Importance of biodiversity

All living things are dependant on each other with every species, no matter how small, playing an important role within an ecosystem.  All living things, rocks, soils, water and air interact in complex ways to provide the conditions that favour life on Earth. 

The more we damage ecosystems and the more species we remove from the complex web of life, the greater the risk that the essential ecosystem services we rely upon are compromised.  A diverse ecosystem is better equipped to carry out these important processes, such as regulating our atmosphere, cycling water and nutrients, forming soil and breaking down pollutants.  It will also be better adapted to respond to unpredictable events such as climate change.  We therefore rely on biodiversity to survive.  Not only that, our economy and lifestyles depend upon it.  Biodiversity is the source of an enormous range of products such as medicines, food, wood, fabrics, dyes, oils, rubber and so on.  There may well be more yet to be discovered.  In 1997, a study undertaken by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimated the value of these services and the products we rely on at around US $33 trillion annually1.

Biodiversity further contributes to our economy through the provision of jobs and incomes.  In 2003 it was established that the management, use and appreciation of the natural environment in Wales supported 117,000 full time equivalent jobs, roughly 12% of total employment nationally2.

It also enriches our lives.  The fundamental social, ethical and cultural values of biodiversity have been recognised in religion, art and literature from the earliest days of recorded history.  Many people enjoy watching wildlife – even if it’s just on the television – and experiencing nature through walking, cycling and horse riding in the countryside.  Studies have shown that nature helps enhance physical and mental health, encouraging outdoor recreation, exercise and relaxation.  It is also recognised by many people that treating nature as if it has been designed for our convenience and abuse is morally wrong and that biodiversity should be conserved for its own sake.

Mountain bikers in Denbighshire

1 – Costanza, B. et al (1997) An introduction to Ecological Economics. CRC Press.
2 – Bilsborough & Hill (2003) Valuing our Environment: The Economic Impact of the Environment in Wales. Technical Summary. CCW.


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