Biodiversity Conservation: Types, Importance, and Methods
Biodiversity refers to the various life forms that exist on earth, including animals, plants, micro-organisms, and the entire ecosystem they live in. Biodiversity is in the form of biological resources including genes, species, organisms, and ecosystem. Thus, the four main levels of biodiversity are species, genetic, ecosystem, and global biodiversity.
Because of these characteristics, biodiversity plays a fundamental role in maintaining the aesthetic value of the environment, the integrity of the natural environment, and promotes the overall well-being of all plant and animal life. This calls for the need for biodiversity conservation for the survival of all living things and their natural habitat.
Hence, biodiversity conservation is all about protecting all organisms and species within their natural habitats with an aim of ensuring intragenerational and intergenerational equity. Activities such as habitat fragmentation, human disturbance, and habitat loss have to be adequately curtailed to enrich biodiversity conservation measures. Herein are the types, importance, and methods of biodiversity conservation.
Types of Biodiversity Conservation
1. Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity encompasses all the variety of different genetic information contained in animals, microorganisms and the plants. A single species of organisms with diverse genetic diversity portray more adaptability and survival mechanism against adverse environmental conditions compared to organisms of a single species with the same genetic make-up.
2. Species diversity
Species diversity refers to the variety of organisms in the environment. They can be further sub-divided into.
- Species richness. It is the total number of species in a given region or locality. It is measured using the Menhink and Mangalet indices.
- Special abundance. This is the relative numbers of organisms among the species (the number of individuals per species). When species have equal abundance, their variation becomes high, which also makes the diversity to be high. A low diversity scenario is noted when the number of one species is 98 and the other species 1.
- Taxonomic diversity (Phylogenetic). Taxonomic diversity (TD) is the genetic relationship that exists between various groups of species. This kind of diversity is represented using a hierarchical classification based on the phylogenetic evolution of different species of organisms.
3. Ecosystem diversity
It is relatively similar to species diversity except for the fact that it deals with the variations in ecosystems within a geographical location. From one region or country to another, there are different ecosystem or biomes with examples such as alpine meadows, taigas, wetlands, grasslands, mangroves, and deserts among others.
4. Global diversity
Global diversity refers to the range of differences that depict the composition of a group of two or more species in a global context. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are approximately 1. 5 million different species of plants and animals spread across the world. 70% represent animal species while 22% represent plants.
Importance of Biodiversity Conservation
1. Biodiversity conservation is important for economic growth and poverty reduction
This argument is based on the numerous direct economic benefits that humans derive from natural environments such as food, construction material, fiber, firewood, industrial products, and medicinal value.
As an example, approximately 25,000 plants species are used by native people to extract traditional medicine. Plus, more than 25% of drugs sold worldwide are extracted from plants. And according to the UN, the majority of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend upon wetlands, forests, pastures, and water for their livelihoods. Billions of people worldwide also depend on timber products for income and subsistence.
2. Supports the continuity of various ecosystems globally
Biodiversity plays an essential role in ecosystem rejuvenation and protection. The Amazon forest, for example, can produce approximately 20% of the total oxygen on earth through photosynthesis.
There are also thousands of pollinators such as insects and birds, and other numerous biological activities that take place in the forest. If the biodiversity of the forest is conserved, it means the entire ecosystem that relies on the Amazon forest is equally protected and allowed to rejuvenate.
Other ecosystems like the coral reefs, tundra, rivers and streams, and grasslands can as well be supported and protected through biodiversity conservation.
3. Aesthetic value
The natural environment provides great pleasure to human beings with its shape, structure, senses, and color which enriches people’s culture. Activities such as visits to animal parks, bird watching, nature art, and cultural heritage as ways of enjoying and appreciating nature are only made possible through biodiversity conservation.
4. Ecological balance
The integrity of the ecology – the harmonious coexistence of organisms and their environment is preserved by biodiversity. Some of the main aspects can be explained through:
- Carbon dioxide and oxygen balance (therefore helps in addressing the effects of climate change). The sequential balance between atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen are maintained through biodiversity. Failure to conserve biodiversity leads to accumulation of carbon dioxide resulting in a greenhouse effect and the gradual depletion of ozone. The results are global warming and natural calamities.
- Biochemical cycles. An example is water hydrological cycle. The availability of biological resources such as forests and wetlands are vital for biochemical cycles. Lack of these resources would lead to incomplete cycles and increased incidences of natural calamities like desertification and species extinction.
- Decomposition. Biodiversity conservation protects decomposers – organisms that aid in the breakdown of waste organic matter. Decomposition is thus an important part of the food chain as it transforms the waste of dead organic matter which is then converted into other biochemical that are availed for primary producers.
- Climate. The maintenance of the micro, local or regional climate is determined and regulated by biodiversity. Biodiversity achieves this through influencing the air turbulence, temperature, and precipitation.
5. Ethical value for every form of life in the environment
Ecosystem’s right of an organism states that every form of life in any ecosystem is unique and deserves respect from human beings. The right suggests that every organism on earth, whether it is valuable to human or not, has an inherent right to exist. Besides, the present generation has a social responsibility towards future generation and this includes the protection of all living organism in the world. Through biodiversity conservation, therefore, the ethics on environmental sustainability and conservation can be encouraged.
Methods of Biodiversity Conservation
The process of conservation of biodiversity involves sustainable development. It also involves the in situ conservation where conserving and protecting the ecosystem will protect the entire biodiversity.
At the same time, it includes ex-situ conservation which involves conservation measures when an organism is endangered. Therefore, this means that the conservation methods of biodiversity aim at preservation, maintenance, conservation, recovery, and enhancement as discussed below:
1. Protecting against degradation and destruction of natural ecosystems
Biodiversity conservation involves promoting a balance between the environment, society, and development in line with the sustainable development goals. The present society should develop conservation strategies that meet their need without compromising that of the future generation.
Having a balance between the development of the environment and the society results ensure achievement of biodiversity conservation. Through properly enforced policies, sustainable development can be achieved. These conventions can be enforced by environmental institutions.
2. Maintain, restore, and increase ecological systems while promoting the implementation of better conservation practices
It involves the in-situ and ex-situ. In situ conservation involves the conservation of the whole ecosystem and the natural habitats. It also includes the maintenance and recovery of a variety of species and degraded ecological systems such as damaged forest areas, and heavily polluted lakes, rivers, and lands among other natural environments. The ex-situ conservation involves strategic protection of biodiversity hotspots for endangered species and habitats.
3. Identification and protection of endangered species
Ex-situ biodiversity conservation aims to reduce the ongoing extinction up to 30% or higher by mainly focusing on two things. First, is the focus on conservation of biodiversity in their habitats in places like museums, arboretums, zoos, and gene banks.
The second strategy focuses on captive conservation methods that involve the protection of endangered species. This type of conservation is a collective responsibility of all nations.
An example is the Earth Summit which was held in Rio de Janeiro asking nations to take appropriate measures towards the protection of vulnerable habitats and species.
4. Establishing buffer zones to prevent any alteration in the balance of natural ecosystems
It involves intragenerational and intergenerational equity that allows equitable sharing of resources and the benefits derived from natural habitats to ensure social and ecological stability. Some of the conservation efforts that have been advanced under this category include the World Conservation Union, International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, and UNESCO program on Man and biosphere.