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The crucial importance of biodiversity

Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Gilles Murray)
Nelumbo nucifera 'Alba Plena'.

Simply put, biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms and functions. It encompasses plants, animals, humans and microorganisms. It is the foundation of the ecosystems that we depend on for our food, water, heating and plant fibres. Biodiversity also plays a role in:

  • Regulating the climate by producing oxygen
  • Capturing carbon dioxide
  • Purifying the air and water
  • Pollination
  • Reducing erosion

The term “biodiversity” was adopted at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It refers to the variety of ecosystems and species as well as the number of individuals in each species.

Preserving biodiversity is one of the main tenets of sustainable development. In adopting the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the signatory countries committed to taking concrete steps to protect life.

In 1993, the United Nations established the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD). The Secretariat’s offices are located in Montréal.

The role of biodiversity

Biodiversity plays an essential role in maintaining life on Earth and ensuring the welfare of human beings. Here are a few of its ecological benefits:

  • The pharmacopeia of products extracted directly from plants or derived from natural products plays a critical role in healthcare.
  • The many microorganisms in the ground help fertilize soil that is used for agriculture and feeds humanity.
  • Wetland plants filter water by absorbing nitrates and phosphates.
  • Trees clean the air we breathe and help avert or alleviate extreme climate events like floods and heatwaves.
  • Insects provide food for animals, clean fields and pollinate the millions of plants and flowers that keep life going.

Although this list is not exhaustive, the services rendered by nature have a definite value that must be taken into account. To acknowledge the value of those services and help safeguard them, experts assign a monetary amount to them, just like for any other service. In this way, they can be recognized as part of the economic system that underpins our society.

Preserving biodiversity

First and foremost, preserving biodiversity means recognizing its importance and taking concrete steps to maintain it. Governments, businesses and individuals have the power to make structural, legislative, organizational and behavioural changes to ensure its future.

Espace pour la vie actively supports efforts to promote biodiversity and its conservation through its outreach, conservation, research and education programs.

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