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Biodiversity: Diversity Of Life On Earth

Preface:
Biodiversity also known as biological diversity is the variables that exist among several species living in the ecosystem. These living organisms include marine, terrestrial and aquatic life. Biodiversity aims to understand the positions these organisms occupy in the broader ecosystem.

The growing population, industrialization, technology, etc., all are impacting biodiversity.

The increased human activities have been reducing the natural area for plants, animals and other living things. A number of plants and animals have gone extinct because of increased deforestation and other factors. Growing pollution, causing global warming and climate change, is a big threat to biodiversity. The decline in biodiversity would in turn lead to imbalance in the ecosystem and would become a threat to the human race as well as other living organisms.

When there is biodiversity in our ecosystem it translates to a greener environment. This is because plant life thrives in a balanced ecosystem. This invariably affects humans as we consume plants for our survival. Also, a healthy ecosystem can help to reduce the risk of diseases and the way we respond to them.

If proper care is not taken, the biodiversity of Earth may become extinct one day and if it happens then, humans have to find another planet to live. It's better to act now before it gets too late.

Introduction:
If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.

"Biodiversity is the variation among living organisms from different sources including terrestrial, marine and desert ecosystems, and the ecological complexes of which they are a part."- David Suzuki

Biodiversity describes the richness and variety of life on earth. It is the most complex and important feature of our planet. Without biodiversity, life would not sustain. It holds ecological and economic significance. Therefore, it is very important to have a good knowledge of biodiversity for a sustainable livelihood.

The word biodiversity is a contraction of the phrase "biological diversity" and was first coined in 1985 by Walter Rosen of the National Research Council as a title word in a seminar he was organizing to discuss biological diversity. Human Rights Commission organise a convention for the conversation of biological diversity and was first adopted on1992 and came into force in 1993. It is important in natural as well as artificial ecosystems. It deals with nature's variety, the biosphere. It refers to variabilities among plants, animals and microorganism species. It provides us with nourishment, housing, fuel, clothing and several other resources. It also extracts monetary benefits through tourism. It includes the number of different organisms and their relative frequencies in an ecosystem. It also reflects the organization of organisms at different levels.

Biodiversity is a contraction of biological diversity. It is important in all ecosystems, not only in those that are "natural" such as national parks or natural preserves, but also in those that are managed by humans, such as farms and plantations, and even urban parks. It reflects the number, variety and variability of living organisms and how these change from one location to another and over time.

Biodiversity is the basis of the multiple benefits provided by ecosystems to humans. Biodiversity includes diversity within species (genetic diversity), between species (species diversity), and between ecosystems (ecosystem diversity).

Biodiversity is difficult to quantify precisely even with the tools and data sources that are available. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than ten percent of earth's surface, and contain about ninety percent of the world's species. Marine biodiversity is usually higher along coasts in the Western Pacific, where sea surface temperature is highest, and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans.

There are many measures of biodiversity; species richness (the number of species in a given area) represents a single but important metric that is valuable as the common currency of the diversity of life-but it must be integrated with other metrics to fully capture biodiversity. But precise answers are seldom needed to sufficiently understand biodiversity, how it is changing, and the causes and consequences of such change.

Types of Biodiversity:

There are the following three different types of biodiversity:

  1. Genetic Biodiversity
  2. Species Biodiversity
  3. Ecological Biodiversity
Geneticmeans related to traits passed from parent to offspring.

Diversity means having a range of different things.

[1]Genetic Biodiversity refers to the range of different inherited traits within a species. In a species with high genetic diversity, there would be many individuals with a wide variety of different traits.

Genetic diversity serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments. With more variation, it is more likely that some individuals in a population will possess variations of alleles that are suited for the environment. Those individuals are more likely to survive to produce offspring bearing that allele. The population will continue for more generations because of the success of these individuals

[2]Species Biodiversity is defined as the number of species and abundance of each species that live in a particular location. The number of species that live in a certain location is called species richness. If you were to measure the species richness of a forest, you might find 20 bird species, 50 plant species, and 10 mammal species. Abundance is the number of individuals of each species. For example, there might be 100 mountain beavers that live in a forest. You can talk about species diversity on a small scale, like a forest, or on a large scale, like the total diversity of species living on Earth.

Ecological Biodiversity Ecological biodiversity is the diversity of ecosystems, natural communities, and habitats. The forests of Maine differ from the forests of Colorado by the types of species found in both ecosystems, as well as the temperature and rainfall. In essence, it's the variety of ways that species interact with each other and their environment These two seemingly similar ecosystems have a lot of differences that make them both special.

Current Trend in Biodiversity:

By the late 21st century, distributions of European plant species are projected to have shifted several hundred kilometres to the north, forests are likely to have contracted in the south and expanded in the north, and 60 % of mountain plant species may face extinction. The rate of change will exceed the ability of many species to adapt, especially as landscape fragmentation may restrict movement.

