Biodiversity, short for biological diversity, is a term that is heard more and more frequently in our lives. But let's find out a little more, why biodiversity is so important and how we can all contribute to its preservation within our private green spaces.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the totality of organisms and species present in the environment, their relationship and interdependence between them and their belonging to a specific environment, their genetic variations and the harmony between them.
Why is it important for humans to protect biodiversity?
There are some reasons why it is important for humans to protect biodiversity, the first is that we feel the need and ethical responsibility to protect the weakest species and our planet in general.
Then, there are more practical and quantifiable reasons: biodiversity nourishes biodiversity and if every living species lives and consumes some resources present in the environment, at the same time it produces others that are useful to the next organism or species next to it. It is a cycle that works thanks to every living being that takes and inputs into it, supporting the chain of life at all levels.
Let's take a tree, not only does it consume the CO2 that is dramatically increasing in the atmosphere, it not only produces oxygen that humans and animals breathe, but it is also habitat and food for many species such as birds and insects.
Human beings depend on nature and its biodiversity for many things:
- quality of soils, their fertility and the ability to produce more food
- air quality and air temperature
- shelter and comfort, providing natural materials that we use such as cotton or wood
- fresh water, a resource that we often waste and without which life could not continue.
Too often all these things are taken for granted.
The loss of biodiversity will compromise the functionality of the world as we know it in its natural rhythms, think for example of the drastic reduction in the population of bees that contribute to pollinate trees and crops. In some areas of the world, given the scarcity of bees, the latter are rented by farmers at the right times for pollination. This affects us all immensely.
So what can we do in our cities, even in small gardens, to contribute to the protection and survival of the biodiversity surrounding us?
Here are some reasons why it will make a difference to have a green balcony rather than just leaving it bare, or to choose native plants rather than making a random selection of whimsical and exotic plants.
- Even a small balcony, if planted, functions as part of a green corridor in an urban environment, where insects and birds can find continuity of shelter and a place to forage for food or to reproduce. This should work within a city's overall network of green spaces, from public parks, to green streets, and private spaces can also contribute. If you have a balcony or terrace, how often do you see a visiting butterfly, bee or bird? It happens more often than you think!
- Using a selection of endemic or adapted plants will help local biodiversity find their natural habitat and nutrients and vice versa insects and birds will help plants develop thanks to the natural nutrients they return to them or through pollination.
- Green roofs and surfaces aid in the retention and drainage of rainwater, creating opportunities for rainwater not to be completely wasted but take part of the life cycle even within a man-made concrete jungle. This will also support rainwater management engineering in large cities: where does all the rainwater go?
- Pay attention to the non-native animals we have in our homes as pets - dogs and cats most commonly - they could become intrusive predators without us noticing.
- By using organic and natural fertilizers in our gardens and balconies, we will not introduce aggressive chemicals and elements that could be harmful to insects and birds.
- Lawns do not provide shelter to most wild animals, so if you really like them you can think of reducing the area or cutting it fewer times a year.
I hope you will find these good reasons to believe that small changes like planting your balcony can make a difference not only for you but for the entire environment as well.