May 22nd is the international day for biodiversity. To help you participate in this environmental holiday, we’ll tell you all about biodiversity, what it means, share some biodiversity examples, and explain why it’s important in this article. We’ll also give you a few ideas for celebrating this international holiday in your community!

What Is Biodiversity?

With the announcement of this environmental holiday, many individuals ask, “What is biodiversity?” and “How does it affect me?”

Biodiversity is a contraction of the term “biological diversity” and refers to the variety of organisms in a given ecosystem. Biodiversity encompasses all kinds of species of plants, animals, insects, and anything else that is classified as a living organism.

There are three main classifications of biodiversity. To help you understand each one, we’ve included biodiversity examples.

  • Genetic Diversity, which refers to the genetic diversity of organisms in a single species. For example, there are over 4,700 known species of frogs. One such species, the Common Frog, can be found in a variety of different places around the world. Due to their respective environments, common frogs are full of differences in colors, behaviors, etc. Genetic diversity refers to those differences in a single species.
  • Species Diversity refers to the varying species that can be found in a single habitat or region. For example, there are about 90 different known frog species scattered throughout the United States. This is species diversity.
  • Ecological Diversity is a little more complicated. This term refers to the diversity of connections and reactions that occur in an ecosystem due to the way plants, animals, and other organisms interact with one another. One example is the series of events that follow the sun’s rays: The plants absorb the energy, herbivores eat the plants, carnivores eat the herbivores, fungi and bacteria decompose the remains, and so on. This is a wide spectrum of ecological diversity.

The Importance of Biodiversity

To illustrate the importance of biodiversity, we thought we’d share a powerful story that transpired in Yellowstone National Park not long ago.

Before the park was established in 1827, the area was riddled with dangerous gray wolves. The predators were aggressively hunted down until they were completely eradicated in 1926. A massive piece of Yellowstone’s biodiversity had been removed by mankind — and the environment reacted drastically.

Without their main predator, the elk population became unmanageable, resulting in alarmingly scarce vegetation as they devoured the plants faster than they could grow. Over time, the valleys and gorges became dead, dry, and void of plant life.

After the wolves were reintroduced, their presence affected the behavior of the elk, which spurred a remarkable domino effect that resulted in a massive increase in various species of both plant and animal, which in turn changed the physical geography of the lakes and rivers in the land.

When we detracted just a single piece of the biodiversity in Yellowstone National Park, the land and native wildlife suffered severe depletion. This is the importance of maintaining a rich biodiversity in our ecosystem.

How You Can Make a Difference

Deforestation, ocean dumping, fossil fuel emissions, and greenhouse gasses are just a few of the most common threats to the biodiversity of our planet. There are so many different ways that you can make a difference and contribute to a rich biodiversity on earth. Here are a few golden ways to play your part and contribute to Biodiversity Day on May 22nd:

  • Donate your time or money to an environmental organization.
  • Volunteer to help with environmental initiatives in your area, including ocean cleanups, forest preservation efforts, etc.
  • Spread awareness in your local community by hosting events, campaigning for initiatives, or just having a friendly conversation with your neighbor over the fence.
  • Make small changes to your daily lifestyle for a more eco-friendly way of living. Recycle, grow your own garden, bike to work, limit plastic usage, etc.
  • Make big changes to reduce your personal energy consumption and minimize your carbon footprint. A couple of examples include driving an electric car or switching to renewable energy sources.

Male of resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) sits on the tree branch in the forest of Monteverde National Park, Costa Rica

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