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EnviroAtlas

EnviroAtlas Benefit Category: Biodiversity Conservation

Biodiversity underpins all ecosystems and their services

 Stressors and drivers of change 

 The benefits of conserving biodiversity

  • Biodiversity supports food security and sustained livelihoods through overall genetic diversity.
    • Genes regulate all biological processes on the planet and increase the ability of organisms to cope with environmental stressors.
    • Preserving genetic diversity ensures the continuing existence of a wide-range of crops that may be able to withstand disease, and potentially useful biochemicals such as those used in healthcare. It also means availability of species for pollination and pest control. Losses in genetic diversity will decrease organisms' coping ability and risk losing potentially beneficial biological information3.
  • Biodiversity has greatly contributed to modern medicine and advancements in human health research and treatment.
    • Many modern pharmaceuticals are derived from plant species, including the anti-tumor agent Taxol from the Pacific yew tree, the anti-malarial artemisinin from sweet wormwood, and the cardiac drug digoxin from the digitalis plant.
    • Pharmaceuticals can also be derived from non-plant species, such as the drug ziconotide, which has been highly effective in relieving nerve pain and severe pain in cancer patients and is derived from the venom of predatory cone snails4.
    • Without the species that provide these drugs, it is possible that treatments for ailments like malaria, tuberculosis, cancerous tumors, congestive heart failure and multiple other illnesses may never have been discovered.
    • As conversion of habitats and subsequent losses in diversity take place, the potential for losing cures for some of the world's most troubling ailments increases.
  • In addition to the many medicinal benefits from biodiversity, human health can be positively affected simply by spending time in outdoor environments, which has been linked to increases in life satisfaction and happiness, and decreases in blood pressure, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease symptoms.
  • Conserving biodiversity and protecting a wide range of habitats maintains the many benefits that this diversity provides for all species. Highly diverse environments, such as Yellowstone National Park, are prime ecosystems that support many species in addition to being aesthetically beautiful, educational, and interesting recreation sites.
  • Biodiversity conservation efforts are essential in maintaining functioning ecosystems, a steady food supply, and the multiple other benefits including aesthetics, recreation, and spiritual purposes to Native American tribal nations5.

References

  1. Rosser Alison and Mainka, SA. 2002. Overexploitation and Species Extinctions. Conservation Biology, vol 16 (3), p 584 - 6.
  2. FAO. 2010. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: 2010Exit Accessed March 2013.
  3. Groom M J, Meffe G K, & Carroll, C R. 2006. Principles of Conservation Biology, 3rd ed. Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA: Sinauer Associates.
  4. Co-operation on Health and Biodiversity. 2010. Biodiversity and Human Health Policy BriefExit. Accessed March 2013.
  5. United Nations Environment Program. 2005. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Current State and Trends. CH 4: BiodiversityExit. Accessed March 2013.