The Value of Biodiversity
Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life at a place, whether that be the Earth or in your back yard. The value of this biodiversity has been judged in two ways, and there is much discussion between these different viewpoints.
Why Biodiversity is Important to You
Biodiversity brings direct benefits to humans. Whilst biodiversity in an arable field can seem very limited, the soil beneath the crop and the multitudes of bacteria and fungi in it are vital to producing food. Bumblebees and other pollinators are vital for the production of many crops, especially soft fruits. The reductions in their habitats and food plants means that many soft fruit growers import them to pollinate their crops.
Similarly, biodiversity underpins some of our key rural industries. Grouse chicks need a rich supply of insects whilst young salmon rely on aquatic invertebrates. Insects such as ladybirds play a vital role in controlling aphid populations in crops. At the other end of the size spectrum, sea eagles and dolphins bring in eco-tourists. In total it has been estimated that the value of the benefits humans receive from the environment equals £21 billion for Scotland (2008 prices).
Humans directly benefit from their interactions with nature. It has been shown in many studies that people’s mental health can be improved through interacting with nature, as well as the gains to general health from taking exercise.
The alternative view is that there is intrinsic value in biodiversity and that there is clear moral justification for its conservation. The concept of valuing nature cannot capture all its real value and that value cannot always be converted into a price. So, whilst there is value in costing the contributions of biodiversity in decision making, there still needs to be an awareness that some things are beyond valuation.
All of us are buoyed up by chance encounters with wildlife and the pleasure of seeing something remarkable up close can stay with you for many years. The north east of Scotland still offers many places to see exceptional wildlife or with some detective work and a long-walk you can still find rare arctic-alpine flowers. Such connections to the natural world help us to put our personal importance on biodiversity.
It has been shown in many studies that people’s mental health can be improved through interacting with nature, as well as the gains to general health from taking exercise
Principal Ecologist at the James Hutton Institute
Keen to do your bit for biodiversity? Check out some great ways to get involved.