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Why bioabundance is important
Blog...Why bioabundance is important

Why bioabundance is important

Ecology News
Global Warming
Humming bird sitting in a tree
In this article, we will explore the importance of bioabundance, the challenges it faces, and why maintaining it is key for ecological well-being.
Ecology News
Humming bird sitting in a tree

Bioabundance - which focuses on the number of individuals within each species - is gaining attention for the important role that it plays in maintaining ecological balance. This concept delves deeper than the diversity of species (biodiversity) to consider the actual number of organisms, thereby providing a more complete picture of an ecosystem’s health.

Understanding and preserving bioabundance is essential, as it underpins everything from food security and medicinal research to the stability and resilience of natural environments. 

👉 In this article, we will explore the importance of bioabundance, the challenges it faces, and why maintaining it is key for ecological well-being.

What is bioabundance?

Bioabundance describes the number of individuals within each species of plant or animal. It focuses on the number of organisms rather than the diversity of species. Bioabundance is important in ecological studies and conservation efforts, as it provides a more comprehensive understanding of the ecological health and stability of an ecosystem.

Bioabundance complements other measurements of a healthy ecosystem, such as:

Species richness (biodiversity) - This refers to the variety of species within a particular area, providing a measure of biodiversity. While it indicates the diversity of species, it doesn’t account for the quantity of organisms within each species.

Phylogeny (genetic differences) - This concerns the genetic variation within and across species, which is essential for the adaptability and resilience of species to environmental changes.

Function (the range of roles in an ecosystem) - This refers to the diverse roles or functions that species perform within an ecosystem, such as pollination, nutrient cycling, and serving as food sources for other species.

When it comes to conservation efforts there’s a tendency to focus efforts solely on biodiversity loss and preventing the extinction of specific species. However, this can overlook these other essential components of a healthy ecosystem. Focusing only on species richness and preventing extinction can underrepresent the scale of loss and damage within ecosystems.

tropical forest

How is bioabundance measured?

Measuring bioabundance is a complex task and various methods are used to calculate the numbers within different species. Scientists often use population counts, species distribution models, and genetic analyses to estimate the abundance and distribution of species. Technologies like satellite imaging and DNA sequencing have improved our ability to assess bioabundance on a global scale.

Key indicators used to estimate the abundance of a species include:

  • Population density - This measures the number of individuals of a species per unit area, providing insights into the health and sustainability of populations.
  • Species distribution - Understanding where species are found, and in what numbers, helps in assessing ecosystem health.
  • Genetic variability indices - These are used to evaluate the genetic health of populations, which is a crucial component of their ability to adapt and thrive.

Evaluating the true health of an ecosystem requires a multidimensional approach, considering not just how many different species exist, but also how abundant they are and how varied their genetic makeup is. This comprehensive view is vital for assessing the health and resilience of our planet's ecosystems.

Why is bioabundance important?

Bioabundance plays an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems. It's not just the presence of diverse species that matters, but also their abundance, which ensures the smooth functioning of ecological processes. Each species, no matter how small, has a role to play in its ecosystem - from pollinators like bees influencing plant reproduction to apex predators like wolves regulating prey populations. When the numbers of a species significantly decline, the entire ecosystem can come under threat. 

When it comes to maintaining a healthy ecosystem, stable numbers of species are just as important as the variety of species. Sadly species numbers are seeing a decline across the board. It’s estimated that there’s been a 69% average loss in the abundance of mammal, bird, reptile, fish, and amphibian species since the 19070s. The populations of vertebrates living in freshwater systems have declined even more, dropping by 83% over the same period. 

Bioabundance and ecosystem health

The resilience of an ecosystem (ie. its ability to resist and recover from disturbances like climate change, natural disasters, and human activities) is strongly linked to its level of bioabundance. Ecosystems with stable numbers of species are more adaptable and can better withstand environmental stresses.

Take the example of a coral reef ecosystem. Coral organisms within the reef provide various ecological functions: it serves as a habitat for numerous marine species, aids in carbon and nitrogen fixation, and protects coastlines from erosion. Where there’s a strong abundance of coral polyps this means that if some are damaged or bleached due to rising sea temperatures or acidification (both associated with climate change), the overall structure of the reef may still remain intact. The surviving coral polyps can continue to perform essential functions and, over time, potentially regenerate areas that were damaged.

On the other hand, a coral reef with low bioabundance is far more vulnerable to environmental stressors. A significant bleaching event, for example, could decimate large portions of the reef. With fewer polyps overall, the loss of even a small portion can have a cascading effect on the entire ecosystem. The reef structure might fail to provide adequate habitat for marine species, leading to a decline in biodiversity. Its ability to protect coastlines could also be diminished.

fish in coral

The importance of bioabundance for mankind

Bioabundance isn’t just crucial for healthy ecosystems, it’s also essential for our continued survival here on planet Earth. Bioabundance impacts many aspects of our lives, including: 

Food security

Bioabundance directly impacts food security. For example, the abundance of a particular fish species in a marine ecosystem is crucial for sustaining both the natural food chain and human fishing industries. If the numbers of a key species decline significantly, it can lead to a reduction in available food sources, affecting both ecological balance and human diets.

