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Preserving Biodiversity

Red Fungi
Red Fungi

The National Park Service began because people—explorers, artists, politicians, and everyday citizens—recognized something valuable in the vast wildlands of undeveloped America. Today, we recognize the value of not only our lands, but the biodiversity that thrives upon them, as well.

Biological diversity (or biodiversity) includes all the living organisms on earth, and in our parks we are finding plants and animals that have disappeared in other parts of the world due to development, habitat fragmentation, climate change, invasive species, and other threats. National parks and other protected places are samples of the world's natural variety, often the last bastion of the earth's wild wealth. They are vital to our future well-being.

The values of biodiversity in parks are legion: the value of nature for its own sake, a source of wonder and enjoyment; the value of learning about the workings of nature in places largely free of human influence, for comparison with landscapes dominated by humans; the survival value of multitudes of wild species that flourish as natural systems helping regulate climate, air quality, and cycles of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, mineral elements, and water—all fundamental to life on Earth. There is economic value in these same plants and animals. They are potential sources of food, medicine, and industrial products. Parks protect the species and their communities that underlie these values—serving if necessary as reservoirs of seed stock for restoring species lost elsewhere.

To preserve biodiversity in parks for future generations, we must first discover the breadth of life forms that exist. In the past decade, numerous parks have teamed up with professional scientists, university students, school groups, volunteers and park partners for the purpose of biodiversity discovery. These efforts have identified species new to science, located species that have not been seen in parks in hundreds of years, and documented species that are able to survive in extreme conditions.

Working to Preserve Biodiversity

The National Park Service also is working to preserve biodiversity more broadly by restoring ecosystems, controlling invasive species, practicing integrated pest management, and through other conservation measures. Preserving biodiversity—from the dung beetle to the grizzly bear—allows us to ensure genetic diversity, understand how the pieces of an intact ecosystem fit together, and detect long-term changes in our environment. In preserving biodiversity we also ensure that our future citizens, artists, and explorers of science experience our lands as the founders of the parks did long ago.

Last Updated: May 27, 2015