What Can We Do to Protect Biodiversity?

By Rachel K.

Adapted from Rachel’s presentation to Seattle Aquarium volunteers

Biodiversity is defined as “The variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.” While this is very true, this definition fails to encompass why biodiversity is important, and why we need it in order to survive. Humans depend on the world’s biodiversity for a multitude of necessities, including food, the economy, and medicine. Our practices are causing a significant increase in worldwide biodiversity, especially in marine ecosystems, which we in the Puget Sound: We Love You campaign hold dear to us. There are many actions that we, as regular citizens, can take to preserve biodiversity. I’m going to go through the five main causes of biodiversity loss and give an example of one thing that everybody can do to prevent it.

1.  Water pollution. Our storm drains lead directly into ecosystems, whether it’s just a stream or the Puget Sound itself, so we need to make sure that nothing bad gets in there. If everybody took their car to a car-wash, where the water is either reused or disposed of properly, no chemicals would get into the storm drains. If you really like to wash your car at home, do it on your lawn. The chemicals will get filtered out in the soil before they make it to a storm drain.

2. Overexploitation of resources. For example: overfishing. Where you get your seafood can have a huge impact on biodiversity in marine ecosystems. We have these really cool Seafood Watch cards at the Seattle Aquarium (which you can also download here: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx) that tell you what types of seafood are best to get if you are looking to eat sustainably. There is also a handy Seafood Watch app that you can download if you have an iPhone, and it even has a map that tells you which grocery stores and restaurants people have found sustainable seafood at.

3. Invasive species. A lot of parks have volunteer programs where you can come once a month or so to remove invasive plants from the park and replace them with native ones. Many people don’t have the time, energy, or patience to dedicate to removal of invasive species. That’s okay; just promise you’ll never plant another blackberry bush.

4. Habitat destruction. A big contributor to this problem is deforestation in order to clear space for new houses or to make lumber and paper. We probably can’t stop the human population from growing and spreading, but we can limit the amount of paper we use. Print double-sided, or use the backs of documents you no longer need as scratch paper. Recycle everything you can, and when you do need more paper, buy the recycled paper that is now widely available. Think of every item you buy as a vote. If you buy a ream of recycled paper from Staples, it’s like submitting one vote for recycled paper over regular paper. And when Staples looks at its records and sees that their customers are buying recycled paper, they’ll think, “Oh! Our customers really like this recycled paper. We should keep selling it!” If just 17 people decide to go for the recycled paper (and in the scheme of things, 17 people really isn’t very many), that saves one tree. So if everyone in Washington State bought one ream of recycled paper, we could save about 400,000 trees, and if everyone in the United States bought one ream of recycled paper, we could save over 18.5 million trees.

5. Climate change. We know that climate change is due to mass amounts greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere, so the most obvious solution is simply to stop releasing as much greenhouse gases. A majority of these greenhouse gases is made up of carbon dioxide, which is released by car exhaust. So how do we release less carbon dioxide? By driving less! Ride your bike if you don’t have to go far; in one mile, you can save about a pound of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, plus get your daily exercise; it’s a win-win situation. Another option is public transportation, such as the bus, which not only is better for the environment, but saves you from having to pay for parking or the toll if you have to cross the 520 bridge. Another solid option is to carpool. Carpooling can cut your carbon dioxide emission by at least half.

These are just five things that we can all do to preserve biodiversity, and really doing anything to be more environmentally friendly will have positive effects as well. Humans have already had quite a negative impact on the world’s biodiversity, but it’s not too late to turn that around and protect biodiversity while we still can. The mission of biodiversity preservation starts with us.

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