Some of the major importance of biodiversity are as follows:
1. Source of food and improved varieties 2. Drugs and Medicines 3. Fibres 4. Useful products 5. Ecosystem Services 6. Ecological Balance 7. Ecosystem stability, productivity and health.
Different species of living organisms have come into existence due to evolution, including human. So, human civilizations have developed on the foundation of biodiversity. The easily human societies were supported by various species of plants and animals.
1. Source of food and improved varieties:
There are nearly 80,000 species of edible plants. But only 30 species are mostly used as major source of food and 85% of the world’s food production is met by cultivating less than 20 plant species. Three carbohydrate rich crops such as wheat, corn (maize) and rice alone yield nearly two-third of the food production.
To meet the growing demand of ever increasing human population, man is exploring new varieties of plants and animal food. For breeding improved varieties biodiversity is also used as a source material. To improve the desired traits, commercial/domesticated species are crossbred with their wild relatives. In this way, disease resistant and high yielding varieties of crops (e.g. wheat, rice, maize, sugar cane) and fruits have been developed.
Hybrid animal varieties have been produced to increase the production of milk, meat, eggs etc. This indicates the need for protecting biodiversity for breeding programmes in agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, sericulture, lac culture, poultry and fishery.
2. Drugs and Medicines:
Drugs and medicines are manufactured from various chemicals such as alkaloids, resins, fatty acids, glycosides, essential oils are obtained from medicinal plants. Ayurvedic medicines available in the market for treating numerous diseases in man are based on plant products. But unfortunately few species of these types of plants are investigated in detail for their medicinal value.
Fibre yielding plants such as cotton, flax, hemp, jute, etc. are the major sources of fibres. More and more varieties of plants are being explored for obtaining superior fibres.
4. Useful products:
Plants produce large number of useful products such as gums, dyes, rubber, tannins, latex, paper, tea, coffee, perfumes, waxes and dry fruits. Similarly, animal species provide wool, fur, skin, leather, honey, lac, silk, waxes, pearls, horn, antlers etc. for trade. Discovery of more such economically important species of plants and animals will yield more useful products for human use.
5. Ecosystem Services:
Biodiversity plays a major role in many ecosystem services such as replenishing oxygen through photosynthesis, pollination through bees, regulation of global climate, control of flood, and soil erosion, nutrient cycling”, microbial waste treatment, biological control of pests etc.
6. Ecological Balance:
Biodiversity of species enhance ecological balance. Disappearance of any link in a food chain may upset nature’s balance and create problems. For example, large scale killing of snakes will increase population of rats and hence large scale destruction of crops. Indiscriminate killings of tiger and lion will increase the population of herbivores that will damage forests, grass lands or crops, deforestation will affect rain full and thereby entire ecosystem and also human economy.
7. Ecosystem stability, productivity and health:
Biodiversity is essential for stability of an ecosystem. Communities having more species tend to be more stable than those with less species. A stable ecosystem is able to resist occasional disturbance. Ecosystem with higher biodiversity (example: tropical rain forest) are more productive than ecosystems with lower biodiversity (example: temperate forests). Biodiversity is essential for maintenance and health of ecosystems through the occurrence of various checks, controls, negative and positive feed backs.