Values of biodiversity can be categorized as follows:
Biodiversity or biological diversity simply means the variety and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur. Such variety refers to the variety at the species, genetic and ecosystem level.
These are those ways by which we can directly use biodiversity for our benefit. For example we can use plants as food of for deriving medicines in the laboratory. Economic value and recreational value comes under this category.
Direct values are further classified into:
Indirect values or Non-Consumptive value
These are those ways by which we don't physically use a plant or animal, but by virtue of its existence it provides services that keep the ecosystem healthy. Indirect values would include ethical or moral value, existence value, ecological value, aesthetic value, cultural or spiritual value, option value and scientific or educational value.
Social value of biodiversity lies in the more and more use of resources by affluent societies. Local use or sale of products if biodiversity is not included in it. Yet, 'ecosystem people' value biodiversity as a part of their livelihood as well as through cultural and religious sentiments. Now a day's Government is spending a lot of money on lush green vegetation and Coral Reef Island for the purpose of tourism. Apart from traditional agricultural systems, in recent years, farmers have begun to receive economic incentives to grow each crop for national or international markets rather than to supply local needs. This has resulted in local food shortages, unemployment, landlessness and increased tendency to drought and floods.
Ethical and Moral value
Every species has its moral right to exist on earth. Every human culture, religion and society has its own ethical values. There are several cultural, moral and ethical values, which are associated with the conservation of biodiversity. We have in our country a large number of sacred grooves or deolis preserved by tribal people in several States. These sacred groves around ancient sacred sites and temples act as gene banks for wild plants.
We depend heavily on biological products for our survival. Biodiversity has economic value because it is a source of important products.
Some of these products are :
Nature contributes immensely to the beauty of the world. Can you imagine a world without trees, grass, flowers, birds or animals? Thus, biodiversity has immense aesthetic value for us.
Every species plays a unique role in the ecosystem. Through this role its maintains the ecological balance. Thus, the ecosystems don't get disrupted. So, even if we do not use a plant or animal for making products in our industries, by virtue of its very existence in the wild it provides us with many important services. These services maintain ecological balance and the ecosystem.
Some of these services are:
Scientific value or Educational value
Biodiversity is of great scientific value. Many species of plants and animals are the subjects of our research. We use many species for research and in turn get a lot of knowledge from their study. Through research on plants, insects and animals we find better ways of making medicines, hybrid plants, engineering designs and many other things that are of immense value to human beings. For example, the design of Velcro is developed from cockle-burrs which cling fast to clothing as we walk in the woods.
Cultural and Spiritual value
Many cultures of human beings are closely related to many species of plants and animals. For example, Hindus Identify owls as the transport of Goddess Lakshmi. Many religions identify themselves with such plants and animals which renders to them a cultural or spiritual value.
There are many plants and animals which have not yet been discovered or even if they have been discovered we do not know if they can be of any use to us. This untapped potential is referred to as option value. For example, there might be a plant or animal which we can use in the future to find a cure for corner. If we destroy biodiversity then we lose this chance of finding a cure for cancer. Thus biodiversity has great potential of being useful to us in the future.
Types of Biodiversity
Biodiversity can be studies at three different levels :
Now let us go in detail of each type of Biodiversity :
Before we learn about species diversity we must first understand what a species is. In general a species is a group of similar organisms capable of interbreeding with each other. Members of the same species generally have many similar physical or morphological (structural) characteristics. Species biodiversity refer to the different species in a particular region.
How is species diversity measured?
Species diversity can be measured in many ways. Ecologists generally use the terms species richness, species abundance or species evenness to estimate species diversity. Species diversity is generally measured by estimating the species richness. Species richness refers to the total number of individuals of a species in a given area. Thus, if there are 20 daisy plants in an area of 10 square kilometers then the species abundance will be 20. Many ecologists also use the concept of species evenness in measuring species diversity. Species evenness is a measure of the relative abundance of the different species making up the richness of an area.
Importance of species diversity :
The more the species diversity in an area is, the healthier the ecosystem will be. We must realize that every organism performs some functions in the ecosystem. Such functions could range from decomposition to keeping the population of herbivores under control. What would happen to the ecosystem if any one species got extinct? Who would then perform that functions? In such a case species diversity helps in the survival in an ecosystem. They could be bacteria, fungi or insects. What if one of these got extinct? The others would still be able to decompose and so the ecosystem would survive. This is only one example where species diversity helps ecosystems survive. There are many more.
Genetic diversity refers to the existence of a variety of genes in a population of a particular species. All human belong to the same species (Homo sapiens). Yet there are so many differences in the colour, features and other traits between humans. This is due to genetic diversity. Individual members of a particular species have some broad similarities. It is due to genetic diversity that individual members show some distinct characters. For example all humans will have some common characters like the presence of hair or eyes. But due to genetic diversity the colour of eyes or hair in humans differs in different individual humans.
Why is genetic diversity important?
High genetic diversity ensures better survival of the species. Nature has a system called natural selection. The natural selection concept was stated by Charles Darwin. Natural selection means that nature decides whether an organism will survive or not. Nature is dynamic and keeps undergoing changes. These changes in the environment of an organism will obviously affect the organism. Those organisms that are able to adapt to these changes will survive while those that cannot adapt will not. In this process of natural selection genetic diversity plays a very important role. The more the genetic diversity, the more are the chances of survival of a species.
Diversity which results because of different ecosystem (Example, desert, forest, marine, grassland etc.) is referred as ecosystem diversity. Ecosystem diversity is the assemblage and interaction of species living together and the physical environment present there. In a broader way, it is also called landscape diversity which includes placement and size of various ecosystems. For example, landscapes like forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains etc. As well as aquatic ecosystems like rivers, lakes and seas—all show ecosystem diversity. Thus, there is a large variety of different ecosystems on Earth, each having its own complement of distinctive interlinked species based on the differences in the habitat. Ecosystem diversity involves different part of ecosystem like niches, trophic levels, energy flow, food chain and recycling of nutrients.
Ecological role of Biodiversity
All the species in ecosystem participate in the numerous ecological processes that occur within and between the ecosystems. Each of the species has a specific role to play in the ecosystem.
Some of these are:
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