It’s become a common buzz word in recent years, but what does “biodiversity” actually mean? The Oxford dictionary defines it as “the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.” So why bother preserving or enhancing it? Why do we need a variety of life forms? Why do people care so much?
Higher biodiversity is inextricably linked to higher ecosystem resiliency. Different ecosystems perform different services – wetlands retain and filter water, meadows attract and feed pollinators, etc. In order to maintain their ability to perform these services in the event of a disturbance (a disease, a storm, or a clear-cut, for example), ecosystems require multiple different species to “fill in” for one another from time to time until the affected species recover.
When considering agriculture, the same rules tend to apply. In traditional farming practices, monocultures (large plots of a single species) are planted and extraneous species are eradicated. However, should a disease or pest develop that puts the entire plot at risk, the farmer’s yield may suffer dramatically. Planting multiple varieties of a crop is a safer option in many cases, since some varieties may prove to be resilient against certain pests and others may survive despite disease. By employing principles from our understanding of ecological biodiversity, farmers can safeguard their yields in a sustainable way.
Additionally, increased biodiversity in the environment neighbouring agricultural activities can help to enhance the productivity of a plot. Natural ecosystems attract and support valuable pollinators – vital agricultural helpers. Enhanced biodiversity along the margins of plots may also help to keep pests and their predators in balance, assisting the farmer to sustainably reduce the damage pests may cause to crops.
But that’s not all – biodiversity can safeguard and enhance crop production in many different ways, depending on the type of crop, the surrounding environment, and the yield required. Stay tuned as we explore organic farming further throughout the summer, or check out our previous posts about mushrooms and soil bacteria!
Interested in seeing agricultural biodiversity in practice? Email email@example.com to schedule a visit to our organic farm in Glassville, NB. Don’t have time for a road trip? Stop by our garden plots with NB CHG and The Ville Cooperative to see biodiversity on a small scale!
Also, make sure to check our events calendar regularly for workshops and follow our gardeners for regular updates on social media, tagged with #FBCGrows.
Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity – learn more about what other organizations in New Brunswick are doing to celebrate here.