Biohistories

Overview

How important is biodiversity?

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In nature, all forms of life perform functions that contribute to the balance of ecosystems and to the continuity of life cycles that we often take for granted. The maintenance and regulation of these balances suffices to explain how important is biodiversity.

Biological diversity directly influences the cycles that sustain life on the planet – biogeochemical cycles, such as water, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen – and to understand the importance of biodiversity there is nothing better than realising that we depend on it for almost everything, from the air we breathe to the water we drink.

The importance of biodiversity is evident from an ecological or environmental perspective, since its contribution is essential for regulating and maintaining many natural functions – the so-called ecosystem services – which include, among others, carbon sequestration and climate regulation, soil formation and conservation, air filtration, pest and disease control, and mitigating the impact of natural disasters.

Essential to life on Earth, biodiversity has a great influence on many other areas of our lives, such as the economy and health.

  • On an economic level, we depend on this diversity to obtain everything from raw materials to food, since much of the production activity that sustains us depends on the renewal of natural resources. Estimates from the World Economic Forum indicate that more than half of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) – in other words, half of the wealth produced globally, which corresponds to 40 trillion euros –is dependent on nature. The loss of biodiversity thus becomes a central issue in the life of companies, with impacts that extend to their operations and supply chains.
  • Our health is also dependent on biological diversity, since many medicines incorporate active ingredients derived from plants and microorganisms, with numerous substances of pharmacological interest discovered every year. On the other hand, scientific studies suggest that disturbances in habitats and their species – displacement of species caused by deforestation and the impact of climate change, for example – are associated with outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as Ebola or Zika. This is even one hypothesis that has been put forward for the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to humans.

With the reduction of biodiversity, every day we are running the risk of unknowingly losing products and services that could be of enormous benefit to our health and nutrition, and to our lives as a whole.

interior-biodiversidade

All species matter: here’s why

When talking about the importance of biodiversity, all forms of life count, even those that we are unaware of or that we are not necessarily drawn to. Why? Because all forms of life naturally present in a given ecosystem have intrinsic value and perform functions that remind us of the importance of biodiversity. Here are some examples:

  • Some of the microbes and fungi that live on earth are decomposers. Without them, all organic matter would forever remain intact on the ground. By decomposing organic matter into minerals, these beings fix and release nutrients. Part of these nutrients will feed other living organisms, including plants, which, in turn, provide habitat and food for animals.
  • Trees and plants also contribute to the continuity of the water cycle and the availability of drinking water. For example, through transpiration and evaporation (evapotranspiration), they return water to the atmosphere, which influences the climate (lowering temperature and regulating rainfall patterns), and their roots promote infiltration into underground reserves.
  • Pollinating species, which include bees, wasps, and beetles, among other animals, support the pollination of 75% of agricultural crops. Their extinction would have dramatic consequences for food production.

Biodiversity and sustainability

Humanity has been using nature for millennia to feed, heat, build shelter, and even alleviate pain, but the importance of biodiversity in maintaining the balance of the natural systems that provide these necessities has never been more evident.

The use of different species for the intrinsic value and usefulness they provide is as old as humanity itself, but when you take from nature without putting back, you walk towards the extinction of species and the exhaustion of resources. Recognizing the importance of biodiversity means seeing it as a structural link of sustainability, which must be maintained so that nature’s cycles can be continually renewed.

The practices applied in Navigator forests are part of this vision, reconciling plantations intended for production and conservation areas. Under integrated and sustainable management, these two aspects combine ecosystem goods and services: raw materials that boost production activity and employment (such as fibre and wood) and regulatory, provisioning, and maintenance services on which the human species depends.

biodiversidade

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