A very cool story caught my eye yesterday of a small mammal being re-discovered after 113 years in a Colombia nature reserve. This individual “Red-Crested Tree Rat”, who hadn’t been seen since 1898, just happened to waltz right up to an ecolodge at the park. As a biodiversity hotspot ourselves (on the ABC islands alone there over 200 endemic species and subspecies found nowhere else in the world) this story, and that tomorrow is the “International Day of Biodiversity” reminded me just how cool it is to share the planet with so many other types of life.
“Biodiversity”, short for biological diversity, is simply the variety of living plants and animals in any given place (eg. ecosystem, continent, earth). As humans we have learned (regrettably somewhat recently) just how crucial biodiversity is to our well-being – providing clean air, clean water, robust agriculture and medicine amongst many other services. In short – greater biodiversity equals greater health. Recently DCNA members attended a socio-economic valuation course on Bonaire, which trained participants in placing monetary value on this biodiversity. In today’s world speaking in dollars and cents about biodiversity allows for more informed and accurate decisions about development (St. Maarten Nature Foundation recently valued their coral reefs at $57 million and have established a marine park to help protect it).
Beyond the economic benefits to humans however, isn’t it great to hear about a species that has been hidden from us for over 100 years? Or to watch kids look into the eyes of a majestic creature that has inhabited earth for 150 million years (yes, sea turtles have been here that long!)? Isn’t it great to know enormous whales, playful dolphins and intimidating sharks are patrolling our vast oceans? This intrinsic value suggests life is valuable on its own, whether it directly benefits humans or not.