[3]A combination of the rate of climate change, habitat fragmentation and other obstacles will impede the movement of many animal species, possibly leading to a progressive decline in European biodiversity. Distribution changes are projected to continue. Suitable climatic conditions for Europe's breeding birds are projected to shift nearly 550 km northeast by the end of the century, with the average range size shrinking by 20 %. Projections for 120 native European mammals suggest that up to 9 % (assuming no migration) risk extinction during the 21st century.
  • Across the range of biodiversity measures, current rates of loss exceed those of the historical past by several orders of magnitude and show no indication of slowing.
  • Biodiversity is declining rapidly due to land use change, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation, and pollution. These result from demographic, economic, socio-political, cultural, technological, and other indirect drivers.
  • While these drivers vary in their importance among ecosystems and regions, current trends indicate a continuing loss of biodiversity.

Across the range of biodiversity measures, current rates of change and loss exceed those of the historical past by several orders of magnitude and show no indication of slowing. At large scales, across biogeographic realms and ecosystems (biomes), declines in biodiversity are recorded in all parts of the habitable world. Among well-studied groups of species, extinction rates of organisms are high and increasing (medium certainty), and at local levels both populations and habitats are most commonly found to be in decline

Rates of human conversion among biomes have remained similar over at least the last century. For example, boreal forests had lost very little native habitat cover up to 1950 and have lost only a small additional percentage since then. In contrast, the temperate grasslands biome had lost nearly 70% of its native cover by 1950 and lost an additional 15.4% since then. Two biomes appear to be exceptions to this pattern: Mediterranean forests and temperate broadleaf forests. Both had lost the majority of their native habitats by 1950 but since then have lost less than 2.5% additional habitat.

These biomes contain many of the world's most established cities and most extensive surrounding agricultural development (Europe, the United States, the Mediterranean basin, and China). It is possible that in these biomes the most suitable land for agriculture had already been converted by 1950.

Importance of Biodiversity:

Biodiversity plays an important role in ecosystem functions that provide supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural services. These services are essential for human well-being. However, at present there are few studies that link changes in biodiversity with changes in ecosystem functioning to changes in human well-being. Further work that demonstrates the links between biodiversity, regulating and supporting services, and human well-being is needed to show this vital but often unappreciated value of biodiversity.

[4]Biodiversity, the diversity of life on Earth, is essential to the healthy functioning of ecosystems. Habitat loss and overexploitation, driven by our rapid population growth and unsustainable consumption patterns, are the primary causes of biodiversity loss which is now happening up to ten thousand times faster than for millions of years before.

The issues of biodiversity raise many challenges. The unthinking rush, which some are engaged in, to plant large quantities of the same type of tree all in the same area is not the solution. This is only going to create other ecological problems and does not address the issue of biodiversity.

Our biodiversity is very important to the well-being of our planet. Most cultures, at least at some time, have recognized the importance of conserving natural resources. Many still do, but many do not.
  • Increase ecosystem productivity; each species in an ecosystem has a specific niche-a role to play.
  • Support a larger number of plant species and, therefore, a greater variety of crops.
  • Protect freshwater resources.
  • Promote soils formation and protection.
  • Provide for nutrient storage and recycling.
  • Aid in breaking down pollutants.
  • Contribute to climate stability.
  • Speed recovery from natural disasters.
  • Provide more food resources.
  • Provide more medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Offer environments for recreation and tourism.

Biodiversity has become an important issue on the global arena. The importance of biodiversity is increasingly being recognised as of vital concern on the local, national and international levels. The challenge is how to find practical and workable ways to increase biological diversity. Obviously, action needs to be taken on the governmental level. However, there are also ways that individuals, and groups of individuals can begin to act on their own right and help create ecological change and increase biodiversity.

Actions taken to conserve the biodiversity:

[5]Biodiversity provides humanity and our economies with the resources needed to thrive. However, the planet is experiencing a great loss of biodiversity due to overfishing, deforestation and pollution. Humans and our planet's ecosystem are inextricably linked and as our planet warms, the threat to ecosystems is a threat to us. It's crucial for corporations to make strides to protect biodiversity.

Success depends on a collaborative management approach between government and stakeholders, an adaptive approach that tests options in the field, comprehensive monitoring that provides information on management success or failure, and empowerment of local communities through an open and transparent system that clarifies access and ownership of resources.

The impact of market instruments in encouraging and achieving conservation of biodiversity is unclear. Although tradable development rights offer the potential to achieve a conservation objective at a low cost by offering flexibility in achieving the objectives, they have been the subject of some criticisms-notably for being complex and involving high transaction costs and the establishment of new supporting institutions.

For example, a situation could arise in which the most ecologically sensitive land but also the least costly to develop would not be protected. To date, the TDR has not been designed to target specific habitat types and properties.

Protected areas may contribute to poverty where rural people are excluded from resources that have traditionally supported their well-being. However, PAs can contribute to improved livelihoods when they are managed to benefit local people. Relations with local people should be addressed more effectively through participatory consultation and planning. One possible strategy is to promote the broader use of IUCN protected areas management categories.

