Biodiversity is one variable we use to determine the overall health of an ecosystem. It’s also one of the most important. Biodiversity is nothing more or less than the range of plants and animals living in a habitat. It also refers to the degree of genetic differentiation, or variety, between members of the same species. Ecosystems with a strong biodiversity are better balanced than those without one. This means energy and other resources flow freely to benefit and support incoming generations, including our own. Let’s look at 15 ways that individuals, companies, governments and institutions can help cultivate an awareness of and conserve biodiversity. As we do, we’ll learn more about why it’s so important.
1. Designate More Nature Preserves
When nature preserves receive legal protection at the federal level, they become known as national parks. This designation is essential for preserving the natural habitats that support rich biodiversity.
The consequences of allowing human activity to compromise natural habitats can include the loss of entire species and unique ecosystems. This is why the Obama administration made a point to set aside more land for protection than any other president.
The current White House has reduced some of these areas in size. However, the administration also signed a bipartisan public lands bill in March 2019 that gave new protections to 350 miles of river and 700,000 acres for fresh conservation efforts.
2. Improve Awareness of Invasive Species
There are almost certainly several invasive, non-native species in your yard right now. For instance, the tree-of-heaven is a fast-growing and aggressive species native to China. Now, it springs up almost everywhere — and thanks to its dense root structure and quick-growing capabilities, it can choke the biodiversity out of an area in no time.
Property owners need to identify invasive species like these — different states have their own websites to help — and remove them before they can establish themselves. Local governments should have similar initiatives in place for public lands.
3. Reconsider Lawns
“Why does Arizona have grass?” asked one AZCentral op-ed from 2018. “Green lawns don’t belong in desert cities.”
In fact, may landscapers and ecologists refer to grass lawns anywhere as deserts for biodiversity and even and even ecological disasters. If you want to know what human-style terraforming looks like, grass lawns are a great example.
We will need to revisit our town ordinances, but selectively replacing some grass on our properties with meadow areas would be a huge boon for biodiversity. Plus, grass lawns are a waste of water, fertilizer and gasoline.
4. Restore Damaged Habitats
Another one of the critical functions of government, as far as ecological stewardship is concerned, is to ensure habitats recover after disruption by human activities. One example of a success story is the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in 1995.
After being hunted out of the area and onto Endangered and Threatened lists, the reappearance of wolves in Yellowstone coincided with an explosion in the richness of beneficial life throughout the region. This included a ninefold increase in the number of beaver colonies and a larger population of elk, both of which have helped reinvigorate additional animal and plant species.
5. Boost Science Funding
Several government offices had been singled out for cuts in the White House’s 2019 budget, including the Department of the Interior, the EPA and others that are relevant to the use of land and resources.
Instead, these and other science and environment-focused programs, including NASA, saw low single-digit budget increases. If we are to better understand how human activity ripples throughout the natural world and how to conserve biodiversity, we need to keep increasing science funding rather than cutting it.
6. Practice Responsible Fishing
Word is getting out that most of the world’s fishing practices are unsustainable. This is a problem that directly impacts biodiversity and the health of our waterways — not just what kinds of fish we can bring home from the grocery store.
The rising demand for fish, coupled with worries about overfishing and reductions in biodiversity, has given rise to aquaculture. This is a way to raise fish, plants and animals for food in the open ocean. Aquaculture promotes sustainable fish population levels and helps maintain the health of coastal areas.
7. Buy Sustainably
Individuals have helped raise the demand for sustainably sourced products, and they can continue to force the issue through collective action. Choosing sustainable products helps ensure we don’t overconsume resources that are critical to the health and genetic diversity of our ecosystems.
8. Seed Bank Programs
Seed banks are seen by ecologists and other scientists as an important failsafe against the diminishing biodiversity of plant life. Predictably, the world’s seed banks now face a critical lack of funding. A study by Crop Trust found hundreds of crops relevant to biodiversity and cultivation that are underrepresented or missing from seed banks.
There are 1,750 seed banks in the world protecting over 7 million seeds and other samples. Having them available ensures we can continue scientific inquiry into their characteristics and makes sure at least a minimal population survives extreme conditions.
What Will Scientists Discover Next?
Science news delivered weekly!
9. Build More Wildlife Corridors
One of the ways humans impact the world is by dividing the natural landscape with roads. To help unite fragmented land masses and help animal populations stabilize after development disruptions, many locations turn to wildlife corridors.
These are protected physical connections that animals can use to cross the road. Research suggests wildlife corridors help conserve biodiversity and promote the flow of genetic material between different animal populations.
10. Plan for Pollinators
“Save the bees” is a rallying cry across the world. The scientific community views the decline in pollinator populations as a sign of climate change and impending ecological collapse.
By reducing pesticide use and engaging in pollinator-friendly landscaping design on properties and public areas, we can give rise to an even greater variety of plant and animal species. Bees and pollinators are part of the foundation of Earth’s ecology.
11. Buy Organic Produce
A key benefit of buying locally sourced, organic produce is that such practices promote greater genetic diversity among staple crops. This is in stark contrast to industrialized farming, which results in monoculture — where a whole population of plants is susceptible to the same diseases and pests. Greater biodiversity makes our crops more resilient.
12. Incentivize Private Conservation Efforts
Governments at every level have the means to incentivize private landowners for undertaking conservation and biodiversity protection efforts. In Australia, they are awarded for entering into legally binding conservation agreements as well as the formal reservation of lands for ongoing protection.
13. Buy Less Stuff
In addition to being choosier about the provenance of the products we buy, it’s also essential that we buy fewer material objects across the board. Many materials, once extracted from the environment, will take many years to return there, if they ever do. Buying sustainable merchandise is good. However, practicing restraint is better.
There’s not just habitat loss to think about as we window-shop online. There’s also the resources and infrastructure required to bring those products to your doorstep, which further eats into the stability and richness of the natural ecosystem.
14. Captive Breeding Programs
Captive breeding is slightly controversial. Why? Because it involves the capture of species of which there are few representatives in the wild. Nevertheless, it’s an important step in bolstering the headcount of perilously endangered animals before reintroducing them into the wild.
15. Strengthen Environmental Regulations
The domestic policy of the United States sets the tone for other places in the world. The current U.S. administration has, as of June 2019, scaled back or threatened to scale back 83 distinct rules governing the treatment of natural habitats within U.S. borders.
According to the New York Times, the administration has failed to defend these changes in legal terms and has not explained why they are necessary. They include, among others, rules limiting air and water pollution, governing safe extraction and drilling activities, and overseeing the handling of toxic substances.
The Effort to Conserve Biodiversity
To say this is an unfortunate time to dig in on anti-environment rhetoric would be an understatement. As time goes on, it’s becoming more urgent for voters to single out candidates who are serious about preserving Earth’s ecosystems and making plans to help the planet recover from humanity’s presence here.