TOPICS IN BIODIVERSITY LOSS
 
Does Biodiversity Change? Is Biodiversity Changing Now? Biodiversity Loss and Humans
Future for Biodiversity What if Loss Occurs? What Can Be Done? Biodiversity Hotspots
     
 
Biodiversity may not seem very important for humans, but it is! The living organisms of the world are critical to many aspects of human life, all of which will be affected as biodiversity is lost.
 
     
 
Energy
Wood and wood-based charcoal provide a large percentage of energy used for heating and cooking around the world, especially in rural or developing areas. Loss of biodiversity will reduce the amount of wood and the variety available for these purposes.
   

Food Supply
Many communities rely on the biodiversity around them for food, especially when natural disasters strike. In many developing regions where drought or flooding are frequent dangers, it is important for people to have secondary food sources to turn to that are adapted to these conditions and are available when the need arises.

In addition, having monoculture crops can be extremely dangerous when a pest or disease arises that affects that crop. The Irish potato famine, which was caused by a fungus that specifically infects potatoes, is a good example; it killed between 500,000 and 1 million people and caused several million more to evacuate Ireland. For many of those people, potatoes were their sole source of food.

   
Environmental Buffers
Coral reefs and wetlands such as mangroves and marshes provide excellent barriers against storms and flooding. Coastal communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of these natural disasters, and removal and conversion of wetlands worldwide has worsened conditions during times of flood.
   
Medicines
Many important drugs are derived from biodiversity, and of these a large percentage cannot be manufactured artificially; they must come from the source organism. Examples include the antibiotic penicillin, which comes from a fungus, and digitalis, used to treat heart conditions, which comes from the foxglove plant. There are likely thousands of microorganisms and plants that have potential medical uses which have not yet been discovered.
   
Pest Control
Almost all species have natural predators, other organisms that eat them, infect them, and otherwise control their abundance. As we exterminate species, there is no way of knowing what other creatures we may be allowing to thrive in their absence.
   
Pollination
Plants require pollination to produce seeds and fruit, and many of the plant-based foods we enjoy consuming need to be pollinated by insects or birds. Pollinators are beginning to decline in abundance globally, resulting in fewer seeds or fruit, or seeds that are less viable to produce the next generation of plants.
   
Erosion Control
Plants are excellent at preventing erosion. Their roots hold soils in place and stabilize slopes and fields alike. As deforestation occurs, mudslides become more frequent and fresh water quality declines as soils are washed into rivers and lakes.
   
Livelihoods
Millions of people world-wide make their livings from biodiversity. People who farm, fish, or create crafts or furniture from natural sources will be in danger of losing their livelihoods if the species they depend on begin to decline. In some cases this is paradoxical, since overfishing and overhunting contribute to the very loss that will eventually make the fishers and hunters unable to support themselves.
   
Clean Water
Watershed destruction and deforestation lead to decreased quality of drinking water, which has greatest effects in rural and developing areas. Wetlands also serve water-filtering purposes that are lost when they are destroyed or converted.
   
Spiritual
Many peoples around the world value various ecosystem components in their religious and spiritual belief systems. As this biodiversity is lost it will affect culture and quality of life for many.
   
Raw Materials
Many raw materials and resources come from the biological world, including wood for building, fabrics and fibers such as cotton, hemp, and raffia, dyes, resins, gums, rubbers, and oil.
 
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