Biodiversity is a relative recent term, and a straightforward definition is that it means the variation of all life forms. Most people then think about species diversity, which is key because it works like a proxy to understand biodiversity at the other levels it embraces; which include the genetic, evolutionary, ecosistemic and landscape levels.
Now, personally i think any definition doesn’t honor what biodiversity represents. To really understand it you should experience it. There is no way around. Somehow in the scientific paradigm there’s the idea that you can understand everything with the rational mind but this is not the case. Let me explain you:
One of the biggest problems of our time is that we are disconnected from nature. People should really spend more time outdoors to develop this sense of belonging to the natural world and understand biodiversity. Animal trafficking is an expression that we still want to connect but it’s obviously the wrong way.
The good thing with biodiversity though, is that it has a strong quantitative side (what we all scientists love). You can measure it precisely within a given area, region, ecosystem or landscape; you can make comparisons and extract amazing data. There are a lot of ways to measure biodiversity which mostly require statistics, and there are great books about it.
Nowadays the big question is why biodiversity is so important and why we need to protect it. Here’s one big answer: Because we need it to survive. Biodiversity is tightly linked to human welfare and development. It is an indicator of ecosystem health, and we depend upon good ecosystem functioning to have these important things like clean air, food, and water. You can see that there are some regions like the poles or some deserts that are stable and have few biodiversity, but there is not much to do for us humans there.
Also biodiversity can bring us new medicines and all sorts of products, but this utilitarian view has it consequences, as it can increment the exploitation on all life forms to satisfy the needs of the consumer society. Nevertheless, it can also help to protect and conserve, making good use of the resources we have. Don’t get me wrong: Biodiversity has value. And this value comes from the fact that we value it because of the benefits we obtain from it. We must be careful in how to measure this value, but it is imperative to integrate it into our economic system . If you can show that conservation yields more benefits than deforestation, in real numbers, then people will have a great incentive to work for the good of the natural world and to us all.
Biodiversity is a really complex subject, involving not only biology but politics, economics, and every sort of human sentiments. This is why it is so interesting!
Have a green day,