International Day for Biological Diversity
May 22 is the day designated by the United Nations for celebrating our planet’s precious biodiversity. Biodiversity refers to the number of different species of living things in a habitat, an ecosystem, or the entire Earth. The greater the diversity the better, but unfortunately at the rate that the planet’s natural resources are being depleted, the rate at which we are over-fishing oceans and over-harvesting trees, is causing a huge decline in biodiversity everywhere.
This year’s theme is about mainstreaming the sustainability between biodiversity and human livelihoods. The fact of the matter is that most of the conflict around conserving biodiversity comes down to economics. So this year the goal is to celebrate those that are using sustainable development in economic sectors like agriculture, forestry, fisheries and even tourism.
Why is biodiversity important?
Monoculture, when one and only one single type of crop is planted in a landscape, is a great example of why biodiversity is important. Monocultures were implemented in modern agriculture in order to get the highest possible yield of that crop and to simplify harvesting. However, the dangers of planting only one type of anything means that if a pest or disease comes through, it is likely to be completely destroyed, leaving the farmer with nothing. Yes, there is the use of pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified crops that can help to prevent that from happening, but each of those preventions comes with its own set of issues, controversies, and environmental problems. The planting of monocultures also tends to deplete nutrients in the soil, making the farmer more reliant on fertilizers. However if a farmer were to plant multiple types of crops and alternating crops from year to year, this would not only increase the biodiversity of the crop, but also attract and sustain different species of pollinators, reduce the risk of pests or diseases wiping out the entire crop and reduce the uses of pesticides and other chemicals. Some crops even add nutrients to the soil and some act as natural deterrents to pests.
This concept is applicable to forestry practices as well. If there must be replanting of a clear cut area, then planting as many different native species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and other plants as possible is always the best and healthiest bet. Think about the re-greening efforts here in Sudbury. After the landscape was so drastically changed due to old mining practices, the Sudbury basin was replanted with over 40 species of native trees and shrubs. There are still research projects being done on continuing to increase the biodiversity that was lost so many years ago. Would Sudbury still be here if they hadn’t taken action some 30-40 years ago? Would we have the booming tourism, and leading research facilities we do now? Biodiversity is more than just the number of living things, its appreciating beauty and ensuring a lasting relationship between us and nature.