Biodiversity is a long word that can be a bit tricky to spell. It refers to all the living organisms and creatures that form the web of life on our planet. Every part of this biodiversity is linked to another part and the survival of each species depends on the health and abundance of others. Biodiversity is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces assembled to make an incredibly elaborate and beautiful picture. When a species becomes extinct we lose a piece of our puzzle. This piece of the puzzle is gone forever. It may not seem like much, but no matter what we do, we will never see the full picture again.
Biodiversity is everywhere. A teaspoon of salt water can contain more than a million living creatures that we cannot see without a powerful microscope. 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 per cent of all species on our planet with many millions of species yet to be discovered. We have found the big stuff that we can easily see, but it is the little things that may hold the secrets to life, medicines, preventions and cures of the future.
Stop and imagine for a moment the design brief for a tree. Create something that; makes oxygen, absorbs carbon dioxide, fixes nitrogen, distils water, stores solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro climates, provides habitat for millions of species, can change colour with the seasons, is a renewable resource (when sustainably managed) and self replicates. A tree is only one part of the biodiversity puzzle that we need for healthy lives.
Unfortunately for biodiversity, a lot of it is out of sight and out of mind. Places like wetlands, swamps, mangroves, and mud flats are not popular places with humans, and we prefer to drain them and then claim them for development. These places are important 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 increase in the rate of loss of biodiversity. The main factor in the loss of biodiversity is habitat loss mainly through land clearing, hunting, and building. Introduced species are also a threat to Australia’s biodiversity.
What can we do? Clearly education of our next generations is the answer. We can’t ignore the continued loss of biodiversity. The sooner we start the less difficult and less costly it will be. Each of us can take action to be less wasteful. 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 help protect our biodiversity?
How do we get people to start fixing things now so there is less future damage to our biodiversity? For teachers and students go to www.coolaustralia.org to get started.
Jason Kimberley – CEO Cool Australia
Biodiversity Month is held in September each year and aims to promote the importance of protecting, conserving and improving biodiversity both within Australia and across the world.
Learn more here about sustainability month here: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/month.html
Find plenty of free access lesson plans, activities and resources here: http://coolaustralia.org/curriculum-materials/