Friday, January 04, 2008

We should protect life in all its diversity - here's my description of why

This story outlining the discovery of three new species of amphibian in a Costa Rican forest reserve caught my eye today (both on the BBC News and Natural History Museum websites and also on p65 of today's Bristol Evening Post). No doubt there are still very large numbers of undiscovered species of many types all over the world, especially in the enormously diverse rainforest and coral reef ecosystems. Given the very rapid rate of destruction of these ecosystems (eg millions of hectares of net loss of forest every yr, an area equal in size to a country like Panama, or approx 2% net loss every ten yrs) undiscovered species are likely to be made extinct or threatened with extinction before we even know about them!

Why protect biodiversity? Its worth reminding ourselves of the reasons, which are not often enough clearly and fully stated - even if you search around a bit you dont find that much that is reasonably plain. So here's my effort... Forms of life are beautiful and diversity itself is beautiful. It is morally right to protect species. The complex web of interactions in nature is harmed if we dont conserve species and we need the interactions. Nature is the source of the resources and services we use to build our economy and so biodiversity is needed to meet our needs, trade, do business and make a profit (depending on how you want to define economics). The variety of life is of very important educational value and is a source of leisure and recreation. It is very important for both our physical, social and mental health and wellbeing - a diminishing gene pool is for instance damaging, dangerous and impoverishing.

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