Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, is the term we use for the variety of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and other intertwined life forms within any ecosystem… “from towering redwood trees to tiny, single-cell algae that are impossible to see without a microscope.”

Why is biodiversity so important? The more biodiversity there is, the stronger an ecosystem is because small changes will have less of an effect on its stability. From National Geographic:

All species are interconnected. They depend on one another. Forests provide homes for animals. Animals eat plants. The plants need healthy soil to grow. Fungi help decompose organisms to fertilize the soil. Bees and other insects carry pollen from one plant to another, which enables the plants to reproduce. With less biodiversity, these connections weaken and sometimes break, harming all the species in the ecosystem…

Biodiversity is important to people in many ways. Plants, for instance, help humans by giving off oxygen. They also provide food, shade, construction material, medicines, and fiber for clothing and paper. The root system of plants helps prevent flooding. Plants, fungi, and animals such as worms keep soil fertile and water clean. As biodiversity decreases, these systems break down.

…and that didn’t even go into the microbial diversity in our guts! For more biodiversity, check out this excellent collection of CalAcademy video tutorials.

Watch this next: Feedback loops – How nature gets its rhythms.

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