Biodiversity is a buzzword, used on a variety of occasions and in a wide range of contexts, from exhibitions to conferences to official statements by political decision-makers. The concept of biodiversity is now known to everyone. We are used to hearing about it, and it is one of the great themes that are continuously proposed from an environmental point of view. But do we know what biodiversity is? In reality, this concept is much more complex and complicated than it might seem, often used inappropriately; it has significant implications for our very existence on this planet. Today, the protection of biodiversity is fundamental from all points of view, preserving natural environments, crops, protecting endangered animal species, and protecting natural variety has now become a goal to be pursued in all ways. Some environments on Earth are particularly rich in biodiversity, just think of the Amazon Rainforest or coral reefs. Here we find about half of the living beings of the whole planet and their destruction could have really terrible implications on a global level.
The term is relatively recent as a concept it was first used in 1968 by the ecologist Raymond Dasmann and, a few years later, by the biologist Thomas Lovejoy in his book Conservation biology. Only in 1988 did a collection of essays edited by Edward Wilson, an American biologist and evolutionist, appear precisely as biodiversity. Since then, studies to clarify what biodiversity was have multiplied to a classification (almost) shared among scholars. It is a broad definition, which corresponds little to the reductive meaning that biodiversity gives the newspapers or exhibitions, presentations, and conferences of food gurus, who forget 99% of true biodiversity to focus on agricultural diversity that is only relative to cultivated plants and bred animals. Certainly a significant fraction, especially for humans, but small compared to the entire biological diversity of the planet. But what exactly does "biodiversity" mean? This is a question worth asking because, in recent times, this term has often been used inappropriately, and this has created quite a bit of confusion. Biodiversity is the variability between living organisms within a single species, between different species and between ecosystems. Doing a quick search also on Wikipedia or other authoritative sources, we find confirmation of this definition, but it is worth making some clarifications. First of all, when we talk about biodiversity, we must always contextualize it. In fact, there are three different levels of the organic variety, namely:
1. Genetic biodiversity: refers to the difference of genes within a given species.
2. Biodiversity of species: it refers to as can be understood from the term to the wealth of species present in a specific area and a precise quantity, to their abundance or rarity in a territory.
3. Ecosystem biodiversity: refers to the habitats existing on earth and the ecosystems that develop within it, promoting the life and evolution of the species present in them.
This variety must be protected because it is fundamental at all levels of life. The wider the biodiversity, the better it will be able to react to any ecosystem to any changes. On the contrary, if the biological variety is reduced, there is a real risk that some animal species will become extinct, that specific habitats will begin to disappear and that some areas of the planet will become completely lifeless. For this reason, it is essential to protect the biodiversity of our planet, and we need this variety to survive! The biodiversity is a central element in the development of an area, habitat, or ecosystem, and therefore also of a particular territory. This means that defending the biological diversity of territory allows it to be preserved, to guarantee the necessary conditions for the development of life in that specific area. Numerous scientific studies carried out over time, in fact, have shown a correlation between the loss of biodiversity and the increase in natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, tropical storms. In addition to representing an important value for the ecosystem and the environment, biodiversity also produces what is called "ecosystem services.” Let's see what it is all about.
In recent years, this concept has been increasingly talked about, and the reason is really simple, biodiversity is under threat, and despite attempts to safeguard it, it risks decreasing more and more! Environmental pollution, air pollution, climate change but also poaching is seriously endangering the survival of living species and natural habitats. We should be responsible for all these changes, and it should be us who protect the environment in which we live, but precisely the opposite happens. Most of the threats to biodiversity come precisely from human action, and this must be countered in order to safeguard an indispensable heritage.
As you can see, these meanings of biodiversity have little to do with the number of cultivars (varieties) of apples or wheat present in the fields, or even of the so-called germplasm, or the genetic heritage of the individual cultivated species present in the seed banks in Worldwide.
• Although very important for the survival of our species, this interpretation of biodiversity is an understatement: it is only a subset of natural biodiversity, made up of millions of species, not the few thousand breeds or cultivars of fruit or pet. Also because very often, the genes that can save a crop, for example, from a parasite that risks wiping it out, come not so much from the cultivated varieties but from the wild species, which by definition, have biodiversity much higher than that of the domestic ones.
• Therefore, reducing biodiversity only to those of the species that interest us means confusing the plans, limiting knowledge to a small planet in front of a universe of different species, and appropriating incorrectly and reductive a complex and interesting concept. And, in the end, treat the whole planet like our garden, where we can collect what we want without thinking about the consequences.
Feb 19, 2020