We are discovering new forms of life every day. However, we are also killing off many more than we are discovering. The sad thing is that most people don’t see this as much of a problem. They don’t realize that maintaining a high level of biodiversity is essential for all life on planet earth.
Most people know what happens when there is not enough diversity in a gene pool. You often see it in purebred dogs. People joke about it when talking about the British royal family. Lack of diversity leads to disease and illness. Conversely, high genetic diversity leads to healthier, heartier offspring.
What is biodiversity? It “refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary.”
Many species adapt, but not all do, and not to the same extent. One might imagine mutated, glowing fish with one eye. However, that’s not what we see in reality. We see bacteria that can exist inside of a volcano and animals that can actually survive trapped in ice for years.
However, those are the exceptions. Consider an animal such as the polar bear. Their numbers are rapidly dropping due to a shrinking habitat. However, the real numbers of species going extinct is staggering. The number may be “between 5 and 30 million species, of which only 1.3 million have been named,” according to Edward O. Wilson, author of the book “Biodiversity.”
He points out that there may be more than 5 million species of insects living in tropical rain forests and that we need many of these animals to pollinate, fertilize and aerate soil. They are even eaten as food for other animals. Sadly, we may never meet some of these amazing creatures as their habitats are being destroyed before we even discover them.
There may be some hope for the future, however. Pharmaceutical companies are putting more money into research in hopes of discovering the next breakthrough medicine. They often discover plants with medicinal properties in remote areas of the rainforest or jungle. They want to preserve these wild places and species in the hopes of a breakthrough.
Plus, the number of people who understand the problem is on the rise. Saving the environment goes hand in hand with preserving biodiversity. Animals whose habitats remain intact do not die off. That includes our own habitat.