Biodiversity Background

What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity stands for all of the different types and varieties of life forms on earth and includes genetic, species, ecosystem, and functional diversity. Biodiversity is a health indicator of the ecological systems we depend on for all aspects of our lives; it maintains the atmospheric and soil conditions that support all forms of life. Reduced biodiversity in an ecological system is like a weakened immune system in our body: it makes us vulnerable to disease. The loss of biological diversity has been recognized by the international community as a serious threat to human health and well-being, and scientists around the world have called for urgent action to reverse the alarming destruction of local, regional, and global biodiversity.

Biodiversity includes:

  • Diversity of plants, animals, fungi, algae, bacteria and other organisms and their genetic variability.
  • The natural communities or habitats in which these organisms live.
  • The processes and interactions that weave the biological and physical elements of the planet into a complex web.

Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity represents a complex web of interactions and connections among species and the ecosystems in which they live. These interactions provide a variety of functions and services in our natural environment. Some of these include:

  • Pollinating fruit and vegetable crops, controlling pests, enriching the soils that support the growth of our food, and purifying the water we drink.
  • Maintaining human health: most medicines today originate from studies of wild species and the extraction of medicinal compounds. Examples are the willow species Salix alba, from which aspirin is derived, and fruit mold, which yields penicillin.
  • Offering a unique outdoor education of local species, their habitat, and their role within each ecosystem.
  • Adding to a region's appeal to tourists. Tourism is New Hampshire's greatest industry. Millions of people take annual trips primarily to view, photograph, or study the nature within our state, and as a result they are spending millions of dollars in New Hampshire's communities.
  • Providing economic resources. New Hampshire has an agricultural and industrial based economy. Some of the goods produced locally include a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, spices, herbs, oils, medicinal plants, beverages, fuels, fibers, timbers, and more.

Actions you can take to maintain and foster biodiversity

  • Avoid buying products made from threatened and endangered species.

  • Do not buy exotic pets, and don't remove wild animals or plants from their habitats. Animals and plants have to be left in natural habitats in order to reproduce. Reproduction is essential to the survival of all species.
  • Avoid letting pets you may have at home run loose. The American Museum of Natural History estimates that house cats kill 4.4 million songbirds daily.
  • Conserve energy and water. Conservation of resources lessens our demands on the habitats of plants and animals. In addition, conserving energy prevents the emission of greenhouse gases that today are building in our atmosphere and leading to climate change. Many species and ecosystems are threatened by the impacts of climate change.
  • Recycle and buy recycled products.
  • Learn about the endangered species in our area and then tell a friend. Call the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Inventory for more information about rare species and ecosystems at 603-271-3623. They have lists of all endangered species in New Hampshire. You can also contact the NH Fish and Game Department, Non-game and Endangered Wildlife Program, at 603-271-2462 for information on endangered wildlife.
  • Practice sustainable landscaping, with particular emphasis on the preferential use of native plant materials over exotic and invasive species.