Biodiversity is the fifth Green-Schools theme and looks at steps which can be taken to increase awareness of the importance of native plants, animals and habitats, and to increase species-richness in a locality.
Biodiversity is the fifth theme of the programme. As with the previous themes, you will see that Biodiversity cross-cuts and integrates with the rest of the themes in many ways.
What is Biodiversity?
The meaning of ‘Biodiversity’ is easy to understand when we break the word down; “bio” refers to life and ‘living things’ and “Diversity” means just that; range or variety. The word refers to the huge variety and variation of life that surrounds us on planet earth. Maintaining a high level of diversity among plants, animals and all living things all around us is essential in keeping the environment healthy and fit for human life. This includes diversity within species, between species and diversity of ecosystems.
“Biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters. Its loss also affects us culturally and spiritually. This may be more difficult to quantify, but is nonetheless integral to our wellbeing”
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
We interact with and have an impact on living things, directly and indirectly every day through our lifestyles; e.g. the food we eat or how we manage our gardens. So whether your school is based in a city or in the country the Biodiversity theme hopes to connect you, your school and your wider community with the natural environment and cultivate a sense of wonder, appreciation and value for all the biodiversity around us.
The overall aim of the Biodiversity theme is for schools to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity and for students and staff to come up with ways to help biodiversity. This can be achieved through improving or preserving your local biodiversity whether it is in your school garden, at home, a green space in the city, your local beach, a river way etc. Schools will have the opportunity to play a vital role in promoting and preserving biodiversity both locally and globally.
Some Important Biodiversity Terms:
- Species: A species is a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. For example, the Mountain Ash is a species of tree, and the Red Squirrel is a species of mammal, the Chaffinch is a species of bird.
- Native Species: Our native species are the species of plants and animals that reached Ireland naturally; mostly since the last ice-age before Ireland was separated from the rest of Europe by the rising sea. As an example, the most common native trees in Ireland include oak, ash, hazel, birch, Scots pine, rowan and willow. Eventually, people brought other plants on their travels many years later. Native plant species are the preferred species for planting in school and home gardens.
- Non-Native, ‘Alien’ & Invasive Species: Alien species are also known as ‘non-native’ species. Tese are plants and animals that would not be found in Ireland without human involvement. Not all alien species in Ireland are able to survive and establish in the wild. Of those that do establish some can impact on our biodiversity and become invasive. The ability of a species to become invasive depends on a number of factors. These can include biological traits such as fast growth and reproduction. Invasive species often spread quickly or can move easily from place to place.
- Habitat: A habitat is the natural environment in which an organism lives, or the physical environment that surrounds, influences and is utilised by a species population. For example, a Red Squirrel lives in a Woodland habitat, and a Humpback Whale lives in a Marine habitat.
- Ecosystem: An Ecosystem is a community of plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms that live, feed, reproduce and interact together in the same area or environment. Irish examples include a Bog, Woodland, a Marsh, a Hedge, a Lake, an Ocean or even a Rock Pool. You may also hear about Ecosystem Services. These are the benefits that ecosystems can provide to us, e.g. woodlands provide protection from flooding; forests can regulate climate change; reed-beds can break down wastes and recycle nutrients and can filter and purify water; animals and microbes working in soil maintain and increase soil fertility; plants purify the air; some animals and plants control pests and diseases and provide goods such as woods, textiles and food.
Children created bird feeders with clay and seeds and hung them outside on the fence for the local birds.
Children completed a variety of projects on animals. They learned about their life cycles, habitats and appearance.