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Image: A young girl cupping a flower in her hands. The flower sits among many other kinds of plants, displaying the biodiversity in her backyard.

Weeds are a Good Thing! Why the Biodiversity in Your Backyard Matters

When you think of “conservation,” what creatures come to mind? Rhinos? Elephants? Whales? Corals?  What about beetles, bugs, fungi, or microorganisms? While big-name species have become the emblems of conservation, the ecosystems they call home are filled with an incredible diversity of life that we are only beginning to understand. Fortunately, as we start to paint a more complete picture of our planet’s stunning diversity, we are able to spur on more stories of conservation success and contribute in our own ways to a more biodiverse future.

Biodiversity—the variety of species within a given area or ecosystem—is one of the cornerstones of the Earth’s overall health. It is crucial to the health of all living creatures on Earth, including us humans. From farming practices, to front yards, to cats, to the common cold, we all have a hand in and connection to, the importance of sustaining the diversity of life on this planet. 

Image: A young girl cupping a flower in her hands. The flower sits among many other kinds of plants, displaying the biodiversity in her backyard.
Source: Unsplash

Our unexplored world!

Did you know that science has named and discovered over 1.6 million species? 1 While this is remarkable, it’s just a small fraction of life on Earth. Estimates on the actual number of species we share this planet with range closer toward 8.7 million. 2

It’s really no wonder that we know so little about the rich biodiversity of this planet, and the complex way all those species interact to maintain the balance of life we are a part of. It’s only within the last 350 years of human existence that we’ve been able to see single-celled organisms, put a name to the force that creates diversity of life on our planet (natural selection in 1858), and confirmed the processes that move and shape our continents, oceans, and mountains (plate tectonics in the 1960’s). 

As our understanding of the complexity of our planet and the role biodiversity plays in it continues to evolve, we are capable of better seeing, understanding, and stopping the loss of biodiversity on our planet.

A closer look at Biodiversity with Sir David Attenborough

It’s difficult to fully comprehend the stunning complexity and diversity of life on our planet in just a few short minutes, but this great video on biodiversity from The Royal Society, narrated by the legendary David Attenborough does an incredible job. When it comes to preserving biodiversity, the stakes are high, but luckily—as they get to at the end of the video—our efforts are working, and there’s good news on the horizon!

Via: The Royal Society 3

If you want to explore more from the Royal Society, head over to their YouTube channel and let yourself get lost in an incredible collection of videos covering nature, scientific advancements, and natural history!

Stories of Conservation Success!

While the stakes of preserving our planet’s biodiversity are high, our fight to conserve some of the planet’s big-name species and the ecosystems they call home have had major victories that show us our efforts really do work. Conservationists have been fighting to keep critically endangered species from going extinct, and for the most part, those efforts have been successful. Some major names in the animal world have even been ushered away from extinction and endangerment. Over the last 50 years, human intervention has helped blue whale, sea otter, white rhino, and mountain gorilla populations increase, and that is just a fraction of the victories we’ve had.

Here are a few of our favorite conservation success stories:

How Highway Crossings Are Saving the American Lion

You may know the American Lion by one of its 83 names, but whether you call it a puma, mountain lion, or catamount, it’s time to start protecting these important creatures. And that starts in—of all places—our highways!

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How Painted Wolves Are Saving a National Park!

Is fear a good thing? In a gorgeous valley of southern Mozambique, reintroducing fear has restored order and allowed their ecosystem to once again thrive after humans sent it spiraling out of check. Here’s the story of Gorongosa National Park’s revival—thanks to the return of the painted wolf!

Read More
The 2,000-Pound Vegetarians Slowing Climate Change

Some of our best environmental engineers when it comes to winning the race to slow climate change have turned out to be these natural (and very cute) prairie-preserving specialists! Here’s how bison are restoring a previously destroyed landscape and keeping tons of carbon out of our atmosphere along the way.

Read More
Casting a Line for Conservation!

What happens when fishermen and scientists team up to protect a species? Check out this extraordinary collaboration of anglers and biologists to preserve some of the world’s most endangered and magnificent fish!

Read More

This may all sound amazing, but as someone who cares about these issues, how do you help maintain biodiversity without being a conservationist? There are many organizations out there whose goal is to conserve species globally, but for us “doers” who want a more hands-on approach….

Start in Your Own Backyard

Shockingly enough, the easiest thing for those of us who own homes to do to help biodiversity on a local level starts right in your lawn. Mowing your lawn less—or stopping mowing altogether—does more for your local environment than you’d think.

Not using the lawn mower itself reduces your carbon footprint as you stop burning fuel, and as your lawn grows, native species will start to flourish. Native plant species help important pollinators like bees and the now-endangered monarch butterfly survive. Introducing more plant species to your area will also make it more drought resistant, as higher biodiversity can retain water in soil more effectively. 4

This short video from Bowdoin College shows us the impact this can make:

Via: Bowdoin College 5

Short, sweet, and to the point! You may have started that video thinking the unmown lawn would be hideous, but this man’s backyard turned into a beautiful natural sanctuary! 

If you’re still feeling sheepish about an unmown lawn, certain business make cute signs (like this sweet “Pardon the weeds, I’m feeding the bees!” sign) that explain your mission so you can provide your neighbors with an explanation. 

With just this minor change to your lifestyle and a newfound awareness for biodiversity, we can all make a great impact on the ecological crises our world faces. Advocating for nature even in small ways helps everyone around the world. More importantly however, we should listen to those most affected by climate change and ecological disaster, and give them a seat at the table. 

The lessons we learn from biodiversity also translate to social diversity. The more voices we listen to from different cultural or economic backgrounds, the more we, the collective society benefit. Don’t stop at advocating for nature, take the extra easy step to advocate for those in our society whose voices aren’t listened to nearly enough.

Remember, you can make an impact.

  • Owen

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Notes:

  1. “How Many Species Haven’t We Found Yet?” Newsletters, National Geographic, 26 Dec. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/newsletters/animals/article/how-many-species-have-not-found-december-26. Accessed 1 Sept. 2022.
  2. “How Many Species Exist?” National Wildlife Federation, 2022, www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/1999/How-Many-Species-Exist. Accessed 1 Sept. 2022.
  3. The Royal Society. “Why Is Biodiversity Important – with Sir David Attenborough | the Royal Society.” YouTube, 11 Oct. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlWNuzrqe7U. Accessed 1 Sept. 2022.
  4. “Biodiversity Helps Grassland Resist Extreme Weather.” ScienceDaily, 2015, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151016084852.htm. Accessed 1 Sept. 2022.
  5. College, Bowdoin. “Nature Moments: Bouquets and Biodiversity from Your Lawn.” YouTube, 5 Oct. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yPN64olefQ. Accessed 1 Sept. 2022.
Published: September 5, 2022

Image: Owen Biniecki

Owen Biniecki

Intern

Owen has been an intern with the Goodness Exchange team since 2019. He is currently attending college at the University of Vermont and is due to graduate in the Class of 2025.

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