Pharmacological research

The abundance of certain species can be important for medical research. For example, a high population of a specific plant species known for medicinal properties provides more material for research and drug development. A decline in the population of these species could limit our ability to discover and produce important medicinal compounds.

Raw materials for industries

The abundance of species is crucial for industries reliant on biological materials. Consider a forest with a high abundance of certain tree species used for timber. If the population of these trees declines, it could lead to a scarcity of raw materials, affecting industries and economies.

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services such as air and water purification rely on the abundance of specific species. Take phytoplankton for example, stable species numbers in oceans are critical for oxygen production and carbon sequestration. A decline in their numbers could significantly impact air quality and climate regulation.

Climate regulation

Bioabundance plays a significant role in climate regulation. For example, abundant populations of forest trees are essential carbon sinks. A decrease in tree numbers due to deforestation or disease can reduce the ability of these forests to sequester carbon, exacerbating climate change.

Threats to bioabundance

Bioabundance faces numerous threats, primarily driven by human activities. Habitat destruction stands out as one of the most significant threats. Expanding urban areas, agriculture, and industrial development lead to the loss and fragmentation of habitats, directly impacting the abundance of species. This loss of habitat not only reduces the number of species but also affects their ability to reproduce and thrive.

Pollution is another major threat. Chemical pollutants, plastics, and other waste materials contaminate ecosystems, harming a wide range of species. For example, pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture can have devastating effects on non-target species, including pollinators such as bees which are essential for plant reproduction.

Climate change, driven by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, is altering ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. Changes in temperature and weather patterns disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems, affecting species' migration patterns, breeding cycles, and survival. These changes can lead to a decline in species abundance and even contribute to species extinction.

Overexploitation of natural resources, such as overfishing and unsustainable logging, is another human activity that directly reduces bioabundance. These practices not only deplete target species but also disrupt the broader ecosystem dynamics.

The long-term implications of reduced bioabundance

The long-term implications of reduced bioabundance are significant and far-reaching. A decline in bioabundance can lead to the collapse of ecosystems, resulting in the loss of essential ecosystem services like pollination, water purification, and soil fertility. This not only impacts the natural world but also has wider economic and social consequences.

Biodiversity loss can also lead to a decrease in genetic diversity, which is vital for species adaptation to changing environmental conditions. This reduction in genetic diversity weakens the resilience of species and ecosystems to future environmental challenges, such as emerging diseases and climate change impacts.

What’s more, is that the loss of bioabundance can have cascading effects. The decline in one species can affect the survival of others that rely on it for food, shelter, or other ecosystem functions. This can lead to further biodiversity loss, creating a negative feedback loop.

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Preserving bioabundance

The preservation of bioabundance requires a multi-faceted approach, integrating various conservation strategies. 

Protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, are one key aspect of such strategies. These areas provide safe havens for diverse species and serve as critical sites for biodiversity conservation. Effective management of these areas, including preventing illegal activities and maintaining natural habitats, is essential.

Sustainable land and water use practices also play a significant role in conserving bioabundance. This includes adopting agricultural methods that support biodiversity, like organic farming, agroforestry, and permaculture. Sustainable forestry practices and responsible fishing also contribute to maintaining species populations and their habitats.

Community engagement and education are crucial for successful conservation efforts. Local communities often possess invaluable knowledge about their ecosystems. Involving them in conservation planning and decision-making not only helps in the effective management of natural resources but also ensures the sustainability of conservation efforts.

In addition to traditional conservation methods, technology-driven methods are starting to emerge and are proving to be very effective. Satellite imaging, drones, and artificial intelligence are increasingly being used to monitor ecosystems, track wildlife populations, and detect illegal activities like poaching or deforestation.

Restoration ecology is also gaining momentum as a way to help enhance bioabundance. This involves restoring degraded habitats and reintroducing native species to areas where they have seen a decline. These efforts help revitalize ecosystems and enhance biodiversity.

There is also a growing focus on integrating biodiversity considerations into business and policy decisions. Companies are increasingly recognising the importance of sustainable supply chains and the risks associated with biodiversity loss. Similarly, policymakers are looking to include biodiversity targets in legislative and regulatory frameworks.

Finally, addressing climate change is essential to preserving bioabundance. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy, and enhance carbon sequestration through natural solutions like reforestation are crucial in mitigating the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.

👉 Preserving and enhancing bioabundance is a critical task that requires a combination of traditional conservation methods and innovative approaches. It involves the participation of governments, communities, businesses, and individuals. With coordinated and sustained efforts, we can ensure the preservation of our planet's vital biodiversity for future generations.

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