What is Biodiversity?

Defining biodiversity

Biodiversity, which is short for biological diversity, is the term used to describe the whole variety of life on Earth, from polar bears to micro-organisms in the soil, from human beings to orchids; and all the habitats in which they live.

Life on Earth is incredibly diverse and a continual source of amazement; the media often report exciting new discoveries of species previously unknown to science; new animal behaviours and unsuspected ecological interactions.  Even in a busy county such as Essex, the range of biodiversity is extraordinary, making a significant contribution to the Earth's sum total of living things and the environments in which they live.

Whilst it is important that we seek to protect our rarest plants, animals and habitats, it is important to recognise the vital role of the 'commonplace' in ensuring our life systems are maintained. Small invertebrates, for example, often go unrecorded, yet play a crucial role in pollinating plants, breaking down dead material and providing food for larger animals. They are the building blocks on which the rest of the web of life depends for survival.
People and biodiversity

Biodiversity is about people as well as wildlife, a key contributor to our quality of life and providing wide-ranging social and economic benefits. Significantly, the health of the environment indicates how wisely we are using our natural resources, such as air, soil and water. The threats to biodiversity include loss of habitats (for example, through new building developments), climate change which will bring risks of flooding and sea level rise, lack of the right management of wildlife sites, and alien invasive species which compete directly or indirectly with native species.
Threats to biodiversity in Essex

Biodiversity on planet Earth, in the UK, and locally in Essex has been depleted over many decades and is threatened today by the extreme pressures on space for building, by the effects of climate change and short-term economic exploitation of natural resources.  We must take effective action to care for our environment and wildlife if biodiversity in Essex is to be maintained for future generations and for the sake of our own well-being and health.

The Essex Biodiversity Project helps organisations and individuals to reduce current threats and to implement projects aimed at restoring and enhancing species and habitats.
Further information

If you are searching for further information about biodiversity, try the Natural History Museum website, which provides a useful background and extensive information.