Supporting Earth’s biodiversity is imperative to humans’ quest to heal ourselves and the planet.
Biodiversity is a term used to describe the totality of all life on Earth. Thousands of unique habitats. Millions of different species. Billions of individuals. And trillions of characteristics they all possess. The total biodiversity of our planet is nearly unfathomable. This is a wonderful thing. The more biodiversity, the healthier all life on earth is–including humans. Only when life is at its most diverse and vigorous, can we hope to thrive as a species.
We need forests across a third of the planet’s land surface to sequester adequate carbon and keep the climate stable. We need millions of pollinators and billions of soil organisms and megatons of planktons to keep our food, water, and air clean and healthy. We need plants in the jungle to make medicine and prevent infectious diseases. We need coral reefs and mangroves to protect our coast.
Earth’s diversity provides all the things we need at no cost. But only if we contribute to the ecosystem in a positive way. At the moment, our planet needs our help more than ever.
Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 to control the growing elk population that had been overgrazing. The introduction of wolves was phenomenally successful and it significantly improved the park’s biodiversity. It changed the course of the rivers. Tree seedlings were able to grow along the banks, stabilizing the soil and cleaning the water. The rivers meandered more, which allowed beavers to return. As did birds to the new trees. This is an example of how one species can have a tremendous impact on the ecosystems.
Biodiversity is returning to other regions of the world, too, because of changes humans are making to their habits, awareness, and regulations to protect our natural ecosystems.
A century ago, more than 100,000 tigers roamed the planet. But as humans encroached on their habitats and hunted them, that number dwindled to a record low of just 3,200 in 2010.
India is one of 13 nations working on a common goal to double tiger numbers by 2022. It’s estimated that India’s wild tiger population has increased by 33 percent since 2015. Now, there are nearly 3,000 tigers in India, which is more than 70 percent of the world’s tiger population.
By 1980, humpback whales had been hunted to 10 percent of their historic levels. Because of a ban that went into place to stop their decline, the whale population started to recover.
After they received protections under the United States’ Endangered Species Act, Humpbacks around Hawaii went from 800 in 1979 to 10,000 in 2015. Today, the humpback population has surged to healthy levels. It shows the resilience of animals when protected from man-made threats.
Mountain gorillas continue to remain an endangered species, but intensive conservation efforts in recent years are proving to be paying dividends. They are now classified as “endangered,” according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as of 2008.
Mountain gorillas are threatened with habitat destruction, disease, and poaching. However, over the past 35 years, the population has been growing. There are now over 1,000 of them, an increase of 25 percent since 2010 in the heartland of the Virunga Massif in central Africa.
Pandas may be the symbol of conservation for animals everywhere but these beloved bears are fortunate to no longer be endangered. In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature changed its status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on the global list of species at risk of extinction.
The announcement came after a nationwide census found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China, a 17 percent rise in the population. By enacting poaching bans and creating an integrated network of giant panda reserves and wildlife corridors, the increase of giant pandas proves what can happen when holistic health policies are put in place to protect wildlife.
There are a few different subspecies of wild horses, all of which are endangered. One variant is the Przewalski’s horse from Mongolia. It completely vanished from that nation during the 1950s, but by then assorted zoos around the world had started breeding them. From 1992 to 2004, some 90 captive-born horses were released into Mongolia. They thrived and around 300 are living in their native habitat today, while other populations have been successfully introduced in Hungary and Russia.
After being nearly wiped out during the 20th century due to habitat loss and use of DDT — an insecticide that interferes with the ability of the birds to produce strong eggshells, America’s beloved icon has come back from the brink of extinction. Thanks to a series of laws being passed, including a 1973 ban on DDT, these beautiful birds have seen their numbers rise throughout the years. There are around 10,000 wild breeding pairs that exist today. Now, Earth’s biodiversity is becoming rich with the return of natural ecosystems.