The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recently released a report on the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture. Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture (BFA) refers to plants, animals and micro-organisms that sustain the ecosystem structures and processes to provide food and non-food agricultural products. As the world’s natural resources get stretched to feed increasing populations, it is important we understand the importance of biodiversity to the earth’s ecosystem especially in relation to food production.
Biodiversity is important in soil formation and fertility maintenance. The micro-organisms in the soils such as worms and bacteria help in decomposition of organic matter and retention of nutrients while others enable soils in protecting plants against diseases. Plants including trees are also important in preventing soil erosion while at the same time their residue leaves provide organic matter which is later decomposed contributing to soil fertility. The shade from the trees also protects the micro-organisms in the soil such as worms which aerate and improve the soil structure.
Forest vegetation contributes to air quality for animals and human beings through carbon dioxide sequestration and also control temperatures. Some aquatic plant life in the ocean ecosystem also helps in absorption of carbon dioxide thus ensuring clean breathing air for aquatic animals. It also influences rainfall patterns which affect agricultural production.
Bees among other wild insects and birds help in pollination of plants and play a significant role in producing nutrients for human consumption. Indeed much of vitamin A and C are produced by food from crops is directly attributed to animal pollinators. Areas with high number of diverse animal pollinators have been found to have higher crop yields.
Biodiversity is also important in controlling pests and diseases that attack crops and animals. For instance, some birds are predators to certain pests while there are cover crops that inhibit the growth and development of certain weeds. This means diversity in animals and crops can prevent the spread of pests and diseases hence reducing losses.
Biodiversity also helps in controlling natural disasters related to climate change. Magroove trees, coral reefs and other coastal ecosystems are important in controlling the impact of storms. In addition vegetation cover reduces the impact of flooding in downstream areas. It also reduces the impact of soil and water erosion.
Biodiversity is greatly declining in the ecosystem due to the use of chemicals in form of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The earth’s ecosystem needs every micro-organism to function properly and it’s important that farmers adopt good agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture, crop and animal diversification among others in order to conserve habitat diversity to promote food security and nutrition. So before you apply that chemical fertilizer, spray that herbicide /pesticide, chase those bees or kill that harmless snake in your farm, think twice!