drugs. Many medicines and antibiotics are also derived from micro-organisms.

Industrial materials : a wide range of industrial materials are derived directly from biological resources. These include building material, fibres, dyes, gums, rubber, and oil.

Preservation and protection : Actions can be taken to reduce human impacts and therefore reduce the rate of biodiversity loss in dry and sub-humid lands. Among others, these include :
  • Reducing overgrazing in delicate ecosystems.
  • Reducing pollutants produced by intensive agriculture.
  • Slowing the conversing of grassland and Savannah system to agriculture are urban settlement.
  • Taking steps to control invasive alien species into these ecosystems.
  • Helping to build institutions that will alleviate poverty and allow the poor to realize sustainable livelihoods.
Conclusion : In taking these actions, we will achieve concrete results. If we act now, it is within our power to protect the biodiversity loss. Ahead of this plan, we all have to take care of our beautiful world ensuring other animals and plants co-existence at the same time.
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