Biodiversity refers to the variety of life in an ecosystem. Biodiversity is one of our planet’s systems for stability. Balance is needed to keep conditions within the narrow range that lets living things survive in all land configurations: rain forest, temperate forest, boreal forest, grasslands and wetlands..
A particular example of this is when a country eats five different types of grain, say, and they all get replaced by a more productive GMO grain. In the original situation, if a blight kills one type of grain, then the food supply reduces by 20% and everyone goes hungry. In the later situation, if a blight kills the GMO, everyone dies.
Biodiversity is defined as the variety of types of living creature, of ecosystems (system of creatures that interact) and biomes. Biomes are groupings of ecosystems and the areas in which they exist. Biomes are defined in different ways according to what is being discussed. One classification of land is woodland, farmland, desert, saltwater, freshwater and frozen areas. When discussing woodland, for example, different kinds of forests can be considered different biomes such as tropical rain, pine, wetland, deciduous, etc.
This results in enormous genetic diversity making the overall natural world capable of responding to many different situations.
- When rainforest with hundreds of types of tree is cut down to make way for a monoculture of palm forest, there is loss of biodiversity.
- When old forests of many different broadleaf trees are cut down to make way for cash crops of pine, there is loss of biodiversity.
When we reduce biodiversity the whole system doesn’t work as well as it did.
Biodiversity is needed to make the systems for:
- Food production
- Clean air
- Clean water
- Carbon sequestration: the long term capture and storage of carbon
- Nutrient recycling
Cycles are important for maintaining stability. Elements cycle between all parts of the Biosphere. The Biosphere, or Ecosphere, is the sum of all ecosystems. It is primarily:
- Lithosphere – the crust of the earth and below it the upper part of the mantle. It is split into tectonic plates.
- Cryosphere – the ice and snow of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets.
- Hydrosphere – all the water on the planet; the Cryosphere is part of the hydrosphere.
- Atmosphere – air.
The stability of nutrition is fundamental. The nutrient cycle includes:
The Carbon Cycle – the exchange of carbon between the spheres. Carbon in the form of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by plants, from the atmosphere, and used by photosynthesis to make molecules which are passed, dissolved in water (hydrosphere) into the soil (lithosphere). Humans have changed the carbon cycle by the way they use land, in farming and in their use of fossil carbon (coal, oil (petrol) and gas, and in cement manufacture).
The Sulphur Cycle – the movement of sulphur between rocks, waterways and living systems. Sulphur is an essential element of many proteins and oxidants in microbial respiration.
The Nitrogen Cycle – the cycle by which nitrogen is converted into multiple chemical forms as it circulates among atmosphere, land, and water ecosystems. The majority of Earth’s atmosphere (78%) is nitrogen, but atmospheric nitrogen has limited availability for biological use, resulting in a scarcity of usable nitrogen in many ecosystems. Nitrogen availability can affect the speed of key ecosystem processes, including primary production (things on which we all rely) and decomposition. Human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, use of artificial nitrogen fertilizers, and release of nitrogen in wastewater have dramatically altered the global nitrogen cycle, resulting in poisonous algal blooms in waterways and dead zones in oceans, some over 10,000 km2.
The Water Cycle – is the most obvious. Water falls from the sky, runs across and through land, and on to the seas. It is intercepted by plants and animals for their use, but where it does not run plants and animals cannot thrive. The amount of water on Earth is constant but the ratio of ice, fresh water, salt water and water vapour varies with the weather, evaporation, condensation, runoff, and flow. The water cycle involves the exchange of energy, which leads to temperature changes. When water evaporates, it takes up energy from its surroundings and cools the environment. When it condenses, it releases energy and warms the environment. These heat exchanges influence climate. The evaporative phase of the cycle purifies water which then replenishes the land with fresh water. The flow of liquid water and ice transports minerals across the globe.
The Phosphorus Cycle – phosphorus and its compounds are usually solids. Phosphorus gradually becomes less available to plants over thousands of years, since it is slowly lost in runoff. Low concentration of phosphorus in soils reduces plant growth and slows soil microbial growth. Soil microorganisms act as both sinks and sources of available phosphorus in the cycle. Short-term transformation of phosphorus is chemical, biological, or microbiological. In the long-term global cycle, however, the major transfer is driven by tectonic movement over geologic time. Human activity has changed the global phosphorus cycle through shipping of phosphorus minerals, the use of phosphorus fertilizer, and also the shipping of food from farms to cities, where it is lost as effluent.
The Oxygen Cycle – the largest part (99.5%) of Earth’s oxygen (O2) is in the minerals of the Lithosphere. Free oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and ocean is mainly due to oxygen production from photosynthesis. Biology is the main driver of oxygen change on modern Earth, particularly bacteria, and photosynthesis, which produces sugars and free oxygen from carbon dioxide and water:
6CO2 + 6H2O + energy -> C6H12O6 +6O2 (sugar + free oxygen)
Photosynthesis takes place on land areas as well as the phytoplankton of the oceans. Acre for acre, Seagrass generates more oxygen and fixes more carbon than even rainforest.
Tree leaves are magnificently sophisticated:
STOMATA: The underside of a leaf contains stomata – holes through which carbon dioxide enters and oxygen leaves.
CHLOROPLASTS: Cells containing chlorophyll which perform the reaction.
XYLEM: Transports water
PHLOEM: Innermost layer of bark; transports sugars
O2 – oxygen
CO2 – carbon dioxide
H2O – water
C6H12O6 – sugar (glucose)
Photosynthesis relies on Chlorophyll. This diagram shows the Chlorophyll molecule; an incredible system:
If you wish to study this further you can do Google Research on the Basics.