Details for FAMILY FOCUS COVER 14
What’s biodiversity and why is it important? sity is essential for human survival: • Food. The plants and animals we consume are products of Earth’s biodiversity. For example, without insects to pollinate crops or bats to control pests, the agriculture industry as we know it wouldn’t exist. Plus, hundreds of millions of people rely on wildlife for sustenance. When a species dies out, many other species may lose a food source. • Air. Humans and other animals depend on photosynthesizing organisms to produce the oxygen we breathe. Different plant species also absorb pollutants from the air, including excess carbon emissions. T his year’s theme for Earth Day (April 22, 2019) is Protect Our Species, a message that provokes us to consider the ways in which we can help endangered species on our planet. Biodiversity — or the amazing variety of plants, animals and microorganisms that live and interact on the earth’s surface — is essential to the sustainability of all life forms. In fact, the rich variety of species on our planet is a key part of what makes Earth habitable for human beings. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat all rely on multiple organisms interacting with each other every day. Here are some of the reasons why biodiver- • Water. Our fresh water supply also depends on diverse ecosystems. For instance, wetland ecosystems perform a process called phytoremediation, which naturally removes toxic chemicals from water and soil. Waterways with more spe- cies have also been shown to be more effective at removing nitrogen pollution. • Raw materials. Biodiversity gives access to a wide range of raw materials, including wood, biofuels, fibers and plant oils. Materials from different species offer different benefits, such as harder or softer woods or cooking oils with different smoke points. • Medicine. Medical researchers study different plants, animals, fungi and bacteria in order to make discoveries and uncover new medicines and vaccines. When a species becomes extinct, the possibility that it could be used to produce new medical resources disappears forever. Unfortunately, Earth’s biodiversity is under threat. Scientists believe that a mass extinction brought about by the effects of human industrialization is currently underway. However, we can take steps to stop it. To learn about what you can do to help conserve biodiversity in the United States and around the world, visit earthday.org.