Biodiversity and Loss

Biodiversity is a way of looking at biological varieties of any given space-time.

If I have 20 species of flowers in my garden then it means I have a biodiverse garden. On the other hand, if in the same location I have a concrete floor on which I stand alone with my cell-phone, then it means it’s not a very biodiverse situation.

Since Earth is the only known planet to have any kind of Biology let alone diversity, Biodiversity is used in Earth’s context.

Here’s a solid definition from an article in plato.stanford:

The term “biodiversity” is a contraction of “biological diversity” or “biotic diversity”. These terms all refer to the idea of living variation, from genes and traits, to species, and to ecosystems. The popular contraction “biodiversity” came about in the mid-1980s, heralded by a symposium in 1986 and an influential follow-up book, Biodiversity (Wilson 1988). These events often are interpreted as the beginning of the biodiversity story, but this mid-1980s activity actually was both a nod to important past work, and a launching of something quite new, in ways not fully anticipated.

The diversity of biology on Earth is quite amazing if we think about it.

Roughly 8.7 million species of plants and animals are thought to be existing as of now.  Now, that’s a lot of species!

What’s more, there are a lot more species to be discovered. Some are even of the opinion that we have not even properly begun sea-species exploration yet.

If we think about it, a species of any animal or plant signifies something very distinct to that particular species which is not found in any other and which makes it unnatural for it to blend with any other. 

In other words, every species has a uniqueness to it.

We humans tend to get very haughty when it comes to our self-image, respect and all that. We are all unique in our own ways and have distinct individual traits. But we’re just one specie: ONE!

There are roughly 8.7 million other species just like us with each individual component distinct from other components of the same species. Just like in us. Now that is diversity. Variation! 

To put it into a random context- there are only 1300 Android using handset manufacturing brands.  You can always argue that there are a lot more brands to be discovered yet, especially from China. But you get the picture!

Now, the problem with biodiversity is currently is that

The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970

At risk of extinction are:

  • one third of amphibians
  • one quarter of conifers
  • one quarter of mammals
  • one eighth of birds

Half a million insects are threatened with extinction too.

There’s a formal system of measuring the status of biodiversity. It is called the Living Planet Index or LPI.

It is a:

…measure of the state of the world’s biological diversity based on population trends of vertebrate species from terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. The LPI has been adopted by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) as an indicator of progress towards its 2011-2020 target to ‘take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity’.

What they do is, they take over 14,000 of the population time-series gathered from a variety of sources such as journals, online databases and government reports. After which, a modelling framework is used to determine the trend in population time-series. Rates of change are calculated and aggregated,

…Each species trend is aggregated to produce an index for the terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems. This process uses a weighted average method which places most weight on the largest (most species-rich) groups within a biogeographic realm. This is done to counteract the uneven spatial and taxonomic distribution of data in the LPD. The three system indices are then averaged to produce the global LPI.

There is another tool released by Natural History Museum in London:

Biodiversity Intactness Index data | Natural History Museum (

It is supposed to allow everyone to track biodiversity changes from 2000 to 2050. The scenario is as follows:

If the Biodiversity Intactness Index is 90% or more, the area has enough biodiversity to be a resilient and functioning ecosystem. If the Biodiversity Intactness Index is 30% or less, the area’s biodiversity has been depleted to such an extent that it is below the most generous boundary of what is needed for a functioning ecosystem.

It takes multiple projected scenarios under consideration which are called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways.

The Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs)are five socio-economic development scenarios that include global projections of wealth, population, education, technology and reliance on fossil fuels: 

SSP1: Sustainable development

SSP2: Middle of the road development

SSP3: Regional rivalry

SSP4: Inequality

SSP5: Fossil-fuelled development

I checked Nepal’s 2020-2050 BII with SSP 1 and this is what it showed:

Nepal seems somewhat resilient and functioning in SSP1. But the curve is slightly declining. Similar is the case with other SSPs.

Leading up to the UN Biodiversity Conference COP 15, there was a warning given by Prof. Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London. He said that biodiversity,

…is the foundation of our society. We’ve seen recently how disruptive it can be when supply chains break down – nature is at the base of our supply chains.

Causes of all this

HUMANS, once again Humans!

Plant and animal species around the world are currently threatened by nothing more so than by humans. Our requirements and subsequent activities such as:

  • Exploitation of natural resources
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Urbanization
  • Pollution

is responsible for this crisis.

Impact of biodiversity loss

Biodiversity is not just crucial because variations should exist for ethical, aesthetic reasons. Although those reasons are sufficient enough.

Depletion in biodiversity has a huge adverse impact in the overall ecosystem. Life on Earth is balanced by the interdependence of species on each other. Loss of any species can lead to negative effects on the whole system.

It is a very delicate balance. Predatory creatures losing their prey will also be in danger of extinction as they won’t be able to feed on any other.

All this can lead to serious collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem.

Along with this, there are obvious disadvantages to the human species.  One is that diseases will spread. Nature has balanced everything in such a way that even her housekeeping is done by her organisms. A slight deviation in this can result in serious catastrophe to humankind.

Humans will also see dramatic change in their agriculture if this balance is disturbed, resulting in social and economic disadvantages.

Towards Solution

There have been international initiatives to solve this crisis. These are the prominent ones:

World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP),  Conservation International, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), International Crane Foundation (ICF),  Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Oceana.

But these international entities cannot function without cooperation from National and Public entities.

As was the case with Climate Change:

Climate Change and Nepal – Adesh Acharya (Fr. Adesh) (

Biodiversity preservation also depends on two sets of actors:

  • National
  • Public

At the National Level, the governments have to cooperate with Scientific and International agenda. Protection of species, habitats, anti-deforestation, overhunting and pollution, etc. has to be strictly followed.

At the public level, it’s all about making people aware of the crisis at hand and making biodiversity loss a normal subject of conversation among people such that people can understand what has to be done from their side. Almost everyone is responsible for over consumption, pollution, exploitation of resources, etc. so everyone has to wake up.

Awareness programs have to be greatly initiated. Public actors have to be active for this. General people are ignorant of these things. They have to be explained as to what is really going on.

What if we don’t do anything?

I have written a ‘poetic’ piece on this:

My belief is that human beings will survive no matter what. Unless some cosmic catastrophe strikes. My sincere belief is that certain privileged human beings will survive no matter what. Man wants to survive. As Nietzsche said, human beings will do whatever it takes for the survival of its species.

Humans will move on from biodiversity loss as well. Perhaps towards techno-diversity. But, humans will survive.

The question is How? and with Whom? Alone or with other creatures?

How should humans survive?

This question is still out in the open for all of us to answer.