B3.3 What is the importance of biodiversity?
Organisms are classified into groups according to similarities and differences in characteristics including:
- Physical features (e.g. flowers in flowering plants and the skeletons in vertebrates
The groups start off large with high numbers of organisms with a few features in common (e.g. KINGDOMS such as plants, animals) and reduce in size as they are sub-divided into much smaller groups containing organisms with more characteristics in common (e.g. SPECIES).
The classification of living and fossil organisms can help to:
- Make sense o f the enormous diversity of organisms on Earth
- Show the evolutionary relationships between organisms
BIODIVERSITY refers to the variety of life on Earth including:
- The number of different species in an area
- The range of different types of organisms, e.g. plants, animals and microorganisms
- The genetic variation within species (how many different alleles there are)
The greater these are, the greater the BIODIVERSITY.
For humans biodiversity is vitally important because we need to exploit CROPS to feed a growing population. Plants are also the source of compounds that are effective against disease and genetic disorders. These could potentially be used as medicines.
The rate of extinctions on Earth has been increasing – this is likely to be due to human activity. Humans can cause extinctions directly or indirectly:
SUSTAINABILTY is about meeting the needs of people today without damaging the Earth for future generations.
Maintaining biodiversity to ensure the conservation of different species is one of the keys to SUSTAINABILITY.
In the past farmers used to grow a variety of different crops on a ranch. Hedgerows would separate the different parts of the farm. In the 20th century, techniques changed – giant fields made from many earlier fields joined together were planted with MONOCULTURES (a single variety of a crop). This technique was not sustainable because it reduced biodiversity affecting the whole food chain.
Virtually all products used in the industrialised world rely on oil and the products made from it. To IMPROVE SUSTAINABILTY, alternatives to oil need to be found. Packaging is used to attract the attention of consumers, as well as providing a way of keeping the product safe – packaging is often made from oil-based plastics.
Manufactures have to consider:
- What materials should be used
- How much energy is needed in the manufacturing process for a given packaging material
- How much pollution will be produced as a result of manufacturing packaging
It is preferable to decrease the use of some materials, including packaging materials, even when they are biodegradable, because of:
- Use of energy in their production and transport
Slow decomposition in oxygen deficient landfill sites