Values of Biodiversity, Types and its Role

In this , I will explain different types of values of Biodiversity which either directly or indirectly influence our life. Types of biodiversity such as species biodiversity, genetic biodiversity and ecosystem biodiversity play different role in our life. Biodiversity has immense ecological importance. All species perform different role in Ecosystem.

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.

Direct values

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:
  • Consumptive use Value: Consumptive use value is the value put on the products of nature which are consumed directly without passing through a market. For example, if we use firewood by cutting down a tree or consume an animal after hunting it.

  • Productive use value: Productive use value is the value put on the products of nature which are consumed after passing through a market. For example, if we buy fish from the market then it will have productive use value.

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 values

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.

Economical value

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 :

  • Food supplies: Agriculture, the very basis of human survival, depends on plants and animals.

  • Source of medicines: A large number of medicines are obtained from plants and animals. Cinchonas, Belladonna are important medicinal plants. Snake venom is used in making medicines.

  • Source of raw materials for industries.

  • It supports the economy of a country. Industries and agriculture generate revenue or income. They also generate employment. In fact the economy of many countries is heavily dependent on biodiversity.

Aesthetic value

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.

Ecological value

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:

  • Waste Management:

  • Nature has a unique way of managing wastes. The waste of one organism becomes food for another organism. So, wastes don't accumulate. For example, forests absorb greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. This helps to reduce global warming. Forests also contribute to precipitation due to transpiration. Many other plants and animals help to keep forests healthy. So, the entire biodiversity contributes towards maintaining climate stability.

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.

Option 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 :

  1. Species diversity

  2. Genetic diversity

  3. Ecosystem diversity

Now let us go in detail of each type of Biodiversity :

  • Species Diversity

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

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.

  • Ecosystem diversity

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:

  1. Cycling of water and nutrients:These are done mostly by the plants, animals and microbes. Not only this, non-living components like air, water and solar energy are also attached with this.

  2. Food production: Plans are directly or indirectly related with food production. They are the sole source of food. Hence they are called primary producer. Though food chain and food web, this food is transferred from one organism to other.

  3. Climatic stability: Vegetation and plantation of an area are mostly responsible for the climate of that area. A forest is one of the main sources of rain which in turn control climate. Thus rich plant- diversity has a better control of climatic stability.

  4. Reduction in pollution: There are some natural ays for controlling pollution. Some micro-organisms as well as some plants and animals have the capacity to breakdown pollution, thus helping in pollution reduction.

  5. Soil generation and reduction in soil erosion: Diverse living organisms both plants and animals in a long run help in the formation of soil. Abiotic factors help in this process.

  6. Production of energy or producers: Though energy is the prime requirement of all the-living organisms, sun is the sole source of energy. Green plants or producers are the only medium which can convert solar energy into chemical energy. This energy in turn is used by all the living organisms in the biosphere.

  7. Consumers: All the other animals which are directly or indirectly take plants as their food resources are consumers. All the herbivores and carnivores are called consumers.

  8. Reduction in natural calamities: Natural calamities like drought, flood, earthquake etc. are often the result of loss or destruction of biodiversity. Healthy ecosystem has the capability of quick recovery from any natural calamities. Rich biodiversity also lessen the occurrence of natural calamities.

  9. Decomposers and decomposition: Micro-organisms decompose the dead plant and animal body or organic material and thus help in the recycling of materials. This process is known as decomposition and the micro-organisms are called decomposers.

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Guest Author: jonas27 Sep 2015

This discriptive article on the topic of biodiversity is really excellent.

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