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What will happen if the animals disappear?
— Jessie H., Grade 4

Biodiversity scientist Richard Pearson answers this question:

Hi Jessie,

You've probably heard lots of people worrying that many animal species will go "extinct," meaning that they will disappear forever, just like the non-avian dinosaurs. It is true that a lot of human activities, such as cutting down rainforests and polluting rivers, are destroying the places where animals used to live. So, yours is a good question.

One important thing to remember is that animals are just one type of life that is threatened with extinction . Don't forget that plants are also under threat! Scientists refer to all the different types of life on Earth as "biodiversity," which refers to all the animals and plants, as well as other forms of life including fungi and microscopic bacteria.

kangaroo, lizard, snake, butterfly, dragonfly, insect, fish, mushroom, coral and star fish

The variety of life on Earth is called biodiversity.

So why would it matter if the world's biodiversity were to disappear? Well, we often don't appreciate how much biodiversity does for us. For example, biodiversity provides our food, cleans our water , provides medicines for curing illness, and even creates the oxygen that we breathe ! So, biodiversity is crucial for enabling us to survive and stay healthy. If we reduce the amount of biodiversity there is, by driving many species to extinction, then we cannot expect that nature will be able to keep providing these things for us.

We should also remember how much biodiversity makes us feel happy! Everyone enjoys a walk in the woods, or visiting a nature reserve, or even watching our favorite animals on television. Think how miserable it would be if there weren't so many animals and plants to share the world with!

illustration of man hiking

Explore biodiversity by talking a walk in the woods or visiting a nature reserve!

You Can Make a Difference!

 

Explore More: 

Richard Pearson

Name:
Richard Pearson

Job Title:
Biodiversity Scientist, Center for Biodiversity & Conservation & the Department of Herpetology

Known For:
Richard researches how species respond to climate change . He is also looking for ways to speed up the discovery of unknown species.

Cool Fact:
Using computer models, Richard can predict where groups of plant and animal species may move in response to Earth's changing climate.

Image Credits:
biodiversity collage of life, © AMNH; nature walk illustration, © AMNH / Eric Hamilton; Richard Pearson, courtesy of Richard Pearson.