Biodiversity: The Foundation of Life

Dr. Banarsi Lal
Every year 22nd of May is celebrated as the International Day for Biological Diversity across the globe to increase the understanding and awareness on biodiversity issues. Each year, the International Day for Biodiversity focuses on a particular theme. The theme of International Day for Biological Diversity 2023 is: ” From agreement to action:Build back biodiversity”. Biodiversity comprises the diversity, abundance and identity of species, their genes and ecosystems. It is inextricably linked to human health. It provides ecosystem goods and services that are essential for our health and well-being. It provides us food, water and various other resources as well as services such as recycling of nutrients, climate control, pollination and flood mitigation. It plays a significant role in survival of the life on the planet Earth. There are seven continents on planet Earth. Every human being has only one dream which is to live better, to eat better and to consume better. But majority of them do not care for the environment and the mother Earth. Presently there is more than 7 billion population in the world but we have only one planet to live and survive. We have limited food, limited place and limited shelters. If we keep on using natural resources as we are doing every day, a day will come when our future generation shall be forced to live homeless with full of hunger. So we all need to utilize the natural resources with care and responsibility. We should stop the wastage of natural resources and use them according to our need not on our greed. Each of us knows the importance of nature.
Every living being is dependent on plants and trees. All the living organisms on the earth are mutually interdependent on each other. But due to the excessive pollution caused by human beings, many species are becoming extinct and the global climate is also changing at a very rapid rate. The global warming is inversely affecting our health and can cause a long term impact on our coming generations. We know that millions of people on the Earth depend on forest for their livelihood. Only the plants and trees can make our food. But, we people are degrading the forests in a rapid rate. Every year, pollinators like bees help three-fourth of the world’s flowering plants and reproduce about 35 per cent of the world’s food. Human actions such as deforestations, intensified agriculture, encroachments on wildlife habitats and climate change have pushed the nature beyond its limit. If we continue our activities in the same way then we can face the severe implications in future. The Earth has lost 68 per cent of its ecosystems and associated biodiversity in the last 50 years due to anthropogenic activity. It has been observed that around 25 per cent of all animals and plants species are threatened with extinction. Loss of over 35 per cent of the earth’s mangrove forests has made us vulnerable to floods results in rising the sea levels. Deforestation with loss of multiple plant species is damaging the soil integrity and causing the landslides. Deforestation also increases the zoonotic infections by removing the protective boundaries between wildlife and human communities. It destroys the natural hosts of forest-dwelling microbes and offers them an easy passage in veterinary and human hosts.
Biodiversity plays a critical role for human health and well-being,food safety and economic prosperity.India is one of the richest nations in the world in terms of biological diversity. India has about 15,000 species of flowering plants, 969 species of birds, 389 species of reptiles and 317 species of mammals. India has relatively large number of frogs, salamanders and their kith and kins. Brazil is the most biologically diverse nation in the world. India stands 10th in terms of biological diversity. Some parts of the country are very rich due to a variety of natural causes in biological diversity and some are less. The loss of biodiversity across the globe has increased alarmingly and many wildlife and plant species are on the verge of extinction. Presently there is environmental crisis. Cyclones and floods create havoc and wash away many trees and infrastructure. Recently the bushfires in Brazil, the United States and Australia, global COVID-19 pandemic and locusts attack in India and Africa indicate that human health is closely dependent with the environmental health.COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the economy of almost all the nations across the globe. Present environmental crisis indicates that we must rethink for our relationship with the natural ecosystem. There is urgent need to think on biodiversity. Ultimately human health depends on the ecosystem products and services. Loss of biodiversity directly impacts the human health. Changes in the ecosystem services can impact our livelihoods, rural migration and may cause other conflicts among the human beings. Loss of biodiversity may limit the research for the potential treatments of many diseases.
We need to re-examine our relationship with nature. Although we are having numerous technological advancements but still we are completely dependent on healthy ecosystem for our food, clothes, shelter, health, water, medicines, fuel, energy etc. 2023 year can be said as the year of challenges, opportunities and solutions. A wide range of events are organized globally to increase the understanding of the important role of biodiversity for our present and future generations. The biodiversity we observe today is the outcome of over 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history, shaped by the natural processes. Biodiversity is the foundation for the life and for the essential services provided by ecosystems. It plays as a key catalyst to transform our food system system and thus improves the human health. It underpins peoples’ livelihoods and sustainable development in all realms of socio-economical activity, including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism etc.
We need to protect the environment by changing our lifestyles, by shunning the use of plastics, growing the plants and using the alternate sources of energy. We all need to make efforts to protect the environment. We should understand that biodiversity is the foundation for the life and for the essential services provided by ecosystems.
The author is Sr. Scientist & Head of KVK, Reasi (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu) (SKUAST-J).

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