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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.

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