We have all heard it before: biodiversity is important to our planet. But how come? Biodiversity contributes to the health of our planet and our ability to sustain life on earth. We will learn about what biodiversity is and why it’s important, and also ways to protect it in our ecosystems.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the number of plants and animal species inhabiting a specific area. Biodiversity can be defined in three ways: the diversity of species, the diversity of genetics in species, and the diversity of ecosystems. Diversity of species means having a wide range of plants and animals living within the same ecosystem. Genetic diversity means variation among species, like colors and patterns of fish or plant size and shape. Diversity of ecosystems includes having a variety of ecosystems in a single region. This can include tidal pools, coral reefs, and wetlands. While biodiversity can be identified in three different ways, they are all interconnected and support a healthy ecosystem for all life.
Why is biodiversity important?
Biodiversity is important because it supports ecosystems, its life forms and their productivity. Each species has a role to play in the ecosystem. When one life form is threatened, it can throw off the balance among species. When the relationship among species is off balance, it can put the entire ecosystem in danger.
Benefits of Biodiversity:
Everything is interconnected, and having strong, biodiverse ecosystems means we are protecting individual ecosystems and our planet as a whole. Having healthy, biodiverse ecosystems means having a healthy place for plants, animals, and humans to thrive. Benefits of biodiversity include:
- Clean water for drinking
- Clean air for breathing
- A variety of food for animals and humans
- Resources for us to live and work (clothing and building materials)
- Identifying and creating new and improved medicines
- Contributing to stabilizing weather patterns
What does biodiversity have to do with surf ecosystems?
Biodiversity hotspots overlap with 80% of the world’s greatest surf ecosystems. Surf ecosystems include biological diversity, geophysical components that make up a wave, and socio-economic interactions including human wellbeing, economies and culture.
Protecting surf ecosystems in turn protects marine habitat and biodiversity. It also maintains the resilience of the coast and safeguards local livelihoods, contributing to people’s wellbeing. We use surfing to create support and momentum for larger coastal conservation efforts and impact.
What are the threats to biodiversity?
Coastal marine ecosystems, surf breaks and waves are under threat from human activities which cause habitat degradation and destruction. Surf and coastal ecosystems are some of the most biodiverse places on Earth. At the same time, these ecosystems are being rapidly degraded due a variety of threats including:
Coastal development: Harbors, jetties, seawalls, coastal armoring, breakwaters and beach-front construction can destroy or change both waves and coastal ecosystems.
Sea level rise & coastal erosion: While coastal erosion is perfectly natural, development along the coast has made it worse. Climate change induced sea-level rise has increased coastal erosion as well.
Coral reef impact: Corals are destroyed through harmful run-off, destructive fishing practices, and climate change. Both the critical ecosystems and the structures that create the waves we love are lost.
Water quality: Industrial waste, fertilizers, sewage, toxic run-off, and pesticides have negative effects on the health of surfers and nearshore marine life around the world.
Plastic trash & marine debris: Plastic trash and marine debris impact the coastal environment, economy, and the health and safety of surfers and marine life.
Loss of access: Development and privatization of the coast cuts off local access and enjoyment to some of the most beautiful places in the world. Everyone should be able to enjoy their coastlines and waves.
How does conservation affect biodiversity?
Conservation activities are very important to protecting biodiversity and ecosystems. Conservation can protect land and marine spaces from development which threatens biodiversity. Conservation can contribute to sustainable development in a way that protects biodiversity and natural resources while still supporting economic growth. Conservation is an important component to preserving our planet and our resources from misuse and abuse.
How can we protect biodiversity hotspots and surf ecosystems?
There are many ways to protect biodiversity hotspots and surf ecosystems.
Save The Waves is approaching conservation through three main pillars: protect, steward, defend.
How do you protect a wave?
It was Jacques Cousteau who famously said, “People protect the things we love.” At Save The Waves, we are in awe of surf ecosystems, both the plants and animals living in there, but also the local communities who work and play in these areas. We are protecting coastal and marine areas by creating World Surfing Reserves and Surf Area Protected Networks.
World Surfing Reserves are our flagship program. They are the standard for preserving wave breaks and their surrounding areas. The program typically includes studies like Surfonomics, conservation agreements, and formation of a Local Stewardship Council. This group of passionate individuals are the local champions of their Reserve. They are responsible for supporting activities that protect and manage the surf breaks.
A Surf Area Protected Network (SPAN) are individual surf ecosystems linked together, operating cooperatively. By creating a network of individual protected areas, this project can scale quickly. It can often also result in legal protection with local communities and governments working together to protect the ecosystem.
What is stewardship?
Stewardship is key to managing surf ecosystems, as it is the long-term care of a surf break. By stewarding the surf spot, local individuals are also directly or indirectly stewarding the surrounding area, the community living there and the biodiversity hotspot.
Save The Waves engages communities through ongoing management of surf ecosystems. We work directly with local communities to identify threats and provide the right resources to tackle these issues.
One of the ways we engage local communities, but also travelers and ocean lovers, is through our Save The Waves App. This free app aggregates data about types of threats, images, and locations. Then the information is shared with local partners and organizations who can take action. [CHECK OUT THE STW APP HERE!]
How do you defend a surf ecosystem?
Save The Waves works as a coalition with individuals and organizations to defend surf breaks. By mobilizing people to take action, together we use our actions to change behaviors and bring global awareness to local issues.
Our Endangered Waves campaigns highlight threats to areas we love. These threats are shared globally to target pressing issues, such as those in Punta Conejo, Mexico and in The Maldives. We have created change with these campaigns. Like in Ireland, our global community supported the stop of a seawall project that would have destroyed Doughmore Beach. We have used our collective voices and resources to petition the Governor of Baja California to create the first State Park in San Miguel, Mexico.
We use our platform to share stories about the places we love and why we love them. These stories interweave the lives of people who live there, the natural world depending on a healthy ecosystem, and the positive effect conservation has had. We provide the platform for individuals to tell their story, and bring together our global coalition through activities like our Save The Waves Film Festival to highlight the uniqueness of each place and our collective desire to protect these places.
What can I do to protect biodiversity? I am just one person.
Save The Waves was created from the same question. Our Founder, Will Henry, wanted to stop the development of a beloved surf break, Jardim do Mar, in Madeira, Portugal. Though the seawall was built, so was the start of the coalition which has grown to be an internationally recognized community dedicated to protecting surf ecosystems. Most of our Endangered Waves campaigns have started out because of one person, or a small group of people, who do not want to see the place they love destroyed.
Everyone’s voice matters and your actions can, and do, make a difference.
Here are just a few of the ways to get involved.