What is biodiversity?

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“Biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters. Its loss also affects us culturally and spiritually. This may be more difficult to quantify, but is nonetheless integral to our well-being”

– Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Put simply, Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth. It is essential for sustaining the natural living systems or ecosystems that provide us with food, clean water, fuel, health, wealth, and other services we take for granted in our everyday life.

Biodiversity is the basis of human existence, our life support system.  Ecosystems regulate climatic processes, breakdown wastes and recycle nutrients, filter and purify water, buffer against flooding, maintain soil fertility, purify air, and provide natural resources such as wood, textiles, and of course food.   All agriculture depends fundamentally on Biodiversity, as do marine and freshwater food resources.   To allow continued biodiversity loss means loosing the essential services that biodiversity provides, and prevents handing down an invaluable gift to future generations. 
Biodiversity is currently being lost at an unprecedented rate globally, and Ireland is no exception. The decline in biodiversity has been more rapid in the past 50 years than ever before in human history and human activity is leading to increased extinction rates.  Biodiversity loss in Ireland is caused mainly by;

  • Habitat destruction (for example through construction and wetland drainage or infilling)
  • Invasive alien species (such as Japanese Knott Weed and Zebra Mussel)
  • Pollution (for example from use of excess fertilizer leading to excessive levels of nutrients in soil and water)
  • Land use change (such as conversion of land to plantation forestry or agriculture)
  • Unsustainable and excessive consumption
  • Climate Change

Ireland’s biodiversity stems in large part from the exceptional diversity of its geology – the bedrock that underlies the landscape. This has shaped our landscape with its mountains, rivers and very varied coastline. As a result of this variety, we have an exceptional diversity of habitats, given the size of the island. The second factor influencing our diversity is our mild, moist climate which allows unusual combinations of plants and animals to survive. For example, in the Burren, County Clare, arctic-alpine plants are found side-by-side with species that are otherwise more common in Mediterranean countries. 
adminWhat is biodiversity?