Biodiversity creates food webs

The importance of biodiversity is the large variety of food webs that it allows. That’s why ACES advocates for the importance of the variety of life in our area. We need also to describe how diversity impacts resilience and the ability of life to adapt to changes.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash
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Lon Hachmeister

Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The importance of biodiversity is the large variety of food webs that it allows.

Even plankton eating whales have a short food chain primarily phytoplankton consumed by zooplankton eaten by whales. Much longer food chains related to biodiversity abound.

For instance, consider coyotes. They eat human food waste, roadkill, squirrels, rabbits, mice, birds, eggs and berries. Depending on where they are living, they are eaten by wolves, bears, mountain lions and alligators.

In other words, they are part of a very complex food web when one considers all the sources of the calories consumed by both their prey and their competitors.

Even crows live in the middle of a complex food web that can include being eaten by snakes, hawks, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, owls and eagles. Even domestic cats and dogs are also known to enjoy eating crows.

The complexities of most food chains are much, much greater and there is a significant chance for disruptions to those food chains and food webs from species extinction events. The impact of humans due to the increase in the world’s population is resulting in ongoing decline and extinction of species.

Habitat loss is probably one of the greater influences on individual species stress or extinctions, especially if it is occurring on a global scale.

The complexity of our global food webs is that gives life on earth resilience. Life has found a way to make almost any habitat livable and therefore there are many diverse food chains making up a resilient global food web.

With small changes in food chains and food webs, dependent species can partially adapt by raiding adjacent food chains. But large-scale and rapid changes don’t give species the time needed to adapt and nearby food chain changes may make inroads into.

It’s not just the variety of plants and animals that enjoy viewing, it’s the stability that the interdependencies of the complex food chains give life on Earth.

While describing and envisioning the complexity and importance of biodiversity food webs to the general public may be more challenging than the generalization that “climate change” represents, we need to take the time to do so.

That’s why ACES advocates for the importance of the variety of life that we have in our area. We need to also describe how the diversity impacts resilience and the ability of life to adapt to changes.

Our intention is to communicate in ways to emphasize the importance of biodiversity as it relates to the stability of local and global biospheres.

Media and advocates need to find the words that communicate the systems’ complexity to the average Joe and Jane busy with life, jobs and family. Then they may be motivated to personally act locally to preserve these ecosystems and thereby strengthen them regionally and globally.

One crisis that impacts our food security is the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

According to the USDA, three fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. That’s one out of every three bites of food you eat.

As they are critical for food chain/ web health and our survival, you might consider building a pollinator garden in your backyard or joining Pollinator PowerWorks to promote multiple gardens and thus help create a local pollinator migration corridor and maybe even regional migration corridor.

Lon Hachmeister is a member of the ACES board of directors. He suggests that if you’d like to contribute your ideas or some of your time to work with ACES on ideas like these, please drop us an email at acesnewburyport@ To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://

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about the author
Lon Hachmeister

Lon retired as Associate Director of Battelle Memorial Institute’s Marine Sciences Laboratory with over 50 years of experience in environmental research and multidisciplinary resource evaluations in estuarine and coastal regions. His work included serving as Program Manager for a 10-year review and update for the Missouri River Master Operations Manual including direction of 23 technical studies. He serves as Clerk on the ACES Board of Directors and leads the funding/fundraising team while contributing to overall project development/management.

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