Today, there are almost 200,000 (two hundred thousand) species of plants and 10,000 (ten thousand) species of birds along with around 1 million insect species on our planet. These are just what we know. There are probably double the number of species that we don’t know about. However, the diversity among these species is essential to maintaining our ecosystem. So, let’s see how does biodiversity affect the stability of an ecosystem.
What is Biodiversity?
We see a variety of life on Earth. From small insects to big elephants and from moss to tall pine trees, there is immense diversity on this planet. This diversity or variety amongst the biological resources of this planet is what we call ‘biodiversity’.
We don’t just see a variety in species of animals, plants, and microorganisms but also in the genes in these species. Their genes show an even bigger diversity than their appearance. Our earth is so diverse biologically and different ecosystems like rainforests, swamps, deserts, and coral reefs are all part of its diversity.
Any attempt to preserve biodiversity has to take this into account while forming their methods. The roots of almost all cultures on our planet today, trace their origin from this very diversity of our biology. Therefore, declining biodiversity is worrying for reasons more than one.
What Is Ecosystem Stability?
Ecosystem stability is the ability of any kind of ecosystem to bounce back from damages or changes in its environment. The more stable an ecosystem is the faster it heals and bounces back. We measure the stability of an ecosystem by not just the rate of recovery but also by how much it can resist any harmful change.
Imagine a classroom or a group of people with different skills. When given any task, the chance for this group to do better is righter? It is because their varied skill sets will ensure that any kind of problem during the completion of the task can be tackled by someone in the group. Basically, they know how to handle a variety of challenges due to a variety of their skills.
Similarly, when we think of how does biodiversity affect the stability of an ecosystem, we need to apply this analogy. Just like the group, the variety in species will make sure that any external challenge to the ecosystem does not bring the whole system down as there will be many species to take care of the problem. Since there is variety among the species, all of them won’t be vulnerable to the same kind of virus or the same kind of climatic factor. If some of them reduce in number, the other species will take care of the ecosystem.
How Does Biodiversity Affect the Stability of An Ecosystem?
The effect of biodiversity on the ecosystem is positive. It makes the ecosystem more stable and more resilient. The biodiversity of our planet is due to evolution carried on for billions of years. During this, there was a change in the traits and functions of species. They inherited these from one generation to the next.
There have been many extinctions during these years too. The cause of many of such extinction periods is not fully known but scientists have a feeling that it was due to loss of biodiversity. It is true that biodiversity does not guarantee that a particular ecosystem will remain stable. However, there is a guarantee that loss of biodiversity will most definitely lead to damage to ecosystem stability.
The answer to the question of how does biodiversity affect the stability of an ecosystem lies in looking at why biodiversity is important. So, let’s see the contribution of biodiversity to an ecosystem.
Providing Services to The Ecosystem:
Biodiversity maintains stability by protecting the water resources: The quality of our water resources depends upon what kind of species live within it.
Diverse species help in keeping the quality of the soil good. Microbes break down the nitrogen. This is called nitrogen fixation which is very important for nutrition in the soil.
The growth of plants depends upon the existence of birds and bees too. Biodiversity ensures that this is maintained and therefore leads to stability in the ecosystem.
The recycling of nutrients from the atmosphere to the soil and back to the atmosphere is also of vital importance for the ecosystem. Different species in the ecosystem do this.
The existence of biodiversity in trees and forest cover cuts down on pollution. Forests are carbon sinks because they absorb the excess CO2 in the atmosphere.
All of the above in turn maintain the stability of the climate that an ecosystem has. Climate change has become one of the biggest concerns of our world today because it threatens the stability of ecosystems.
Biodiversity provides a vital feature to ecosystems – recovery. It allows ecosystems to recover properly and then thrive as well. Without biodiversity, ecosystems won’t be able to recover.
By Providing Biological Resources:
We get food resources due to biodiversity. It also protects the food chain in an ecosystem thereby preserving its stability.
Many resources have more than one property. So, some species of plants have medicinal properties which help in stabilizing the disease burden of those ecosystems.
The productivity of an ecosystem is maintained by biodiversity. Consistency in reproductive rates ensures that there is a balance.
Biodiversity maintains the stability of ecosystems by replenishing resources from time to time. So, for example an even number of species spread out throughout the forest ecosystem will help in keeping the growth of the trees stable.
Interdependence Of Species in An Ecosystem:
Species in any ecosystem depend on each other which makes biodiversity very important.
Imagine not having your family or friends around. You’ll find yourself feeling sad and alone after some time, right? The same happens with animals and other species of the ecosystem.
Research proves that biodiversity reduces the chances of extinction of wild animals.
Often extinction happens because the habitat of a certain species is destroyed by the elimination of factors they depended on.
By the presence of more than one factor on which a species depends, there is a chance that even when one food source is absent; they will have something else to depend on.
In an ecosystem, each species depends upon some service provided by other species, and therefore it is important that biodiversity is protected.
Biodiversity Provides Resilience to An Ecosystem:
Climate change and global warming have put pressure on the survival process of ecosystems. There is an increasing stress on the species to function even in their original habitat.
The reduction in the population of bees has started coming into focus now because it is understood now how biodiversity affects the stability of an ecosystem in a positive manner.
So, even in the face of climate change, biodiversity acts as a powerful tool and helps the species in their fight for survival.
Biodiversity provides an additional layer of resilience to ecosystems and that’s how it maintains their stability.
The integrity of an ecosystem needs to stay together because it is necessary for human survival. Ecosystem stability ensures that life is supported and our air is breathable and water worth drinking.
Biodiversity supports our agriculture and without it, the entire ecosystem of humans will crumble down.
Areas with high biodiversity have more complex systems. Their food webs are more interwoven and are more productive in quality too. This increment in complexity ensures that there is more resilience too.
By now we have understood how biodiversity affects the stability of an ecosystem. Our world today is fragile because biodiversity is not as strong as it used to be some decades ago. Governments and scientists are trying to come up with ways to protect the biodiversity in an ecosystem under threat.
As fellow citizens, we should make ourselves aware of such initiatives and try to implement them on our local scale too. This will not just ensure that our local biodiversity is being protected but will also make us more involved in our own ecosystem.