Importance of the Diversity of Species in Sustainable Ecological Balance

May 30, 2019

 

Biodiversity is crucial in maintaining a sustainable and stable ecosystem. The complexity of interdependence among various organisms is difficult to understand and model in detail but one thing is sure: greater number of organism means wider and specialized ecological niches are occupied. In turn, it means more stable and resilient ecosystem as a whole. It is the proverbial caution of not putting all eggs in just one basket.

 

This is because greater biodiversity means better chance of recovery from ecological catastrophe. The probability of life surviving is higher even during a massive catastrophe like the K-T mass extinction event that happened 65 million years ago if there are more species that can repopulate the planet. Some or a few will be able to kick-start evolution by occupying new ecological niches.


Our planet has been existing for at least 4.5 billion years according to radioisotope dating and other geologic scientific evidence. However, life came much later, about 1 billion years after the formation of Earth. Around 3.5 billion years ago, simple microscopic life emerged from the primordial soup as the earth cooled down and became stable.


Water served as the liquid that facilitated the combination of organic compounds while the minerals on rocks served as the templates and catalysts of the organic chemical reactions, leading to the formation of the first self-sustaining and self-replicating cells. The process probably was a series of complex chemical events facilitated by a source of energy such as undersea volcanic vents or by sun rays. Life could have risen from tidal pools.


Well, that’s according to abiogenesis hypothesis. Although no direct observation or experiment was successfully carried out to demonstrate the transition from non-living chemicals to living cells, the process of converting inorganic raw materials into complex organic molecules had been established more than 60 years ago by the Miller-Urey experiment. It was a proof of concept base on rational assumptions of the pre-Cambrian epoch.


From simple inorganic chemicals single-celled organisms arose. These organisms evolved over time under the direction of natural selection, giving rise to wide varieties of complex species. Five major mass extinctions had occurred in the natural history of the planet and a sixth mass extinction known as the Holocene extinction event is currently occurring mainly because of anthropogenic activities. 


Humans are directly or indirectly causing the extinction of between 150 and 200 species per day. This is at least 1,000 times the expected natural background rate. Scientists predict that as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species probably will become extinct by the middle of the century.


Deforestation, rapid urbanization, pollution, massive energy consumption, use of pesticides, and carbon emission are all human activities that are directly or indirectly causing the current mass extinction. The problem is serious because it threatens the ecological balance of the planet. If the ecosystem collapses, it can lead to pandemics as pathogens are released from their hosts. It can also cause famine as pests multiply and food sources become scarce. It threatens the existence of the human species.


Numerous international scientific and academic institutions, NGOs, national governments, and the United Nations are aware of the current problem of declining biodiversity. Various local initiatives, international treaties, and programs are established to stop or at least mitigate the situation.


The International Day for Biological Diversity (or World Biodiversity Day) is one such initiative. It has been observed every May 22 of each year since the year 2000 to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It was originally celebrated every December 29 from 1993 to year 2000. It aims to create public awareness and consolidate efforts to address biodiversity issues from multidisciplinary and multi-agency perspective.


Protecting biodiversity is a complex and multi-faceted goal that involves the following:
“sustainable agriculture; desertification, land degradation and drought; water and sanitation; health and sustainable development; energy; science, technology and innovation, knowledge-sharing and capacity-building; urban resilience and adaptation; sustainable transport; climate change and disaster risk reduction; oceans and seas; forests; vulnerable groups including indigenous peoples; and food security.” ~UN.ORG
It is a global problem that requires international cooperation. It goes beyond the artificial geopolitical borders of countries. The entire planet is threatened. The entire humanity is also at risk.
(NOTE: republished from my article in https://www.itallcounts.org/)

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