Certain questions can really catch you off guard. My three-year old son seems to be the master at asking them. The other day, he pointed to a black and red bug in the front garden, asking “And Mom, why is this one important?”. Well, I managed to tell him it was a firebug... But honestly, who knows what firebugs do without looking into it. A few days before this, I told him that every animal is important and I explained that earthworms loosen the soil. But firebugs? I now know what they do. They feed on aphids and other pests.
Diversity in nature has always fascinated me. I used to stop by the birds and amphibians in the wildlife park because nobody paid them much attention. It wasn’t until later that I discovered what biodiversity meant, something I have encountered almost every day in my work since joining Bayer CropScience. Not least because it is a term that is so often used ambiguously. Biodiversity actually describes genetic diversity in addition to the diversity of species – flora and fauna in Germany alone includes around 71,900 different species. It ensures that species can adapt to changing conditions. And climate change is showing us how heavily we depend on biodiversity. Genetic diversity is sort of nature’s survival strategy.
Many species collectively form an ecosystem. Examples include heathland, or the Alps. Biodiversity also describes their diversity. Here in Germany, we have 660 different ecosystems. And only if they remain intact can they cope with extreme weather, for example. For this reason alone, they act kind of like life insurance for all of us.
In reality, humanity could not survive without biodiversity. It provides us with a food supply. Ultimately, all crops and livestock originate from species in the wild. It looks after us. After all, the best examples for making discoveries are found in nature (such as the burdock plant used to develop Velcro). Nature also keeps us healthy because medicines too are often based on what is already working in nature.
These are all good reasons to protect biodiversity, because we all depend on it. But the most important reason of all is that we need it to survive.
I wonder whether we actually realize this whenever we talk about species going extinct. Perhaps we think that extinction only affects exotic animals, but the disappearance of biodiversity would see the human species follow suit.
This is another reason why I am happy to be able to address biodiversity in my work. Because it very specifically relates to our future and my children’s future.
It fascinates me that we still haven’t come close to discovering every species. This would also appear to be an almighty task. I recently read that there are a billion times more bacteria in the world’s soil than stars in outer space! I made sure to remember that one. Just in case my son asks me.
Julia Köbele works in the field of sustainability for Bayer CropScience Deutschland where she is mainly responsible for biodiversity projects and initiatives. Her work includes collaborating with farmers and conservation organizations to implement specific biodiversity and sustainability measures on farmland and the surrounding areas.