Biodiversity is the fifth theme of the Green-Schools programme. As with the previous themes, you will see that Biodiversity cross-cuts and integrates with the rest of the themes in many ways.
What is Biodiversity?
The meaning of ‘Biodiversity’ is easier to understand when we break the word down; “bio” refers to life and ‘living things’ and “Diversity” means just that: range or variety. The word refers to the huge variety and variation of life that is all around us.
Why is Biodiversity so important and why should we conserve it?
A high level of diversity among plants, animals and all living things is essential for maintaining a healthy functioning environment, fit for human life. This includes diversity within species, between species and diversity of ecosystems.
We rely on living things to provide some of the most important needs in our daily lives; from the wooden beams that keep our homes standing, to the cotton fibres in our clothes, and from the oxygen that we breath to the food on our plates. We interact with and have an impact on living things, directly and indirectly every day through our lifestyles; e.g. the food we choose to eat or how we manage our gardens. Being aware of this interaction, and making choices to support wildlife and our natural environments is very important.
Whether your school is based in a city or in the countryside the Biodiversity theme will connect you, your school and your wider community with the natural environment and hopefully will cultivate a sense of wonder, appreciation and value for all the biodiversity around us.
Threats to Biodiversity
Biodiversity is being affected in a whole host of ways by human activities. The biggest impacts include changes to local habitats, through: habitat loss, e.g. removal of hedgerows; habitat fragmentation e.g. roads built through a woodland; or habitat destruction e.g. draining of a wetland.
Other environmental impacts that negatively affect biodiversity include: Litter and Pollution, Over-exploitation, Pesticide-use, Invasive Species and Climate Change.
Climate Change and Biodiversity
Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as CO2, in the Earth’s atmosphere are causing the planet’s climate system to retain more energy. The effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere and changing climatic conditions are expected to include; more frequent extreme high maximum temperatures and less frequent extreme low minimum temperatures, and warmer winter conditions, decreased snow cover, increased climate variability, with changes in both the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, altered distributions of certain infectious diseases, increased sea levels and increased ocean acidification.
Climate change is affecting the habitats of many species in Ireland. To survive, species that find themselves under pressure, must either adapt or migrate to areas with more suitable conditions. As Ireland is an island, migration is not an option for species that are unable to swim or fly, and if conditions prove too extreme, local extinctions are inevitable. Even small changes in average temperatures can have a significant effect upon ecosystems. The inter-connected nature of ecosystems means that the loss of species can have knock-on effects upon a range of ecosystem functions. Rich biodiversity and robust ecosystems are fundamental to life on earth.
What can we do to protect Biodiversity?
The overall aim of the Biodiversity theme is for schools to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity and for students and staff to come up with ways to help biodiversity. This can be achieved through improving or preserving your local biodiversity whether it is in your school garden, at home, a green space in the city, your local beach, a river way etc. Schools will have the opportunity to play a vital role in promoting and preserving biodiversity both locally and globally.
Planting native trees is a great way to address the Climate Crisis and Biodiversity Emergency in one fell swoop! For more ideas for action, see our Teachers Seminar here, check out the documents and website links below, and visit the Resources tab in the menu at the top of this page.
The Biodiversity theme is supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) within the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The NPWS aims to protect Ireland’s habitats by implementing national, European and international policy. Having healthy and functioning ecosystems is vital for protecting public health, preserving our environment and supporting Ireland’s economy.
The NPWS looks after the conservation of much of Ireland’s habitats and species. Ireland has six National Parks: Glenveagh, Co. Donegal, Ballycroy, Co. Mayo, Connemara, Co. Galway, the Burren, Co. Clare, the Wicklow Mts. and Killarney, Co. Kerry.
Visit the NPWS website to learn about the various protected sites in Ireland and why they are so important.