The rich tapestry of life on our planet is the outcome of over 3.5 billion years of evolutionary history. It has been shaped by forces such as changes in the planet's crust, ice ages, fire and interaction among species.Now, it is increasingly being altered by humans. From the dawn of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago, through the Industrial Revolution of the past three centuries, we have reshaped out landscapes on an ever-larger and lasting scale. We have moved from hacking down trees with stone tools to literally moving mountains to mine the Earth's resources. Old ways of harvesting are being replaced by more intensive technologies, often without controls to prevent over-harvesting. For example, fisheries that have fed communities for centuries have been depleted in a few years by huge, sonar-guided ships using nets big enough to swallow a dozen jumbo jets at a time. By consuming ever more of nature's resources, we have gained more abundant food and better shelter, sanitation, and health care, but these gains are often accompanied by increasing environmental degradation that may be followed by declines in local economies and the societies they supported.
The value of biodiversity
Protecting biodiversity is in our self-interest. Biological resources are the pillars upon which we build civilizations. Nature's products support such diverse industries as agriculture, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, horticulture, construction and waste treatment. The loss of biodiversity threatens our food supplies, opportunities for recreation and tourism, and sources of wood, medicines and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions.
Our need for pieces of nature we once ignored is often important and unpredictable. Time after time we have rushed back to nature's cupboard for cures to illnesses or for infusions of tough genes from wild plants to save our crops from pest outbreaks. The vast array of interactions among the various components of biodiversity makes the planet habitable for all species, including humans. Our personal health, and the health of our economy and human society, depends on the continuous supply of various ecological services that would be extremely costly or impossible to replace.
BooksGuidebook of Biodiversity Principles for Developers and Planners Find out more...