What Does Biodiversity Do for Us?
Few of us give much thought to the many benefits we enjoy from our healthy and diverse ecosystems, such as:
Life-sustaining services - Ecosystems provide 'ecological services' such as the conversion of solar energy into carbohydrates and protein, oxygen production, water purification and climate moderation. They provide the soil for plants to grow and help to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. (Canadian Biodiversity Strategy)
Health benefits - The evolution in the gene pool of species through countless generations has produced substances that offer us significant health and other benefits. For example, doctors use the saliva of leeches to dissolve dangerous blood clots. Canada's 138 native tree species have at least 40 recorded pharmaceutical or medical uses, and they are currently used in the production of rayon, cellophane, methyl hydrates, glue, turpentine and other substances. (Hinterland Who's Who)
Human needs - The diversity of life forms provides us with a wide array of options for satisfying our needs, including our need for gainful employment. The jobs of a significant portion of the workforce depend directly on biological resources including agriculture, fishing, forestry, eco-tourism and outdoor recreation. Industries such as forestry, fishing, agriculture and ranching rely on healthy ecosystems and natural processes for their continued viability. Biodiversity also provides the natural "capital" for the tourism sector that attracts visitors from around the globe to experience "supernatural" British Columbia. Many First Nation communities depend on the sustainable harvesting of biological resources to provide a significant portion of their food and income.
Community well-being - Many communities have been developed and their livelihoods built on the surrounding ecological resources including fish, timber, wildlife and agriculture. The future of these communities is directly tied to the sustainable use of biological resources and to the health of the ecosystems of which these resources are a part.
Spiritual values - For many British Columbians, the diversity of ecosystems and species is a source of emotional, artistic and spiritual inspiration and cultural identity. Many people believe that human society must be built on a respect for all life around us. BC's First Nations in particular, have had an intimate spiritual and cultural connection to the land for many thousands of years.
Securing our future - Maintaining biodiversity means keeping our options open for responding to unforeseen and changing environmental conditions. Maintaining our potential to be creative, productive and competitive will provide us with opportunities for discovering and developing new foods, drugs and industrial products. Failing to conserve biodiversity puts future options, flexibility and economic opportunities at risk and passes enormous costs onto future generations.
BC's biodiversity helps keep these benefits flowing to us, but only as long as the ecosystems continue to be healthy and functioning properly. Unintended interference with the functioning of ecosystems and the species within them can put those benefits at risk. Urban development, resource extraction, construction of transportation corridors and pollution (including the climate change effects of greenhouse gas emissions) can accelerate rates of species extinction and reduce the productivity of ecosystems, thereby reducing our economic and other opportunities.
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