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i4n The Earthshot Prize 2023

Understanding Biodiversity:
Definitions, Significance, and Global Impact

Biological diversity refers to the variety of life on Earth, including the variety of species and ecosystems, and genetic diversity within species. It encompasses the different plants, animals, microorganisms, and the ecosystems they form. Biodiversity is crucial for the health and resilience of our planet because each species plays a unique role in maintaining ecological balance and providing various ecosystem services.

The Essence of Biodiversity

Ecosystems are highly complex and the interactions between species and the ecosystems they live in, and in-between species are numerous and often difficult to picture. This is why most conservation or restoration projects focus on one type of biodiversity or one species, using what we call an umbrella species: polar bears, bees or turtles for example. While these species are in danger due to global warming and human impact, they are also the cute face of a broader endangered ecosystem and variety of species.

FOCUS: Polar Bears and Ecosystem Dynamics
Polar bears for example represent the issue of melting sea ice in the Arctic and the resulting loss of habitat which impacts many other species such as birds, fish, sea mammals, and plankton, and has a global impact through rising sea levels and albedo losses. The disappearance of polar bears would also impact other species such as seals for whom they are the main predator or wolves with whom they compete for food. An increase in the seal population would have a consequent trophic level impact on the food chain (e.g. invertebrates, fish, and plankton).

Artic Impact Assessment

Cascading Effects on Ecosystems

A change in just one population can have an even broader impact on the ecosystem itself. For example, the reintroduction of a pack of wolves to the Yellowstone National Park in the USA and how it has changed the shape of rivers is a clear illustration of this interconnectedness. Watch a video on this remarkable transformation here.

Biodiversity's Role in Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services

Biological diversity supports the provision of natural capital such as food, wood, energy and ecosystem services such as the pollination of crops, water purification and climate regulation. Businesses, whether they are involved in agriculture, pharmaceuticals or any other industry, depend on biodiversity for resources and services to sustain their operations. In addition, biodiversity is closely linked to cultural and recreational values, providing aesthetic and spiritual benefits.

Beyond Environmental Concern:

Recognising and preserving biodiversity is not only a matter of environmental concern but also has economic implications. If you need help to figure out what biodiversity means to your business, contact us.
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In conclusion, biodiversity is not just a scientific concept but a cornerstone of our planet’s health, resilience, and economic sustainability. Understanding its intricacies is essential for fostering a harmonious coexistence between humanity and the natural world.

Coralie Delacoste