What is biodiversity and why does it matter?

Author: Jenny Edwards

Read Time:   |  7th March 2022

Without biodiversity, the planet could not sustain life as we know it. Here we will show you what biodiversity is and what the world would look like without it.

“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water, and air.

“It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.” – David Attenborough

Sprawling meadows ablaze with flowers; misty forests packed densely with life; blustery coastlines bordered by miles of sand and pebbles; vibrant coral reefs teeming with fish; groves of ancient trees and foxgloves.

Planet Earth is a true utopia that supports more life than you and I can possibly fathom. And that variety of life is what makes earth so special.

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity, aka biological diversity, is one of the most complex and valuable features of our entire ecosystem. According to National Geographic, “Biodiversity refers to the variety of living species on Earth, including plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi”.

There are approximately 9 million types of plants, animals, protists, and fungi that inhabit our planet.

Why is biodiversity important?

Where would we be without biodiversity? For one, we would not be able to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

No frothy morning lattes, no avocado spread lavishly on bagels, no herbs to flavour our food. But it also goes far beyond the everyday simplicities.

We all know that the air we breathe comes from plants. But did you know that as much as 70% of the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by tiny plants in the ocean?

These lifesaving plants are called phytoplankton, but they are at risk of extinction due to global warming.

Their demise would lead to a devastating chain of events, including higher levels of carbon in our atmosphere.

Even certain medicines are derived from plants; for example, morphine comes from the Opium poppy plant.

Biodiversity is the foundation of life on earth–but humans are putting it at risk.

A world without diversity would unquestionably directly impact us all, which is why we need to do our part – no matter how small.

Turning a blind eye to endangered species like the Columbia River Tiger Beetle is all too easy because “it’s just an insect” and seemingly insignificant. Or the endangered Dracaena Draco, “because it’s just a plant”.

However, we must remember that every species has its place in the earth’s balanced ecosystem, even if it isn’t directly relevant to us.

Every species has a purpose. One species going extinct would likely cause a domino effect, resulting in more species going extinct. And this is the reality that we are currently facing.

Fungi are among the most diverse groups of organisms on Earth with a global diversity estimated at 0.8 million to 5.1 million species.

Fungi are among the most diverse groups of organisms on Earth with a global diversity estimated at 0.8 million to 5.1 million species.

Get more info on how to make the world a greener place here:

Biodiversity and mental health

The earth’s rich biodiversity is worth saving for many reasons–and our mental health is one of them. Nature Deficit Disorder is a term coined by Richard Louv and is the idea that the modern-day human spends much more time indoors and less in nature.

Louv believes that the impact of this includes being more vulnerable to negative moods and a reduced attention span.

Although it is not a widely recognised disorder, it is abundantly clear that some form of Nature Deficit Disorder does exist in the western world.

Doctors in the UK and US are now even giving out “nature prescriptions” to patients in a bid to improve their mental and physical wellbeing.

These “nature prescriptions” are being used to treat various illnesses, including high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

Nothing compares to being in the solitude of green spaces, underneath the leafy boughs of woody giants, surrounded by the scent of blossom and the gentle stirring of creatures and calming birdsong.

Access to nature is a basic human right. It is necessary for our survival, yet it is disappearing before our eyes.

Preserving biodiversity is not just for the sake of our planet; it is for our own wellbeing and for the generations that come after us.

Biggest threats to biodiversity

There are many factors that impact biodiversity, but these are the biggest threats to biodiversity currently facing the planet:

  • Climate change
  • Habitat loss
  • Pollution
  • Overexploitation
  • Invasive species
Deforestation, such as this shown in the Amazon, destroys habitats and is having a devastating impact on biodiversity.

Deforestation, such as this shown in the Amazon, destroys habitats and is having a devastating impact on biodiversity.

4 Ways to support biodiversity

1. Respect and protect nature

Be mindful and considerate of your surroundings when you’re outdoors. Habitat loss is one of the biggest threats facing plants and animals right now.

So although it may not seem like much, treating nature with respect can make a difference. Do not litter, avoid picking flowers, be mindful of wildlife and nests etc.

2. Shop smart

Overconsumption strips the planet of its natural resources and is at the centre of the environmental crisis.

The richest 1% of the world’s population should be held responsible for driving the climate crisis, but that does not mean that we should simply give in. Our individual choices still matter to some degree.

Think of how accessible commodities now are. We can buy strawberries throughout the year, even when they’re not in season; we can have a haul of new clothes delivered at our door the day after purchase (sometimes even the same day).

But all of this comes at a price. As cliché as it may sound, we can vote for the type of world we want to live in with our money.

We can opt to shop at smaller businesses, buy clothes second-hand, buy in-season produce, and avoid impulse purchases.

Reducing the western world’s overconsumption is important to mitigating the climate crisis.

Shopping locally, buying in-season produce and avoiding impulse purchases are all ways in which we can reduce our consumption.

Shopping locally, buying in-season produce and avoiding impulse purchases are all ways in which we can reduce our consumption.

3. Welcome wildlife into your garden

The UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, so we should seize every opportunity to restore the green spaces that we have left.

Although they’re small, our gardens are more sacred than you might think, which is why it’s important to avoid paving over them or replacing lawns with synthetic grass.

We should try our best to make our gardens safe spaces for flora and fauna to thrive, whether it’s by creating a bug hotel or by nurturing seeds into flowers.

Even balconies can become a place to support biodiversity; you can hang plant pots and even a bee hotel.

4. Volunteer your time

Look out for volunteering opportunities at organisations that you admire. Many will already have a dedicated web page for volunteering, making it easy to get started.

Some notable conservation charities include:

  • Fauna & Flora International
  • WWF
  • RSPB
  • The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
  • Woodland Trust

Your garden is a brilliant place to start when looking at ways to improve biodiversity in your local area.

Here are 5 simple steps to make your garden wildlife-friendly.

Written by

Jenny Edwards

Jenny’s been a lover of words for as long as she can remember and it blows her mind that she’s been doing what she loves for six whole years now! Aside from writing, her other passions in life include reading, gardening, learning new things, and frothy soya lattes.

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