Biodiversity is important to many aspects of our lives for various reasons. The value of biodiversity is highly categorized, although there are two main classifications: utilitarian value (defined by use) and intrinsic value (the inherent worth of an organism). Utilitarian values are further broken down into direct use values (goods e.g., food, clothing, medicine), indirect use values (services e.g., pollination, spiritual beliefs, scientific and educational value), and non-use values (e.g., potential value, bequest value). The values we place on biodiversity are highly important in making conservation decisions.
Humans depend upon biodiversity in many ways, both to satisfy basic needs like food and medicine, and to enrich our lives culturally or spiritually. Despite its importance, determining the value or worth of biodiversity is complex and often a cause for debate. This is largely due to that fact that the worth placed on biodiversity is a reflection of underlying human values, and these values vary dramatically both among societies and individuals. Understanding why biodiversity is important and the relationship between biodiversity and peopleâs values is central to many conservation issues. This module aims to give an introduction to some of the utilitarian values of biodiversity, such as goods and services, as well as explore the meaning of the intrinsic value of biodiversity. More importantly, the module introduces how peopleâs values toward biodiversity impacts conservation decisions.
Farmers in the Andes use biodiversity as insurance. The potato, a plant native to the area that is now the world’s fourth most important staple crop, is still locally grown in thousands of varieties. With help from Lima’s International Potato Center, Andean farmers are preserving potato diversity to protect this critical food source against threats like pests and diseases, weather extremes, and climate change.
Exercise: Using the IUCN Red List to Assess Importance
Author: J.P. Gibbs
This exercise has students use the IUCN species Red List to become familiar with the current status of particular species around the world and to explore the likely consequences to humanity and the biota of the extinction of these species.
This exercise links a daily activity in your students' lives to its biological sources. By connecting your students' lives to biodiversity in a concrete way, the biodiversity crisis becomes present and personal, and will hopefully engage your students to identify potential solutions to these problems.