Governance approaches to support biodiversity conservation and sustainable use are required at all levels, with supportive laws and policies developed by central governments providing the security of tenure and authority essential for sustainable management at lower levels. At the same time that management of some ecosystem services is being devolved to lower levels, management approaches are also evolving to deal with large-scale processes with many stakeholders. Problems such as regional water scarcity and conservation of large ecosystems require large-scale management structures.

Legal systems in countries are multi-layered and, in many countries, local practices or informal institutions may be much stronger than the law on paper. Since these are embedded in the local societies, changing these customs and customary rights through external incentive and disincentive schemes is very difficult unless the incentives are very carefully designed. Local knowledge, integrated with other scientific knowledge, becomes absolutely critical for addressing ways of managing local ecosystems.
Success of protected areas as a response to biodiversity loss requires better site selection and incorporation of regional trade-offs to avoid some ecosystems from being poorly represented while others are overrepresented.

Convention On Biological Diversity, 1992:

[6]Conscious of the intrinsic value of biological diversity and of the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values of biological diversity and its components.

The objective of the convention, to be pursued in accordance with its relevant provisions, are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fail and equitable sharing of the appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, talking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding.

"Biological Diversity" means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Biological resources, include genetic resources, organisms or parts, thereof, populations or any other biotic components of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity. "Biotechnology" means any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or, derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or process for specific use.

State have in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign rights to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibilities to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Subject to the rights except as otherwise expressly provided in this Convention the provisions of this Conventions apply, in relation to each contracting party:
  1. In the case of components of biological diversity, in areas within the limits of its national jurisdiction's; and
  2. In the case of process and activities, regardless of where their effects occur, carried out under its jurisdiction or control, within the areas within the area of its national jurisdictions or beyond the limits of national jurisdictions.

Provided that it has been fully restructured in accordance with the requirements of Article 21, the Global Environment Facility of the United Nation Development Programme, the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development shall be instituted structured referred to in Article 21 on the interim basis, for the period between the entry into force of this Conventions and first meeting of the Conference of the parties or until the Conference of the Parties decides which institutional structure will be designated in accordance with Article 21.

Conclusion:
Human actions are fundamentally, and to a significant extent irreversibly, changing the diversity of life on Earth, and most of these changes represent a loss of biodiversity. Changes in important components of biological diversity were more rapid in the past 50 years than at any time in human history. Projections and scenarios indicate that these rates will continue, or accelerate, in the future.

Many of the actions that have been taken to conserve biodiversity and promote its sustainable use have been successful in limiting biodiversity loss and homogenization to rates lower than they would otherwise have been in the absence of such actions. However, further significant progress will require a portfolio of actions that build on cur-rent initiatives to address important direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and ecosystem service degradation. Less biodiversity would exist today had not communities, NGOs, governments, and, to a growing extent, business and industry taken actions to conserve biodiversity, mitigate its loss, and support its sustainable use.

The drivers of loss of biodiversity and the drivers of changes in ecosystem services are either steady, show no evidence of declining over time, or are increasing in intensity.

In the aggregate and at a global scale, there are five indirect drivers of changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services: demo-graphic, economic, socio political, cultural and religious, and scientific and technological

Improved valuation techniques and information on ecosystem services tells us that although many individuals benefit from the actions and activities that lead to biodiversity loss and ecosystem change, the costs borne by society of such changes is often higher. Even in instances where our knowledge of benefits and costs is incomplete, the use of the precautionary approach may be warranted when the costs associated with ecosystem changes may be high or the changes irreversible.

Biodiversity contributes directly (through provisioning, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services) and indirectly (through supporting ecosystem services) to many constituents of human well-being, including security, basic material for a good life, health, good social relations, and freedom of choice and action. Many people have benefited over the last century from the conversion of natural ecosystems to human-dominated ecosystems and the exploitation of biodiversity. At the same time, however, these losses in biodiversity and changes in ecosystem services have caused some people to experience declining well-being, with poverty in some social groups being exacerbated.

End-Notes:
  1. Available at - https://imet.usmd.edu/activities/what-genetic-diversity - on 08.08.2021 at 17.00 hours
  2. Available at - https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-species-diversity-definition-importance-examples.html - 07.08.2021 at 13.00 hours.
  3. Available at - https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/change-in-species-diversity-as/what-are-trends-in-biodiversity - 07.08.2021 at 14.00 hours.
  4. Available at - https://populationmatters.org/the-facts/biodiversity?gclid=Cj0KCQjwu7OIBhCsARIsALxCUaN25wqP84SZ4v7tnDuqZXVxsU3oPX22M2pbdVt_-q1o4tw0S69RF6caApmoEALw_wcB –on 08.08.2021 – 18.00hours.
  5. Available at – Book on Environment Law by H.N Tiwari – at 08.08.2021 on 18.10 hours
  6. Available at – Book on Environmental Law – Environment Protection and Sustainable Development – Allahabad Law Agency by Dr. P.S Jaiswal and Dr. Nishta Jaiswal – on 08.08.2021 at 18.04hours.
Written By: Anmol Kumar Shaw - LL.M (Final Year) at Cooch Behar Panchanan Barma University, West Bengal
Email Id – [email protected]

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