Biodiversity Week 2018 – What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity Week 2018 is upon us so why not take a look at the importance of biodiversity.

What is Biodiversity?

Bio – “life”; Diversity – “different stuff”

Biodiversity is all the different living things that make life possible. Think of it is as parts of a puzzle; having a biodiverse ecosystem allows us to see the full picture. Problematically, as pieces, or species, go missing the picture loses important parts. If enough species disappear, the ecosystem would no longer sustain life as we know it.

But what does that mean?

To get technical about it, biodiversity breaks down into 3 different measurements:

  1. Alpha diversity is only concerned with the living creatures at a specific site. For example, only the space within your garden walls, or park boundaries.
  2. Beta diversity is a measurement of how similar the diversity is between two or more sites. This is good example of how conservation measurements determine the success of efforts.
  3. Gamma diversity deals with biodiversity among many sites or an encompassing region. For example, the total amount of species between sites like national parks.

Today, we will discuss the impact of alpha diversity. Alpha biodiversity is the measurement we can each improve through environmental stewardship.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

An ecosystem’s biodiversity measures how healthy an system is.

Everything that lives in the natural world, even you, has a part to play. Each organism has adapted to fulfil that role, whether they are aware of this or not. These are all important jobs that can be taken for granted if overlooked:

  • Woodlice and millipedes consume organic matter to make nutrient-rich soil for plants.
  • Bees, hoverflies, and butterflies pollinate by spreading pollen between flowers. Thus, enabling plants to produce fruit and seeds for reproduction.
  • Worms dig tunnels through the soil. This keeps it aerated and drained while keeping nutrients accessible for plants.
  • Wasps and ladybirds feed on pests, such as greenfly and crane fly. This controls their numbers and preventing pests from eating too much of the plants.
  • Birds disperse plant seeds by eating berries and defecating as they fly.

What happens with reduced biodiversity?

If any of the above mentioned species were to stop existing, the ecosystem would have a difficult time functioning. In the same way we would struggle if every member of the community stopped doing their job. For example, what if every grocery store closed? Or all doctors stopped helping people? What if every teacher quit? Do you think your community would continue to run smoothly? No, it would not.

Research has proven that ecosystems work best when biodiversity is strong. Just as you would be ineffective if you had to do the job of ten people, plants and animals would too. A lack of biodiversity puts too much pressure on the limited resources in an area.

Call to action

Now that you know the value of biodiversity, it’s time to act! Any of these simple changes play a part in protecting and enhancing biodiversity:

  • Reduce the use of pesticides/fertilisers. These chemicals are harmful to a balanced ecosystem. For more information on why this is important click here.
  • Plant nectar-rich plants in your garden to encourage pollinators.
  • Let a small space in your garden grow free to encourage wildflowers and support pollinators.
  • Make your garden wildlife friendly! Put up a habitat box, water and feeders in your garden. As a result, these shelters protect birds, hedgehogs, bats, or other at-risk creatures.

We offer a variety of resources and programmes on how to improve biodiversity. If you are part of a school or community group, feel free to contact us about our Biodiversity Workshops. Additionally, you can stop by the GLAS Community Garden 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursday.