Suyac Island Mangroves Project, Philippines.
In celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May 2018, we are focusing our discussion on Biodiversity which is an important topic to preserve and conserve our flora and fauna to reach a more sustainable development.
Biodiversity is the second in a series of lectures that I will be conducting here. This is aimed at getting basic knowledge that will enable us to better understand what Biodiversity is all about. There are several definitions of the word Biodiversity. Initially, the term is a combination of two words Biology and Diversity. In this discussion, we are going to adopt the definitions coming from The Free Dictionary From Farlex.
1. Biodiversity refers to the number and variety of organisms found within a specified geographical region. For example, the forests of Yosemite National Park. For centuries, thousands of organisms lived in the park, from the microorganisms to the tallest trees and the quick flying birds, among others. The biodiversity however might be different from what the forests of Kanlaon National Park in the Philippines have.
2. Biodiversity refers to the variability among living organisms on the earth, including the variety within and between species and within and between ecosystems.
Let us have a look at the definition now of the word Biology. According to the Collins English Dictionary, Biology is the study of living organism, including their structure, functioning, evolution, distribution, and interrelationships.
Biology: Word Origin & History
Biology is from Greek word bios “life” and logia “study of”. It was suggested by German naturalist G. Reinhold Treviranus and introduced as a scientific term that year in France by Lamarck.
So, if Biodiversity refers to the various species existing in a given ecosystem and biology is the study of these living organisms, then the word Biodiversity implies a study of the collection, variety of living organisms and their structure, functioning, evolution, distribution, and interrelationships.
I also wish to focus, on the concept of “interrelationships” because I felt that species’ interrelationship in a specific ecosystem is important in their health and thriving, so to speak. For example, in late 70’s the government introduced golden snail, locally known in my province as “kuhol”, to the farmers. The “promise” was it demands a lucrative price in the gourmet world. So, it is a source of income. The farmers did not think of the snails’ ability to co-exist with other species in the ecosystem – inland waters, wetlands, rice fields, etcetera. But many years after it was introduced to the farmers, the true nature of golden snail or “kuhol” was revealed – its capacity to destroy other species in the ecosystem. Its demand in the gourmet world also diminished. More reasons that they were left alone to multiply. So, they were found everywhere – inland waters, wetlands, rice farms, and many others. Now, farmers want them eliminated.
This is where human intervention is important in the way of relating to Biodiversity as a whole and the interrelationship of the different species in the ecosystem. Human’s understanding of this aspect could enhance the thriving and conservation of all species in the world that is called Biodiversity.
Another case is the beautiful water lily. When they fill the river or waterways with their leaves and flowers, what a sight to behold. But it covers the whole water bodies that sunlight and other elements in the environment can hardly penetrate the water for other species to use for life. This specie of plant is not helping the thriving of other species in the ecosystem and they should be controlled or regulated.
Human beings have a bigger role to play because we are part of the ecosystem and of Biodiversity as a whole. We can promote biodiversity, we can conserve and protect it, so let us do our part.
Biodiversity can be recognized by species like White-Sp0tted Deer of Kanlaon in Negros Island, Philippines; Red Breasted Pigeon; White Squirrel of Taytay, Palawan; Blue Whales, White Peacock, Sunflower, Microscopic Bacteria, and many others.
Suyac Island in the Philippines.
What are the Kinds of Biodiversity?
1. Genetic Biodiversity is the variety of genes within a specie. Each specie is made up of individuals that have their own particular genetic composition. For example, the dog. The dog could be a Chihuahua or a Great Dane. Their genetic biodiversity may also influence their size, shapes, color and eyes. (www.google.com/search)
2. Species Diversity this refers to the different species in all kingdoms. We have the microorganisms such as the viruses, bacteria, fungi, etc. We have the plants and animals. Animals and plants may vary from region to region or from poles to poles.
3. Ecosystem Diversity refers to the abiotic elements of the ecosystems such as: climatic factors, soil nature, chemistry of air, and so on. (Jay Apenkash Kakada). The ecosystem of tigers in Asia is of course different from the ecosystem of the tigers of Siberia. The ecosystem of the plants in Asia differs from the ecosystem of the plants in Alaska.
Balaring Mangroves Planting Project, Silay City, Philippines.
Why is Biodiversity Important?
For centuries human beings are dependent upon the environment in order to live. They need food, water, shelter, clothing, medicine, and many others. All these things are from the environment. It is the Biodiversity of the environment that sustains life on earth. It is also from Biodiversity, specifically researches into plant and animal biology and genetics that medical discoveries generate.
Biodiversity also allows the ecosystems to adjust to disturbances like fire and floods. Adjust may imply self rehabilitation if there is no outside disturbance like for example, tilling of the land, agriculture and many others.
Biodiversity is also important because of its aesthetic sense. Through Biodiversity, we can see the unique beauty of nature. For example, if you are in the forest of the Amazon, or on the island of the Galapagos, on the southern territory of Australia in the South Pole or in the unique sanctuary island of Suyac in the town of Sagay, or in the Jardin Sang Balo (Widow’s Garden) in Mambucal National Park, Philippines, you can see Biodiversity at its best.
There are so many other reasons stated by authors of different books and perhaps you have your own idea too. Feel free to add that in your discussion group or in whatever endeavor you wish to talk about Biodiversity.
What are the threats to Biodiversity?
The UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and Global Biodiversity Assessment (UNEP, 1995) suggested that “between 5 percent and 20 percent of the perhaps fourteen million plant and animal species on earth are threatened with extinction”, (Adams, 2009, p.16).
