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 What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is a long word that can be a bit tricky to spell. It refers to all the living things that form the web of life on our planet. Every part of this biodiversity is linked to another part. The survival of each species depends on the health and numbers of others. Biodiversity is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces go together to create and support life. When a species becomes extinct we lose a piece of our puzzle. We will never see the full picture again.

Where is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is everywhere. A teaspoon of salt water can contain more than a million living creatures too small to see. Grab a handful of soil and you may be holding thousands of species covering more than a billion samples. It is estimated that we only know 10-20% of all species on our planet with many millions of species undiscovered. We have found the big stuff that we can easily see. It’s the little things that we don’t know about that may hold the secrets to medicines and energy of the future.

How does biodiversity help us?

Imagine being the designer of a tree. You create something that; makes oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide, filters water, stores solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food. It creates micro-climates, provides habitat for millions of species, can change colour with the seasons, is a renewable resource (when sustainably managed), and can make copies of itself. A tree is just one part of the biodiversity puzzle that we need for healthy lives.

Is Australia doing a good job at protecting biodiversity?

Most biodiversity is out of sight and out of mind. Wetlands, swamps, mangroves, and mud flats are not popular places with humans. We like to drain them and then claim them for development. These places are breeding grounds for insects, fish, birds, shellfish and reptiles. What should we do? How do we strike a balance? Since the arrival of Europeans in Australia in 1788, there has been an extraordinary loss of biodiversity. The main factor in the loss of biodiversity is habitat loss. Introduced species like wild cats, pigs, dogs, camels and cane toads are also a threat to Australia’s biodiversity.

What can we do?

We can’t ignore the continued loss of biodiversity. The sooner we start the less difficult it will be later. Each of us can take action. How might you get your school to protect its biodiversity? Is your family interested in caring for and creating greater biodiversity at home? How can you get other people to listen to you and take action to help protect our biodiversity?