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World Biodiversity Day

Posted by on May 22, 2013

Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae)Caroline Bellingan, a student at Wimbledon High School, shares her thoughts on World Biodiversity Day

Biodiversity is the term given to the degree of variation in life forms with in a given species or ecosystem and it is a hot topic that is being flagged up very frequently at the moment amongst those in the world of science.

Just 2 years ago the United Nations assigned 2011-2020 to be the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, creating even more opportunities for discussion about this ever interesting, changing, evolving and growing topic. This open appreciation of the need to recognise and talk about biodiversity is something that has been received very positively by most of the scientific world. This need to talk about biodiversity is something that must be addressed and soon in UK due to the obvious diminishing range of species that we have here. This is something we can really tell from the State of Nature report that was released last night.

Many of us will have had the pleasure at some point in our lives of visiting or even living in (if you’ve been so lucky) foreign and or exotic countries where the biodiversity may be larger and more varied and slightly more colourful or exciting than that at home; this contrast often highlights to many the obvious diminishing biodiversity with in the UK. While naturally we not have wild roaming buffalos and bulldozer-like African elephants with their famed ears (Dumbo anyone?) or the Venus fly-traps and exotic banana trees with their imposing leaves and swirled bunches of bananas hanging from the trunk lazily like some distorted flower, we do, or did have a nicely varied selection of species and quite a range of biodiversity.

While hunting, or illegal trading is not a massive problem in the UK is most certainly is in other corners of the world and climate change as well as introducing more invasive species’ are also chiselling away beautifully sculptured biodiverse landscape.

An example of an invasive species was the introduction of the American grey squirrel to the UK where there was predominantly the native red squirrel’s (the far prettier species- something I can say from personal experience). The grey squirrels carried squirrel pox and were also very aggressive towards the red squirrels.

This pattern is also seen with the introduction of rainbow trout to the brown trout’s natural environment. The brown trout could not compete and their numbers are now suffering as a result.

The State of Nature report really exemplified to us the dramatic changes that have taken place in Britain’s ecosystems without us even noticing. 25 conservation agencies and research organisation across the UK pooled all their information which they had been gathering in preparation for this report and revealed to us the other night the staggering statistic that over the past 50 years an astonishing 60% of the species they studied have been declining. Of these, half (31%) were dramatically declining and over 10% were at serious risk of becoming extinct.

After further investigation, insects seem to be at the most risk, but we must not take this lightly. We need insects to pollinate our plants (which produce oxygen enabling us to live as well as often providing us with a food source), especially bees which are one of the insects that are seriously in need of our help.

Biodiversity will continue to be an issue, but like climate change and looking after our planet, if we don’t start looking after our ecosystems now, we will see and most defiantly feel the affect in the near future.

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