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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Identify chemical diversity benefits to humans
  • Identify biodiversity components that support human agriculture
  • Describe ecosystem services

It may not be clear why biologists are concerned about biodiversity loss. When biodiversity loss is thought of as the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the dodo bird, and even the woolly mammoth, the loss may appear to be an emotional one. But is the loss practically important for the welfare of the human species? From the perspective of evolution and ecology, the loss of a particular individual species is unimportant (however, the loss of a keystone species can lead to ecological disaster). Extinction is a normal part of macroevolution. But the accelerated extinction rate means the loss of tens of thousands of species within our lifetimes, and it is likely to have dramatic effects on human welfare through the collapse of ecosystems and in added costs to maintain food production, clean air and water, and human health.

Agriculture began after early hunter-gatherer societies first settled in one place and heavily modified their immediate environment. This cultural transition has made it difficult for humans to recognize their dependence on undomesticated living things on the planet. Biologists recognize the human species is embedded in ecosystems and is dependent on them, just as every other species on the planet is dependent. Technology smoothes out the extremes of existence, but ultimately the human species cannot exist without its ecosystem.

Human health

Contemporary societies that live close to the land often have a broad knowledge of the medicinal uses of plants growing in their area. Most plants produce secondary plant compounds , which are toxins used to protect the plant from insects and other animals that eat them, but some of which also work as medication. For centuries in Europe, older knowledge about the medical uses of plants was compiled in herbals—books that identified plants and their uses. Humans are not the only species to use plants for medicinal reasons: the great apes, orangutans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas have all been observed self-medicating with plants.

Modern pharmaceutical science also recognizes the importance of these plant compounds. Examples of significant medicines derived from plant compounds include aspirin, codeine, digoxin, atropine, and vincristine ( [link] ). Many medicines were once derived from plant extracts but are now synthesized. It is estimated that, at one time, 25 percent of modern drugs contained at least one plant extract. That number has probably decreased to about 10 percent as natural plant ingredients are replaced by synthetic versions. Antibiotics, which are responsible for extraordinary improvements in health and lifespans in developed countries, are compounds largely derived from fungi and bacteria.

 Photo shows white and pink periwinkle flowers. Each flower has five triangular petals, with the narrow end of the petal meeting at the flower’s center. Pairs of waxy oval leaves grow perpendicular to one another on a separate stem.
Catharanthus roseus , the Madagascar periwinkle, has various medicinal properties. Among other uses, it is a source of vincristine, a drug used in the treatment of lymphomas. (credit: Forest and Kim Starr)

Questions & Answers

Mg is very important part of enzymes which deal with DNA. It is a very simple reason but overlooked.
Eric Reply
what mitochondria means
ADEDAYO Reply
how does a cell look like
Clara Reply
loss of muscle coordinatetion results from what
Fata Reply
over feeding
Clara
why do electrolyte ions move across membranes by active transport
Mazoh Reply
what salivary amailes
Isaac Reply
what do we call the of living organism to a non organism?
Isaac
Meiosis is a two successive cell division with only one duplication of chromosomes.
Euchy Reply
a type of cell division that result in four daughter cell
Clara
it is called the ovary.It is oval in shape and is located within petals coated by the sepals
Macy Reply
what is the difference between heat energy and sun energy
Bright Reply
germ cell is diploid or haloid?
Ali Reply
what are the two specialized cells found in the tree?
Bright
what is the work of saliva in the mouth and where is secreted from ?
Brian Reply
the work if the saliva is to make food soft for swallowing
Clara
saliva is secreted by the salivary glands and it lubricates the food
Lorato
and it is secreted under the tongue
Clara
explain how wilting occurs
Mozila Reply
I can answer that
Brian
when the rate of evapitransipiration is high than the absorbtion rate.
Brian
careers in biology and their meaning or responsible
Josephine Reply
what is the word equation for photosynthesis?
Owen Reply
what is ecology
volex Reply
ecology is the study of living organisms in interaction to the environment
Mwansa

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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