By Vern and Lori Gieger
Paradise or Wasteland
There are 12 countries in the world that harbor approx. 70% of the total biodiversity of the planet and have earned the privilege to be called mega diverse. Mexico is one of them; Mexico takes first place in reptiles, second in mammals and fourth in amphibians and vascular plants and tenth in birds. It is estimated that more than ten percent of all the worlds’ species live in Mexico. To date, 65,000 species have been identified; however, it is believed that more than 200,000 species may reside here in Mexico.
Mexico mega diversity is due to its topography, which creates a variety of climates, producing a mosaic of environmental conditions that enable a large variety of habitats and life forms to exist. There are six principal ecological zones recognized in Mexico: Tropical Hot and Humid, Tropical Hot and Sub humid, Temperate Humid, Temperate Sub humid, Arid and Semiarid, Sea – Land Transition Zone.
The above mentioned sounds impressive but, is it? We all must ask ourselves are we living on a dying planet? Human beings are currently causing the greatest mass extinction of species since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Seventy percent of leading scientists agree if present trends continue one half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in less than 100 years, as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.
The living world is disappearing before our eyes. Around one in ten of all the world’s bird species and a quarter of its mammals are officially listed as threatened with extinction, while up to two-thirds of other animal species are also endangered.
Human dependence on biodiversity is absolute. Biodiversity makes up the structure of the ecosystems and habitats that support essential living resources, including wildlife, fisheries and forests. It helps provide for basic human needs such as food, shelter, and medicine. It composes ecosystems that maintain oxygen in the air, enrich the soil, purify the water, protect against flood and regulate climate. Biodiversity also has recreational, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic values.
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the question of why is biodiversity important. There are, however, ways to bring the question into focus. As in human life, sometimes how we value others comes into focus when we lose them from our lives; a friend or a relative dies. Their passing provokes reflection of what they meant to us. In other words, we can more easily articulate the value of something to us when we are about to lose it.
Likewise, many wild species are about to depart from our lives and their passage forces us to come to grips with their extinction and how their existence has value to us directly or indirectly. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) maintains a list of imperiled or extinct species that confirm why is biodiversity important. The list, known as the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, is being compiled for species all over the world.
The Earth’s population is soaring, but its resources are finite. Can we provide food, water, energy—and automobiles, cell phones, computers etc. for everyone, and leave future generations something more than a planet-sized wasteland? Our natural resources must be available to future generations, yet people living today must also gain. Perhaps by saving our natural environment and the flora and fauna that depend on it, we in turn save ourselves.