Edward Wilson (Adams, 2009, p.16) also noted that “we are in the midst of one of the great extinction spasm of geological history”
Prance (Adams, 2009, p. 16) also noted that “the rapid loss of species owing to human action has become an incontrovertible fact”.
Another threat is the expanded industrial capacity and the urbanization and sociocultural changes that accompany it – is the scale of the human demands on the biosphere, (Adams, p. 17).
The demand of human beings for environment to support their human needs is a threat in the sense that human beings have the tendency to annex and connect these needs to the earth’s productivity which, to a certain extent, drive the reduction of living diversity when human needs are satisfied. This action, according to Adams (p,17) also starts to affect the evolutionary trajectories in the species and ecosystems that can persist alongside human’s seemingly insatiable demands.
It is so ironic to think that the threat to Biodiversity, is first and foremost, man-made. But this is the truth and once we recognize this, we can devise a plan to list down options not solutions but options, that could alleviate the reduction of living diversity. For example, agricultural practices, industrial practices, life and leisure practices, almost every human activity may have negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity. Farmers doing a slash and burn technique to earn a living is indirectly responsible for the loss of life of different species in the specific area where he or she is farming. The activity left some organisms dead, displaced the others and endanger their lives.
People need the help of micro-organisms such as virus, bacteria, plants, animals, fungi, among others in order to improve human existence. Species richness can promote equilibrium and balance in our ecosystems. Indirectly killing some species could affect our ecosystems and the whole environment – local or global.
Is there anything humans can do to conserve and protect Biodiversity?
The answer is a big yes. By engaging in life saving, species saving activities, conservation and protection programs both locally and globally, Biodiversity can thrive.
Massive loss of diversity can also be attributed to massive pollution and destruction of the Land, Air and Water. This is the LAW that laws should be strictly implemented and not ignored as in the case of some mining activities, for example, in Homonhon Island, Philippines. The Portuguese navigator, Ferdinand Magellan docked on its coast in 1521 making it a heritage site, a historical site so to speak. But now, it has become the mining site for chromite and magnetite. So sad because the mining activity damaged the corals, the coastal area, affected the fishes. Mining activity in the upland has turned the wells with little water and made the roads muddy and the mountains bald. Notwithstanding the disturbance on inland water resources. So sad.
Is there a way you can be of help to promote Biodiversity in your locality?
Precisely, yes! In your own small way, you can help promote Biodiversity in your community. You can check on what specie in your community is endangered or needs conservation and protection. You can begin with flora. Living in the Philippines in the early 60’s enabled us to know of local plants such as Bougainvilla, Ajus-Ajus, Rosal, Camia, Buhok ni Ester, Crotons, Camantigue, African Daisies and so on and so forth. Today in the year 2018, these species of plants continued to be rare. Are they endangered? So, in this small start, you can organize a group or you can begin it with your self, to propagate these plants so that what you will enjoy today can also be enjoyed by the future generations.
Another way to promote Biodiversity in your locality is by participating in the conservation and protections of endangered species of animals like the red breasted pigeon, the white spotted deer, the white squirrel and many others. You can also take part in the conservation of mangroves or go into tree planting activities.
There are so many ways you can act locally because your small action can have a greater impact to the environment.
If you are interested to connect your local initiatives to the global plans – STRATEGIC PLAN ON BIODIVERSTIY, you may visit the link written hereunder.
This way, your confidence level of doing programs and projects designed to conserve and protect the environment and promote Biodiversity in your local community is greater. In the end, you will be happy that the solution to the growing problem is the people in your local community.
To begin with, it is nice to conduct a Training Needs Assessment as far as personnel skills is concerned in the implementation of programs and projects about Biodiversity. The result of this assessment can be the basis for future training.
Conduct a Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of Biodiversity Plan for your LGU. A guide on how to conduct a Strat Plan Workshop has been discussed in the previous lecture here. The Plan will be your basis in implementing programs and projects covering all aspects of Biodiversity.
On May 22, 2014 is the International Day For Biodiversity. This is the right time for you to begin or launch your Biodiversity Conservation and Protection Program in your community. Organize a group of people for community outreach program relevant to Biodiversity, let us say, one week from now. Then, conduct your first activity on May 22 together with the celebration of Biodiversity Day.
If you are a student, you can organize an activity within your school and the neighboring community or your adopted village. Maybe you will call it, SCFB or Students and Community For Biodiversity. Isn’t this nice to begin with?
If you are a village council (Barangay) official who heads the Environment Committee, you can select a project from the list available in the Strategic Plan For Biodiversity or you can refer to your City Environment Plan. Then, organize the community to a certain activity. If you want to bring back life in your only river in the village, you can start with RLP or River Life Project. Organize the community to clean it up. Sustain the project up to 3 – 5 years, for example and see what will happen to the river. Your success indicator could be, residents can fish “tilapia” from the river. Isn’t this nice to begin with?
You are the star player in your village, so make it happen.
The ability to organize people in the community and involving them to this noble work lies in your hands. If this is heavy, you can always ask the support of the local environment office or other related agencies to help you succeed. By then, you can also experience what other successful communities have done and together, you can also say that you and your community is “LIVING IN HARMONY WITH NATURE”.
1. Adams, W. M. (2009). Green Development: Environment and Sustainable Development In The Developing World, N. Y.: Routledge.
2. American Museum of Natural History website
3. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007,
4. The Free Dictionary by Farlex
6. Kinds of Biodiversity by Jay Apenkash Kakada
7. The United Nations Convention on Biodiversity Website for the Biodiversity Logo
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All photos by Henry Libo-on.