What is the difference between biodiversity and ecosystem and do they affect the human lives?
Posted on September 29th, 2012

Dr Hector Perera      London

“Individual species and ecosystems have evolved over millions of years into a complex interdependence. This can be viewed as being akin to a vast jigsaw puzzle of inter-locking pieces. If you remove enough of the key pieces on which the framework is based then the whole picture may be in danger of collapsing.

We have no idea how many key “ƒ”¹…”pieces’ we can afford to lose before this might happen, nor even in many cases, which are the key pieces. The ecological arguments for conserving biodiversity are therefore based on the premise that we need to preserve biodiversity in order to maintain our own life support systems.” Dr Barbara Corker.
Ecosystems are dynamic interactions between plants, animals, and micro-organisms and their environment working together as a functional unit. Ecosystems will fail if they do not remain in balance. No community can carry more organisms than its food, water, and shelter can accommodate. Food and territory are often balanced by natural phenomena such as fire, disease, and the number of predators. Each organism has its own niche or role in the whole system to play its part to show their importance.
Biodiversity is defined as the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.
Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of life on earth. Again, Biodiversity is the variation of life forms, plants and animals within a given ecosystem, biome, or on the entire Earth. One cannot find all the types of plants and animals all over a certain country or part of a country. Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems. The biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological species that is all living beings.

An ecosystem is deƒÆ’‚¯¬ned as a community of living organisms, together with the physical environment they occupy at any given time.  The diversity of ecosystems is difficult to estimate as ecosystems grade into one another and large ecosystems may contain diverse smaller ones. Our planet as a whole is an ecosystem, but it contains many others: forests, deserts and oceans for instance, which are themselves made up of smaller ecosystems, for example, coral reefs and shallow seas within the oceans. These in turn are made up of many yet smaller ecosystems, such as mangrove swamps, which border on and grade into terrestrial ecosystems. Change in one ecosystem will impact on the others with which it overlaps and into which it grades. Species diversity refers to the number of different species in a certain area on the land, water and in burrows. It is, of course, very difƒÆ’‚¯¬cult to count all the species present, some are too small, live in inaccessible places, only use the area at certain times of day or year, or are very rare. Despite this, the number of species present is probably the most common measure of biodiversity used by conservationists; it is measured in different ways, but most include weighting for numbers of individuals as well as numbers of species.

Why biodiversity matters

Every individual is dependent on its environment, both the physical (rainfall, soil type, temperature, oxygen gradient, light, etc) and living (other individuals of its own and other species) and how these interact. Change in any aspect of these environments will impact on, and may destroy, whole communities.

According to “Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).” The importance of biodiversity is “At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.”

The term ecosystem is defined in many ways for example as a community of living organisms combined with their associated physical environment. It is our “home system” that makes life possible. Ecosystems are the full tapestry of nature that support life and they also provide valuable services. A few types of ecosystems can be mentioned as follows;

Wetland ecosystems filter out toxins, clean the water, and control floods. Then Estuaries ecosystems act as marine-life nurseries. Forest ecosystems supply fresh water, provide oxygen, control erosion, and remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Many species, working together, are needed to provide these critical services. The loss of biodiversity reduces nature’s ability to perform these functions. As greater fluctuations occur, ecosystems as a whole become less stable. Instability causes ecosystems to be more vulnerable to extreme conditions and may also decrease productivity.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

While the term “biodiversity” may not be well known or understood, the ecological services provided by biodiversity are vital to everyday life. Not a day, hour, or even second goes by that we do not depend on biodiversity for survival.

The air we breathe is a product of photosynthesis by green plants.

Insects, worms, bacteria and other tiny organisms break down wastes and aid in the decomposition of dead plants and animals to enrich soils.

More than 90 percent of the calories consumed by people worldwide are produced from 80 plant species.

Almost 30 percent of medicines are developed from plants and animals, and many more are derived from these sources. During Malaria epidemic a medicine called quinine was a plant product. It was extracted from cinchona tree but when the demand was too high, it was chemically synthesised. Some tonic water and Vodka has this bitter taste due to quinine.

