Biodiversity has long remained the distinguishing factor of many natural locations, such as the Amazon Rainforest. The issue? It could be killing us.
by Aashna Chudgar
Biodiversity, as you can assume from its name, is the diversity of plants and animals in specific ecosystems and habitats. For example, while you may expect to see red-eyed frogs and thick rivers in the Amazon, you may see lions and dried yellow grass in the African Savannah, or red rock and kangaroos in the Australian Outback. Unfortunately, due to many factors, humans being the main one, many of these habitats are actively being destroyed and polluted in order to create more human conquest, and further our presence on the planet. This leads to the endangerment of different species, pollution of environments, and climate change.
Now, contrary to popular belief, with all of the environmental support that biodiversity provides, there are also side effects that come with the current standard of biodiversity. Although it is true that biodiversity provides us with biological resources, ecosystem services, and social benefits, with new variance in biodiversity, it is much easier to contract a disease or pathogen.
Which brings us to our trilemma: should we encourage human activism to increase biodiversity, try to limit its effects in order to protect, or simply back away and let nature do what it pleases? Let’s find out.
The Naturalist Perspective
Obviously, naturalists would be a group of people that are largely vocal about an issue regarding the environment. One important reason is because diversity is what powers the Nitrogen Cycle. The Nitrogen Cycle is the relationship between plants, soil, decomposer bacteria, and other life. Nitrogen in the atmosphere is absorbed by plants and the soil. Denitrifying and nitrifying regulate how much nitrogen goes into the plants themselves, how much is stored in the soil as ammonium nitrate, and how much goes back into the atmosphere. The nitrogen that goes into plants is then consumed by animals which provide them with the nitrogen they need in order to survive, one of these animals being the cattle that provide you with milk and beef. The excessive introduction of livestock contributes to the uneven distribution of nitrogen, and many believe the only way to help reverse human damage is human proactiveness.
Biodiversity is also essential to ecosystems. A classification of biodiversity, pollinators, is essential to the environment. This includes animals such as bees, butterflies, and fruit flies that distribute pollen to plants and fertilize them. However, due to human destruction, bees have seen massive declines in population. According to globalissues, these pollinators are responsible for fertilizing ⅓ of all of our food. On top of providing biological resources, these pollinators are a huge reason why ecosystems are sustained. The fertilization they provide by spreading pollen is essential to the development of plants and actually keeping them alive. Another classification is large carnivores. As opposed to pollinators, instead of sustaining life, they actually make sure that the population of certain species doesn’t get too high by, well…eating them. Again, because of human interference, they have seen massive population declines, especially lions, leopards, wolves, and bears. Globalissues notes that ¾ of large carnivore species have seen massive declines.
The Humanitarian Perspective
Biodiversity itself does pose some negative effects on human beings, the main one being that biodiversity introduces many harmful pathogens to humans. Scientists have categorized the emergence and impacts of these pathogens into seven categories. Biodiversity increases the number of cases, the number of negative effects, the geographical region affected, the rate of evolution, the earliness in human detection, the change in clinical and medical composition, and discovery of many different zoonotic pathogens. All of these categories have increased at a speedingly high rate according to ecosphere which quotes Rosenthal. The main non-human factor that increases these effects are vertebrae hosts such as mosquitoes, mice, and even some monkeys that carry diseases at an alarmingly high rate.
Zoonotic pathogens are pathogens carried by animals that are transmitted to humans. Basic biology shows us that diversity in hosts leads to diversity of
pathogens that can infect animals. Diversity of pathogens leads to diversity of zoonotic pathogens. And an increase in zoonotic pathogens leads to an increase in pathogen emergence in humans. Now, according to Jones from ecosphere, there is a relationship between the graph of zoonotic diseases and biodiversity. As you can see, the higher the specificity of hosts and, the more linear and upward rising the amount of pathogens is. This increase of diversity may be detrimental to general human well-being. Limiting the current amount of biodiversity by either continuing or further expanding the amount of human impact there has been on the environment could be necessary.
The Neutral Stance
According to globalissues, “Nature can often be surprisingly resilient, often without the need for human interventions.” This can extend to both environmentalist and humanitarian perspectives. Sometimes, we don’t need to interfere in order to make sure that nature returns to normal, sometimes it can heal itself. And other times, it’s okay to let nature develop in ways that may not be particularly friendly to certain species. The only thing it will do is challenge humans to find even more ways to keep themselves safe and healthy.
Self-centered humans find ways to hurt innocent creatures, and in turn, the sour environment finds ways to hurt innocent humans. It’s a never-ending cycle of casualties, and we can never predict who’s going to get hurt. Both environmentalists and humanitarian activists will agree that nature and humans are two things that shouldn’t have merged in the way that they did.
So what do you think? Is biodiversity natural, or will it turn into a natural disaster?