What's biodiversity ever done for me?

We’re told that biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate. Yeah? So what’s biodiversity ever done for me? What on earth IS biodiversity anyhow? 

Some of my friends and neighbours in the farming industry see me as some kind of environmentalist. But, you know, I really don’t get biodiversity either. The great apes, tigers and pandas are on the verge of extinction. So? What’s that got to do with me? Evolution goes on. Stuff changes, right? 

On the other hand my scientific background makes me sit up and take note when specialists in their field make dire warnings of the consequences on mankind of biodiversity loss, especially as we are the main driver of this collapse. In the words of Chief Seattle, 1847, ‘..man is but a strand in the web of life. What happens to the web happens to the man..’ 

In the good ol’ bad ol’ days, when I was a youth, it was great ‘sport’ in the spring to shoot the young jackdaws out of the nests prior to their taking flight. In those days we grew some oats or barley on the farm and near harvest the jackdaws would land on the crop, knocking it to the ground to eat the grain. What a mess! It was easy to cast them in the role of, ‘enemy’.   

Also in those days we had a bit of a problem with leatherjackets. No, not the Hell’s Angels variety. But in eyes of a grassland farmer, equally threatening. These larvae of the Crane Fly – Daddy Long Legs to you and me – could hatch out in their millions in the autumn and eat out great chunks of our grass fields over winter. The solution at that time was to spray the fields with DDT. 

In the past 30 years we’ve stopped growing cereals, and stopped shooting the crows. Crow numbers have increased significantly and you can see great clouds of them doing their aerial acrobatics of a windy evening. All winter they work backwards and forwards over the fields picking at whatever they find living in and around the ground’s surface. In the past 20 years we’ve never seen another case of leatherjacket infestation.

So sure pandas make the headlines, but even the humble crow plays an important part.