Biodiversity also helps us in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, the greenhouse gases produced by human activities are building up in the atmosphere and causing climate change. Climate change is a major threat to biodiversity. The people are aware that the climate change is due to contribution of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and some of it is responsible due to human activities. Let me ask you, would you agree that some carbon dioxide is added by burning methane? The answer is yes, methane we use for cooking. Can we cut down this by efficient use of the gas? The answer gain is yes but my question is who is interested in energy saving cooking?

Climate change affects air and ocean temperatures, the length of seasons, sea levels, the pattern of ocean and wind currents, levels of precipitation, as well as other things. These changes affect the habitats and behaviour of many different species. Many will not be able to adapt fast enough and may become extinct.

There are many things that you can do to combat climate change. Planting deciduous trees on the south side of your house or school will keep your house/school cooler in the summer. They will help produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. You can also encourage your friends and family to use public transit, carpool and walk or bike when they can.

And why were we talking so much about Biodiversity?

The world has begun, relatively recently, to lose species and habitats at an ever-increasing and alarming rate.

Biodiversity places in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a paradise island with remarkable bio diversity. The magnitude of bio diversity is very high in Sri Lanka to its proportions. Because of this Sri Lanka is ranked as the 10th highest in its bio diversification. Although Sri Lanka is a tropical island which is close to the equator the geographical change is dramatic. This geographic variation is led to many ecological systems which is the natural habitats of many animal and plant species.

In Sri Lanka you can evident wet evergreen, undisturbed rain forest such as Sinharaja to patanas grasslands in Horton plain, Agarapatana wet lands like Muthurajawela, Bellanwila, Maduru Oya wild life parks such as Yala, Gal Oya, Wasgamua and beaches such as Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Bentota etc. Sri Lanka is the best place to study behavioural patterns of many different species and for studying echo systems. No wonder many tourists fly to Sri Lanka for their vacation travel a memorable one.

In Sri Lanka they have one of the World’s unique preserve forests, Sinharaja which is the largest great low land Rainforest. Sri Lanka: One of 25 World’s Biodiversity Hot Spots. Sri Lanka has been identified by the environment activist group Conservation International (CI) as one of 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world, reported the Time weekly in its January 11 issue. The school children can explore natural beauty of this Indian Ocean Island than watching far too much TV. How many locals in Sri Lanka visit these places to witness their natural wealth? There are plenty of facilities for schools and for other visitors to explore this place.

Sri Lanka’s tropical rain forest ecosystem is considered as an area which is disturbed by human activity, but still exceptionally rich in animal and plant species found nowhere else. 

 Eco-tourism in Sri Lanka, Sinharaja forest

This is a unique site for scientists, naturalists and eco-tourists.  Southern Asia is the richest store of biodiversity in Sri Lanka. Sinharaja forest is located in the Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces.  An early account of the fauna is given by Baker (1937). Preliminary lists of the fauna (viz. mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and butterflies)

Over 60% of the country’s endemic plant species can be found within the boundaries of Sinharaja and its rich flora includes many rare orchids, ferns and lianas. There are 147 bird species found in Sinharaja and of Sri Lanka’s 24 endemics, 20 are present within this forest reserve. Just a few birds can be named here; sighted endemic birds include the Blue Magpie, Yellow Fronted Barbet, White Eye, Brown Capped babbler, Grey Hornbill, White Throated Flower Pecker, Orange Billed Babbler. Owing to its richness of biodiversity and ecological importance the Sinharaja Rainforest was internationally recognized as early as 1978 when it was made an International Man and Biosphere reserve by UNESCO and subsequently declared a World Heritage Site in 1989. Dense and mysterious, this undisturbed expanse of primary rainforest is an ideal habitat for meditation or relaxation, scientific exploration or adventurous expedition. Any comments please perera6@hotmail.co.uk

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