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Biodiversity – a short essay

John Hodgkinson

The benefits of incorporating or expanding biodiversity on your farm or in your garden include enhancing soil health and structure, establishing or encouraging insect and animal (especially bird) habitat, enabling biological pest control, building more efficient nutrient recycling,  increasing resistance to soil erosion, reducing synthetic and  fossil fuel based fertilizer use, and slowing rainfall runoff into waterways. Most importantly for the present global atmospheric crisis, these benefits also include increased soil carbon sequestration.

The number and range of species of plants, insects, animals, microorganisms, fungi, soil dwelling invertebrates (especially earthworms), the varied habitats and complex interactions, these are ALL necessary for ecosystem stability, resilience and adaptability.

Ultimately, complex ecosystems are also more productive than those with limited biodiversity.

Monocultures still feature powerfully in the production of food. We all know this, but the monoculture efficiency paradigm is very entrenched. Introducing or increasing biodiversity in these production systems, however, is vital to their long term viability and sustainability. Every small step in this direction is not only desirable, but essential in the long term.

Bringing biodiversity into existing monocultural operations can be achieved as follows:

  • planting and maintaining tree alleys and wildlife corridors:
  • pasture cropping as developed by Colin Seis;
  • underplanting or interseeding of crop succession plants, especially deep rooted species;
  • incorporating green manure/cover crop leys and/or extended periods of (multi species/planned grazing pasture) fallow;
  • expanding native flora remnants; and
  •  multi-cropping via polycultures of suitable species.

A world of degraded ecosystems is a tragedy for all living organisms, not just for humans. Recreational pursuits rely on biodiversity; for example hiking, fishing, camping and birdwatching. This shows the importance of exercise and aesthetics to human health and welfare.

The emotional and spiritual benefits of biodiversity are also part of this equation. When humans interact with vital and beautiful environments, especially in our gardens and on our farms, our spirit can soar, and be inspired to co-create with Nature. This is not necessarily antagonistic to economic behaviour – it can be a multiplying factor! The long term evolution of humans’ spirits is intimately related to how we repair, foster and interact with Earth’s biodiversity.  

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