With 2010 being the Year of Biodiversity and the goals set then for now having not been met, it is being referred to as serious a problem as climate change which by contrast is directly affected by climate change and global warming. As this becomes an increasing concern that impacts us directly, whether we realize it or not, we must find ways in our lives to promote diversity and to strengthen the ecological chain of life.
Preserve wetlands. Wetlands have the ability to breakdown nitrogen and toxins and which can recharge groundwater and protect against flooding. Not intended for humans, even though we systematically fill in and mitigate them in the pursuit of development; we are compromising an area rich with life and key in maintaining and increasing biodiversity. Wetlands are meant to work as connected footprints that allow species to migrate from location to location. When this chain is broken, it further breaks down the ability of species to proliferate. Mitigation, pesticides and water pollution are some of the number one threats to wetland health.
Attract wild bees. Domestic bumblebees long used to pollinate crops have been found less effective than its wild counterpart who can be twice as effective at both pollinating and having more flowers produce fruit. Not only are they cheaper (they work for free), after observing bees in hundreds of fields on multiple continents, scientists learned that free-living bees improve the proportion of flowers that mature to fruit in every field visited, compared with only 14% of fields visited by rented honeybees. Wild bees appear when conditions are suitable and that means creating sustainable, diversified crop farms.
Eliminate pesticides. Pesticides are known to have detrimental effects on wildlife and habitats and have been directly attributed to the decline of the bald eagle. Contaminating land and water supplies, these chemicals are ingested and passed along the food chain, a direct contributor to the increase loss in biodiversity.
Plant native species that have been grown locally. Natives started elsewhere can be at risk for hybridization (think hybrid species cultivation) and increased risk of introducing and spreading exotic fungal and viral pathogens. Plants of local origin tend to establish and survive better. Where possible use suppliers who can either grow locally collected seed or can make assurances about the origins of the stocks that they supply. Using native plants encourage rich and vibrant native wildlife and habitats, using less resources to maintain than exotics not as suited to our climate.
Avoid monoculture. Planting large masses of a single plant may look impressive but environmentally speaking it can lead to uncontrolled pest problems and the devastation of a single crop. Mixing plants together can eliminate the need for pesticides and insure a hardy grouping of plants that work to protect each other encouraging multiple wild pollinators. It also avoids nutrient depletion that can happen from over-planting of one specie as well allowing for a layering of habit and growth providing for year round food production, ground cover and food for wildlife.
Restore or maintain diverse habitats. Development doesn't need to be a bad word but it needs to be coupled with the word responsible. Seeking to preserve the integrity of a habitat or even re-creating it, such as the efforts of Dr. Ken Yeang through bio-climatic architecture, increases biodiversity and can even create a biodiverse environment for one where it doesn't currently exist.
Websites for more information: Defenders of Wildlife, United Nations Environment Programme and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services.
An excellent video regarding bees and food, Claire Kremen, "Wild bees and the future of food".