Juggling Interactions

There’s a lot of talk these days about supporting biodiversity, but what does that really mean?

Once, my personal understanding of biodiversity involved a focus on the big, noticeable species – the endangered animals like whales and polar bears and elephants, as if biodiversity was the same as protecting threatened species.

It’s much more than that, of course.

We are really just beginning to untangle just how important an entire web of interactions can be for a habitat, a region, a set of species, for the climate, for ocean health, and so on. We’ve tended to think in terms of linear lines, like food chains, which suits our human need for order. Often, we can only hold so many different elements in our minds as relevant to the same issue before we start losing focus like a bad juggler with too many objects in the air.

Sometimes we choose to think that if a species goes missing in a habitat, for whatever reason, the multiplicity of species will close around the hole left by the animal or plant that is now gone. Adjustments will be made and life will go on.

We are now beginning to comprehend just how much we don’t know about the interactions that sustain healthy environments – and our comprehension is being outpaced by the disappearance of species. This is as true of urban environments as it is of the ever-dwindling places we might think of as ‘wild.’ The good news is, we can actually work on an individual and community level to help support biodiversity.

Today is designated by the United Nations as the International Day for Biological Diversity.

species, biodiversity, Antarctic, research, endangered
A sampling of life beneath the water’s surface around Antarctica.
Source: British Antarctic Survey