Created by Dr. Leah Gerber + The Conservation Innovation Lab at ASU

So, what does biodiversity mean?

Imagine the enormous variety of lifeforms on Earth, every single thing ranging from tiny microbes to giant mammals and ecosystems. At its core, that is what describes the term biodiversity.  Now, consider an ecosystem, a community of living species living together and interacting with one another in their environment. Each organism within an ecosystem works together to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity Conservation is the safeguarding of species, their habitats, and the ecosystems that support them.

Why does it matter?

Biodiversity is essential to the balance of ecosystems on Earth. Protecting biodiversity means fostering a healthy environment with clean air, water, natural resources, and shelter so that humans and other species can thrive. For example, many medicines and resources we use today are derived from plants and the health of the systems that support them. If these plants and animals are in an environment jeopardized by destruction, species can become extinct altogether.

Understanding how human-driven actions such as pollution, deforestation, climate change, and population growth directly threaten biodiversity is incredibly important. For example, the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, coined the “lungs of the planet” is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and is home to over 3 million species. The lack of environmental regulations on the agricultural lobbyists has allowed illegal logging, destroying 17% of the forest by encroaching on indigenous land and clear-cutting trees. Scientists have estimated that the Amazon could become a savanna if this trend continues. This shift to a dry environment would lack the support needed by the millions of species that thrive in the Amazon.

Threats to biodiversity prove risks to companies as well. Natural capital means protecting the ecosystem services and natural resources a company depends on to run its business operations. These risks can include disruption of operations because of the scarcity of natural resources, restricted access to land and resources, and market risks such as supply chain disturbances. In short, companies risk themselves and their investors if they fail to maintain and steward the ecosystem services and resources provided by protecting and preserving biodiversity. 

What should we do about it?

There would be no life on Earth without biological diversity. Though it may not often be visible to most people, the variety of life on Earth provides us with the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the shelter we require. Studies show that this diversity of life is disappearing at rates similar to that of mass extinction events that have occurred in the past. 

Global biodiversity loss is occurring at a rate that is 1,000 times greater than the estimated rate of species extinction. This crisis now threatens the sustainability of our planet and the foundations of our future prosperity – from food security to access to clean water to our ability to adapt to climate change. As unprecedented shifts in climate and ecosystems occur, human-made stressors will continue to interact with natural processes in ways that are poorly understood.

But there is good news. By implementing actions throughout our daily lives to ensure we are using natural resources at a rate in which the Earth can renew them, we can help preserve the biodiversity of species and ecosystems.  Biodiversity protection occurs when we work together. And it turns out it’s pretty easy! Here are some ways you can support biodiversity conservation today and every day: 

1. Incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet – Good chives only!

The global food system can play a significant role in driving biodiversity loss. There seems to be a race to produce mass amounts of food at the lowest prices. Unfortunately, this comes at an environmental cost that degrades soils, wildlife, and entire ecosystems. Adopting a plant-based diet can mitigate the effects of biodiversity loss by reducing emissions, preventing deforestation efforts, and allowing 75% of the world’s cropland to be rewilded. The United Nations Environmental Assembly stated that plant-based burgers require 75-99 percent less water, 93-99 percent less land, and generate 87-90 percent fewer emissions than regular beef burgers. 

  • Eating a plant-based meal once a day can help reduce your carbon footprint, provide essential nutrients for your diet, and allow you to experiment with tasty food combinations.
  • Checking out a plant-based cookbook at your local library is a great way to gain meal inspiration.
  • Finding some plant-based influencers on social media is a perfect way to be inspired and collect new recipes. 
  • Eat the rainbow! Incorporating various colors of fruits and vegetables into your diet is linked to greater nutrients and numerous health benefits.

2. Reduce your water consumption – Water you waiting for?

The overconsumption and overuse of water is a significant driver of biodiversity loss. Millions of other species, including humans, depend on freshwater for survival. When an ecosystem loses a substantial portion of its freshwater sources, a large percentage of the species within it will die out and, in some cases, go extinct. This significant die-off can then lead to a decrease in a region’s biodiversity. Educating yourself about your water consumption and implementing some easy lifestyle changes can help you do your part to stop biodiversity loss.

  • For tips on reducing water conservation in your daily life, visit our Water Conservation Guide. 
  • Try reducing your consumption of red meat. 
  • Turn the tap off while shaving or brushing your teeth.
  • Fill a pitcher with water and keep it in your fridge to avoid wasting water while waiting for the tap to run cool. 
  • Thaw food in your fridge overnight vs. under running tap water. 
  • Always make sure to fully load your dishwasher. 
  • Time your showers and keep them under 4-5 minutes.

3. Communicate with your government representatives – I’m once again asking for your biodiversity support.

If we do not safeguard our ecosystems and tackle the driving factors of biodiversity loss now, many life-supporting systems on Earth will be at risk. Policies implemented by governments can directly affect critical natural resources and habitats. Governments can manage protected areas by creating directives to protect endangered species and wildlife, devising urban growth boundaries, and implementing restoration efforts. Here are a few ways to get involved in your government’s decision-making!

  • Attending protests centered around social justice and environmental issues are a great way to build connections with organizations and non-profits that focus on environmental restoration and speak with local representatives about climate policies. 
  • There are likely groups in your area that are working to communicate with your government, here are a few ideas to get you started:

The Sierra Club is an environmental organization in all 50 states that influences policy through community activism and research. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global environmental organization that advances nonpartisan policy solutions that focus on conserving the land and water that many species depend on. 

Jane Goodall Institute has a mission to support wildlife education and conservation. Founded by world-renowned primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, this organization trains people in forest monitoring technology, provides scholarships to young women, and publishes scientific papers to inspire hope in the global community. 

World Wildlife Fund is a nongovernmental organization that focuses on advocating for climate policy as well as restoring species and their habitats. 

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