1. Take a deep breath. Then thank the ocean and the trees.
70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean. It is responsible for producing more than half of the oxygen we breathe – not to mention providing the main source of protein for 1 billion people on the planet. Along with the oceans, forests are also a major provider of the oxygen we breathe.
2. The rosy periwinkle helps fight cancer.
This colorful flower, native to Madagascar, is used in drugs for cancer treatment and has helped increase the survival rate of childhood leukemia. More than half of all commercial medicines have come from compounds and innovative discoveries in Earth’s biodiversity. There is no telling what other disease fighting medicines might be found our planet’s in rainforests and oceans.
3. Sharks help keep seafood on your plate.
Sharks come in all shapes and sizes, but their main role in the ocean is serving as apex predators. They keep fish populations in check and help maintain a balanced food web, which in turn can provide sustainable fisheries when they are managed responsibly. Scientific study of their genetics might also hold the key to medical advancement in the treatment of numerous medical conditions.
4. Monkey poop helps maintain healthy forests.
Our primate cousins eat a lot of fruit in their tropical forest homes. But when they do so, they also ingest seeds. When they relieve themselves throughout the forest they typically disperse these seeds further from their source and help new colonies of trees develop to ensure forests continue to grow.
5. Forests are a natural Brita filter.
Forests are a tremendous source of fresh water for people around the world. The Guiana Shield, a tropical forest spanning six countries in South America provides as much as 10-15% of the world’s fresh water. The Desierto de los Leones National Park in Mexico provides water for 23 billion people in three cities, including Mexico City, and this free service has an estimated value of US $ 30 billion. Cities make up about 2% of the Earth’s surface, yet they use 75% of the planet’s natural resources.
6. Fresh water improves human health.
Everybody needs to drink fresh water. But access to fresh water for sanitation can decrease the spread of disease and also provides a source of food. Healthy freshwater ecosystems also provide flood control.
7. Plants help combat climate change.
Forests, mangroves and seagrasses are just a few of the ways our planet can deal with the rising levels of carbon in our atmosphere. They can buffer impacts of emissions by storing carbon in their trunks and root systems. A typical forest can store up to 30,000 metric tons of carbon per square kilometer and seagrasses can store over 80,000 metric tons per square kilometer. This also means that when we destroy these habitats all that carbon goes into the atmosphere.
8. Mangroves help protect us from major storm events.
The best defense we have from the dangers posed by natural disasters are the barriers that nature provides. Mangrove forests, as well as coral reefs and other natural barriers can soften the blow from storms and major weather events. Scientists estimate that we have lost about 50% of mangrove habitats over the last 50 years.
9. Species are worth millions of dollars… alive.
Elephants, lions and sharks are just a few iconic species that drive ecotourism around the world. Recent studies have found that species such as these can generate millions of tourism dollars. This year the government of Indonesia took steps to protect one of its greatest ecotourism assets, the manta ray. The government banned manta fishing throughout its entire exclusive economic zone, an area nearly twice the size of India, because a living manta ray is worth US $1 million over its lifetime.
10. Bees keep our crops buzzing.
Bees are terrific pollinators. They, along with other insects as well as birds and some mammals are estimated to be responsible for pollinating over 75% of our leading global food crops. From fruit to coffee to cocoa, pollinators are doing us a great service free of charge.
11. Nature drives the global economy.
One way or another, we depend on nature for food. With a population of over 7 billion people and growing, we will have to find a way to double our food output by the middle of this century. With one in three jobs on the planet based in agriculture, nature is also a major driver of the global economy, providing livelihoods for people around the world.