Biodiversity is, in a nutshell, all of life on Earth. It is about all animal and plant species, how they coexist within our ecosystems and the benefits we derive from them. For example, rivers and streams provide a flow the water; insects pollinate crops; cattle graze on grass; we eat fish of the ocean. Weather patterns and global warming are also influenced by nature.
You can reap the benefits of biodiversity by simply strolling through a park, strolling through the woods, or spending an afternoon at the beach.
Any time spent in nature can build your strength, amplify your immune system, and sharpen your mental skills, says biologist Rebecca Shaw, PhD, chief scientist and senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund. “If you get the chance to experience Earth’s ecosystems – forests, rivers, oceans, local or national parks, your backyard – there are real scientific benefits to your own health.”
The role of biodiversity in human health
Biodiversity plays a key role in your health. The main means are through medication, natural therapy and weather, says John La Puma, MD, of Santa Barbara, Calif. He is co-founder of the ChefMD brand and author of several books on nutrition, the kitchen and aptitude.
“There are between 50,000 and 70,000 known medicinal and aromatic plants used by humans for medical and other purposes,” he says. So, “When we lose plant species, we lose potential remedies. “
Greater biodiversity offers more chances for nature therapy, which you might also hear called ecotherapy or ecomedicine. It is a practice that draws on the beauty and beneficial effects of nature to facilitate stress and restore your mental and physical health.
“Many people suffer from nature deficit disorder – a social term for a clinical condition that contributes to obesity, mental illness and myopia, and other chronic diseases, ”explains La Puma. “Spending time in nature can also help maintain and promote personal medical well-being, spirituality and mental well-being, including treatments for generalized anxiety and depression …. “
Global warming and climate change
Critics often compare our current climatic events, sometimes extreme, with, for example, the ice ages of the past. These historic major climate changes were caused by small changes in the way the Earth orbits the sun.
“They’re two very different things,” Shaw says. Scientists say that climate change and warming oceans are largely the result of the greenhouse effect.
“Greenhouse” gases trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, like the greenhouses we build to grow, say, tropical plants. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Their concentrations have increased in the atmosphere largely due to the combustion of fossil fuels, as well as agricultural and industrial processes.
Air pollution, which comes mainly from the use and production of energy, includes greenhouse gases and CO2. It is a major threat to human health. Lung and heart disease cause 5 million deaths per year, and that number is increasing, says La Puma. They are the fourth leading cause of death, after arterial hypertension, smoking, and up blood sugar, he says.
“You can take a gas sample and look at the shape of the CO2 (carbon dioxide) and determine that it is CO2“From gases created by human or natural processes,” explains Shaw. “While the great changes to Earth have occurred over hundreds of thousands of years, the global warming we know has occurred over 150 years, all mankind-made and highly destructive.”
These rising temperatures pose a threat to the animals and plants that live in a given area. They can lead to droughts, changes in the the water the supply and loss of native food plant species. Additionally, as the climate of an area changes, new species that could not survive in an area before settle there and compete with the original residents for their survival.
Other threats to biodiversity
“The most worrying threat to biodiversity is human activity,” says La Puma. “As a species, we have assumed that Earth is something to be exploited, rather than something to coexist and honor. People are overfishing the oceans, clearing forests, polluting water sources, causing climate crises and intensifying conventional commercial agriculture.
A key player in biodiversity is healthy soil, and it is disappearing quickly. We’ve lost half of the Earth’s topsoil – the nutrient-dense organic layer where plants take root – over the past 150 years, says La Puma. This has affected species that depend on plants that grow in the soil, such as bees and other pollinators (small insects and animals that carry pollen from plant to plant) and the plants that grow in that soil. Some species have lost their habitat. The chemicals used to control pests can poison water and injure other beneficial species, including plants, animals, insects and microbes.
If you study creatures like butterflies and birds, you’ll notice changes in their habits and the distances they travel, says Shaw. Plants flower at different times than before. Meanwhile, the weather conditions intensified, leading to events such as catastrophic forest fires, massive flooding, hotter summers and rising sea levels.
These events not only ravage landscapes and habitats, they also take away people’s livelihoods. “We are starting to see natural resource battles between humans and wildlife, which often depend on the same precious sources, such as water and food,” Shaw said.
What you can do now
It’s not too late to make a difference in your environment and your health. La Puma offers you simple but solid ways to get back to nature:
- Practice fear daily. “Appreciate the beauty of a flower, really listen to the birdsong, take care of a houseplant for at least 5 minutes a day, doing just that,” says La Puma. “Experiencing nature, even for that quick dose of nature, can bring you closer to wanting to preserve and protect it, and improve both mood and self-esteem.”
- Improve your food choices. Eat local and organic. “Try growing some of your own plants and foods – even herbs, many of which (like rosemary) are bulletproof.” Buy locally from farmers and support farms that promote regenerative agriculture and plant many types of crops, even on a small scale.
- Garden. Whether it’s food or flowers, grow native plants for pollen and nectar for pollinators. “Organic gardening and the use of native plants are two ways to improve your own health and that of the planet,” says La Puma. Growing your food this way provides more nutrients and improves the quality of the topsoil, he says. “Increasing biodiversity, even in your own garden, improves soil resilience as well as resistance to insects. “
- Exercise outside. “The immunity, the benefits of socialization and well-being are greater and you feel less tired and more refreshed than exercising indoors, ”says La Puma.