What is biodiversity?

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What is biodiversity, and why do we need it?

Biodiversity

/ˌbʌɪə(ʊ)dʌɪˈvəːsɪti/ noun

The variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat, a high level of which is usually considered to be important and desirable.

Source: Google
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Bees and other pollinators swarm around a Sea Holly flower

 

Humans, animals and pollinators all rely on biodiversity for survival.

From the food we eat to the medicines we take, plants have a role to play. 

Most of us are aware of issues such as climate change, pollution and deforestation – but the impact they have on plant species is serious. Through human actions, entire plant populations are being eradicated, which means that our species, and so many others that rely on biodiversity, are under threat.

We believe that understanding is the key to more of us taking positive action to combat biodiversity loss.

Read on to find out more about biodiversity, pollinators, and our wonderful UK-native wildlife.

 

Why is biodiversity so important?

Everything in our complex and amazing natural world is connected. Plants need insects to pollinate them and help them spread and grow. Insects and other animals rely on plants and fungi for food and shelter. Larger animals feed on smaller animals. As for us humans – our important food crops need diverse pollinators to grow.

Biodiverse ecosystems help to keep the world and its inhabitants healthy. They clean our air and water, provide food and medicine, keep soils stable and regulate our climate.

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Wildflowers growing alongside a road as a red bus passes by

 

Biodiversity supports important pollinators.

Insects are the biggest and most diverse group of animals on Earth and make up over half of all described animal species.

Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies… The insects that feed on wildflower nectar and pollen help to pollinate those plants and keep populations thriving. Pollinated plants produce seeds, fruit and vegetables for us and other animals to enjoy. Plants also serve as nesting sites and shelter for wildlife, while predatory insects keep plant pests like aphids and caterpillars in check.

Having evolved alongside each other, our UK-native wildlife and wildflowers are well suited. Many plants have special relationships with specific pollinating insects. For example, plants with blue-purple flowers – such as lavender and buddleia – are particularly attractive to bees. These purple flowers happen to be nectar-rich, meaning the bees are well rewarded for their pollination services.

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A red and black cinnabar moth rests on some pebbles

 

It's not just insects that benefit from thriving wild places.

All animals rely on diverse ecosystems to survive. A thriving insect population, supported by wildflowers and other plants, will provide food for birds, bats and other mammals.

Popular UK garden species like hedgehogs and badgers love to snack on slugs, snails and other insects, keeping them from attacking our plants.

Spotting and identifying wildlife from your window, in your garden or local green space, is a useful way to determine the health of an area. Bats, for example, are particularly sensitive to environmental changes, so their numbers can tell us a lot.

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Pink Echinacea flowers grow in a row

 

Back to nature: rewilding for biodiversity

‘Rewilding’ is a natural conservation method which aims to restore and protect wild nature in a ‘hands-off’ way. The aim is to reach a point where humans can take a step back, and nature can begin to take care of itself.

Rewilding projects often involve reintroducing native plants and animals that have died out, helping to combat biodiversity loss and restore ecological balance.

For example, the Eurasian beaver was once widespread across Britain, but was hunted to extinction in the 16th century. Now, the beaver is being reintroduced across the country, and in turn is helping other species to thrive.

Beavers’ dams help to slow the flow of water and shore up river banks, reducing soil erosion and the risk of flash flooding. The dams also create new pools, streams and wetland habitats where other species can flourish.

Large-scale rewilding projects are seeing some incredible results, but we can all do our bit to rewild our own lives and support biodiversity by planting UK-native wildflowers, at home and in our local communities.

Success story

In 2002, four beavers were reintroduced to Ham Fen in Kent and began breeding. Since then, the transformation of the habitat has enabled other rare and threatened species to reappear without human intervention, including water vole, great crested newt and the marsh fritillary butterfly.

Bugs, birds and bees

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Find out more about the creatures that help our world thrive and depend on biodiversity for survival

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