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What is Biodiversity? – Importance and Threats to Biodiversity

Jul 7, 2022


Earth is rich in various natural resources. There are numerous quantities of air, water, land, plants, and animals. It will be hard to believe that there are more than 20,000 species of ants, 28,000 species of fishes, 3,00,000 species of beetles, and nearly 20,000 species of orchids.

Evolutionary biologists and ecologists have been trying to acknowledge the significance of such diversity by asking important questions: why are there so many species of one kind? What is the source that supports every need for life on this planet? Why is Biodiversity important?


What is Biodiversity?

The biodiversity definition exists with its two words, i.e., ‘bio’ and ‘diversity.’ The word ‘bio’ here refers to ‘life,’ and ‘diversity’ means ‘the wide variety of something.’ Putting this together, this defines it as ‘the existence of several different kinds of animals and plants which together make a good and healthy environment.’ 

Many ecologists define Biodiversity as the term used to describe the variety of life found on Earth and all of the natural processes. Biodiversity definition is the sum of all the different species of microorganisms, fungi, plants, and animals living on Earth and the variety of habitats in which they live.


Different ecologists have different perspectives on the question ‘what is biodiversity.’ Some define as the number of different species living in a particular region. While according to others, Biodiversity meaning, is the total diversity that exists at all levels of biological organisation.

Why is Biodiversity important?

Many factors make Biodiversity an important aspect of life on Earth. Some of these aspects as given below:

  1. It involves various activities like recycling and storing nutrients, combating pollution and stabilising climate, protecting water resources and soil, to maintain an eco-balance.
  2. Biological resources cover food, shelter, and other necessities. It provides all these resources, and it defines the meaning of Biodiversity.
  3. For the provision of wood products, breeding stock and diversity of species, ornamental plants, medicines and pharmaceuticals, ecosystem and genes, and food for the human population and animals, Biodiversity is important.
  4. Humans perform various social activities like cultural value, recreation, education, tourism, and research. Biodiversity provides space and benefits for humans to perform all these activities.
  5. It provides a variety of foods for the planet. Various types of terrestrial fruits and vegetables, edible sea plants, fish, edible flowers, and many other things that are part of human food are part of Biodiversity. Humans use 40,000 species for food, clothing, and shelter of Biodiversity.  
  6. It plays a key role in drug discovery and medical resources. Medicine from nature accounts for usage by 80% of the world’s population.
  7. Biological sources provide many industrial materials. They include rubber, fibre, timber, paper, oil, food, water, and many more. Today humans cannot think of their life without these biological sources. 
  8. This enhances entertainment activities like fishing, bird watching, etc. It inspires instrumentalists and artists and provides a cultural environment for humans.
  9. This acts as a natural functioning system for the Earth, with each member playing its role.
  10. It helps environment efficiency where every species has a vital part to play, regardless of how little. For instance, A bigger number of plant species implies a more prominent assortment of yields

Therefore, what is Biodiversity is simply a crucial system for the well-being of life on Earth.

 What are the threats to Biodiversity?

1. Extinction

In the modern era, species and ecosystems are intimidated with destruction to an extent rarely seen in Earth’s history due to various human actions. It has threatened many species to the extent of extinction. While some species like Dinosaurs, Dodo, Tasmanian tigers, West African black rhinoceros, etc., are already extinct and visible only in the books in the form of pictures.


2. Over-hunting

Over-exploitation or over-hunting of natural resources by humans and animals results in degradation and extinction of the resources. For example, the passenger pigeon, steller’s sea cow, and many marine fishes have been extinct in the last 500 years.

3. Habitat loss

The main cause of the extinction of species is the destruction of their habitat. Many forests like tropical rainforests, amazon rainforest, etc., have been cut and cleaned for the cultivation of crops and other human activities. As a result, the population of many species have declined. The degradation of many habitats by pollution also threatens the survival of many species.


4. Invasion of non-native species

When alien (exotic or non-native) species are introduced accidentally or deliberately, some become prying and cause harmful impacts. It results in the extinction of the indigenous species. For instance,

  • Invasive weed species like Parthenium, Lantana, and Water hyacinth cause environmental damage and threaten native species.
  • When the African catfish is introduced for aquaculture purposes, it threatens the indigenous catfishes of Indian rivers.

5. Genetic Pollution

Uncontrolled introgression, hybridisation, and genetic swamping, i.e., genetic pollution, are side-effects of introduction and invasion which threaten a rare species’ existence.


6. Climate change

An alternating global climate frightened ecosystems and species. Global warming is also considered a serious potential warning to global Biodiversity in the future. For example, if global warming continues at the current trend, coral reefs will be lost in 20 to 40 years.

How to conserve Biodiversity?

The diversity provided by nature to humans needs to be conserved. Otherwise, the disbalance results in the extinction of various species and can threaten human life. Broadly, there are two ways to conserve Biodiversity.


1. In situ conservation:

The conservation of species within their natural habitat is termed in situ conservation. In this method, the natural ecosystem is maintained and protected for various species. National parks, biosphere reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries are created to protect the species. This method is a very favourable way to protect Biodiversity and also a cost-effective method.

Freshly, all over the world, 34 biodiversity hotspots have been proposed for intensive conservation efforts. Out of 34, three of these (Himalaya, Western Ghats of Sri Lanka, and Indo-Burma) cover India’s rich biodiversity regions. India has 90 national parks, 14 biosphere reserves, and 448 wildlife sanctuaries.

2. Ex-situ conservation:

When there are situations where a plant or an animal is threatened or endangered and needs dire measures to save it from eradication, ex-situ (or off-site) conservation is a worthwhile approach. In this method, artificial ecosystems such as botanical gardens, zoos, nurseries, wildlife safari parks, gene banks, in vitro fertilisation, tissue culture propagation and cryopreservation of gametes are designed. Genetic techniques, breeding, and maintenance methods protect endangered species.


To conclude, biodiversity meaning is flexibility for an ecosystem. Every species and organism work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. It is a system where every species performs its roles, and losing any species is the biggest threat to the system.

After going through the above article, you can understand what and why Biodiversity is important!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key factors affecting Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is not evenly distributed and varies globally within regions. Major factors impacting it include temperature change, pollution, and natural disasters like floods, droughts, and epidemics, leading to species loss and habitat disruption.

How many types of Biodiversity are there?

Ecologists define Biodiversity into three categories when assessing the state of an ecosystem.
1. Genetic diversity: It is the individual genetic dissimilarities between an occupant and occupants of one particular species. High genetic diversity is a sign of ethical genetic health.
2. Species diversity: It is the number of species within a particular ecosystem or throughout the biosphere or living world. It is also called species richness, where many species exist.
3. Natural disasters: It is how much diversity of different ecosystems exists across a certain region. High ecosystem diversity is better for all species that inhabit a particular landscape.

What are the uses of Biodiversity?

1. It provides food to each organism by food chain and food web because each organism is connected with others by food directly or indirectly.
2. It maintains the balance of ecology. It provides a major variety of species to depend upon.
3. It provides a wide variety of flora and fauna in a particular region. With time, they become the landmark of that region and provide a social identification to that place.
4. Biodiversity is like a reservoir of resources to be drawn upon to manufacture food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. Humans are completely dependent upon these natural resources.



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