Biodiversity and its composition, proposed concept, value, significance and conservation measures will be introduced in this part.
What Is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is an ecological complex formed by organisms and their environment and a synthesis of various ecological processes related to it, including animals, plants, microorganisms and their genes as well as the complex ecosystem formed by them and their living environment. Biodiversity usually refers to species diversity, genetic diversity and ecosystem diversity. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines biological diversity as: Biodiversity refers to living organisms of all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and their ecological complexes. This includes diversity within species, between species, and ecosystems.
Composition of Biodiversity
Biodiversity usually includes genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity.
There are countless animals, plants and microorganisms of different sizes and shapes living on the earth. Some animals, plants and microorganisms have the same genome, and individuals can mate with each other and produce normal offspring. These organisms with the same genome and can mate to produce normal offspring are a species. Animals, plants and microorganisms on the earth contain various species, which is called species diversity.
In the same species of different individuals, there will be some differences. For example, cat has Persian cats, shorthaired cats, Siamese cats and other breeds. There may be some differences even if between same rice, such as height and ripening time. Differences between individuals within the same species are caused by alleles, DNA sequences, single nucleotide differences, etc., that is to say, a variety of individuals within the same species are caused by a variety of genetic structures, and the variety of genetic structures is called genetic diversity.
All living things on the earth live in a specific environment. Living things together in a specific environment are called communities. For example, there are specific organisms living together in specific areas such as forests, grasslands, rivers and lakes. These multiple organisms living together in forests, grasslands and lakes are communities, and they are connected with the surrounding inorganic environment such as water and sunlight to form a unique ecosystem. From this, we can see that ecosystems are also different and have diversity.
The Origin of the Concept of Biodiversity
Since the 20th century, with the continuous growth of the world population and the continuous increase in the scope and intensity of human activities, human society has encountered a series of unprecedented environmental problems and faced five major crises, population, resources, environment, food and energy. The solution of these problems is closely related to the protection of ecological environment and the rational use of natural resources.
After the Second World War, the international community has paid more attention to the protection of biological resources while developing its economy, and has done a lot of work in saving rare and endangered species and preventing over-utilization of natural resources. In 1948, the United Nations and the French government established the World Conservation Union. The World Wildlife Fund was established in 1961. In 1971, UNESCO put forward the famous “Man and Biosphere Plan”. In 1980, the World Nature Conservation Outline, compiled by IUCN and other international nature conservation organizations, was officially promulgated. The outline proposed the idea of organically combining the effective protection of natural resources with the rational use of resources.
Since the 1980s, people have gradually realized in the practice of nature protection that there are very close connections between various species in nature and between living things and the surrounding environment. Therefore, it is far from enough for nature protection to focus only on the protection of the species themselves, and it is often difficult to obtain ideal results. In order to save rare and endangered species, we should not only focus on protecting the wild populations of the species involved, but also protect their habitats. In other words, the entire ecosystem where the species is located needs to be effectively protected. Under such a background, the concept of biodiversity arises at the historic moment.
The Value of Biodiversity
Protecting biodiversity is in the interest of mankind. Biological resources are the mainstay of our human civilization. Nature’s products provide support to various industries including agriculture, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, gardening, construction and waste disposal. The loss of biodiversity will threaten food supply, leisure tourism and the sources of wood, medication and energy. In addition, the loss of biodiversity will also affect various important ecological functions.
We need nature. Although this need is often ignored by us, it is important and unpredictable for human beings. Time and again, we have reached out to nature to ask for medicine to cure diseases, or to extract genes from wild plants and inject them into crops to protect them from pests. More importantly, the large number of interactions between the various components of biological diversity have made the earth a home suitable for the survival of various species, including of course us human beings. Our health, economic health and the health of human society all depend on the continuous supply of various ecological services, which is extremely expensive and irreplaceable. These natural services are so diverse and almost infinite. For example, feeding by various organisms along the food chain can help prevent and control insect pests. Insects and birds can help plants pollinate during their daily activities. It is impossible to replace these services even to any grand extent.
Significance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the basis for the survival and development of human society. Many aspects of our clothing, food, housing, transportation and material and cultural life are closely related to the maintenance of biodiversity.
- Biodiversity provides us with food, fiber, wood, medicinal materials and a variety of industrial raw materials. All our food comes from nature, maintaining biodiversity can make our food varieties continue to enrich. The quality of life of the people will continue to improve.
- Biodiversity also plays an important role in maintaining soil fertility, ensuring water quality and regulating climate.
- Biodiversity plays an important role in the regulation of atmospheric composition, earth surface temperature, redox potential of surface sediments and pH value. For example, the oxygen content in the earth’s atmosphere is 21%, which provides us with free breathing. This is mainly due to the photosynthesis of plants. In the early history of the earth, the content of oxygen in the atmosphere was much lower. Scientists estimate that if photosynthesis of plants is cut off, oxygen in the atmosphere will be exhausted in thousands of years due to oxidation reactions.
- The maintenance of biodiversity will benefit the preservation of some rare and endangered species. We all know that once any species becomes extinct, it will never be able to regenerate. Once the species that still exist on our earth, especially those endangered species that are on the verge of extinction, disappear, mankind will lose these precious biological resources forever. However, the protection of biodiversity, especially the protection of endangered species, is of great strategic significance to future generations and scientific undertakings.
How to Protect Biodiversity
China is one of the countries with the richest biodiversity on earth. It occupies a very unique position in the world. In 1990, biodiversity experts ranked China the 8th among the 12 richest countries in the world. Among the countries in the northern hemisphere, China has the richest biodiversity. However, human activities have caused damages to biodiversity, so it is urgent to protect biodiversity.
- In Situ Conservation: In order to protect biodiversity, a certain area of land or water including protected objects is divided for protection and management. For example, the establishment of nature reserves to implement on-site protection. Nature reserves are representative natural systems and natural distribution areas of rare and endangered wildlife species, including different types of ecosystems such as natural relics, land, land water bodies and sea areas. Nature reserves also have important functions of scientific research, popular science propaganda and eco-tourism.
- Ex-situ Conservation: Ex-situ conservation is to implement artificially assisted protection of more precious species, species with ornamental value or their genes by establishing different forms of protection facilities such as zoos, botanical gardens, arboretums, wild zoos, seed banks, gene banks, aquariums, etc. in different places where biodiversity is distributed. The purpose of ex-situ conservation is only to find a temporary living space for the species to be extinct. When its vitality is restored and it has the ability to survive naturally, it is still necessary to let the protected return to the ecosystem.
- Build Gene Pool: People have begun to establish gene banks to realize their wish to preserve species. For example, in order to protect the cultivated species of crops and their extinct wild relatives, a global gene pool network has been established. Most gene banks store seeds of major crops such as cereals, potatoes and beans.
- Construct A Legal System: People must also use legal means to improve relevant legal systems to protect biodiversity. For example, we should strengthen the assessment and approval of the introduction of foreign species to realize unified supervision and management. To establish a fund system, to ensure that the state allocates special funds, to solicit donations and assistance from individuals, society and international organizations, and to provide strong economic support for the implementation of practical work.