Natural Curiosities

Forest fruit from Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Photo by Christian Ziegler.

“The water we drink falls as rain, usually on higher ground, often designated as a catchment area. The terrain would ideally be covered in vegetation, because otherwise the runoff would be muddy, the reservoirs would silt up and the valleys would flood. But plants depend on billions of insects to pollinate them. Insects also devour foliage, so forests depend on birds by day and bats by night to keep insect populations under control. To prevent a population crash, there must also be raptors to keep the insectivores in order – and the taps running. At every level, human civilization is underwritten by the planet’s countless and still mostly unidentified wild things – the jargon word is biodiversity – that pollinate our crops, cleanse, conserve and recycle our water, maintain oxygen levels, and deliver all the things on which human comfort, health, and security depend. Economists and conservationists have tried to put a value on the services of nature: if we had to buy what biodiversity provides for nothing, how much cash would we need? The answer runs into trillions, but the question is nonsensical. Without healthy ecosystems, there would be no cotton and linen to make banknotes and no bread or clean water for sale.

What is Biodiversity, and why are ecologists struggling to push this important subject to the front page? Answers, musings and reviews on different biodiversity blogs via a pre-digested blog list from The Pimm Group.

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