One of the biggest problems for conservation today is that it ignores 95% of all known species on Earth. Could a company ignored that proportion of its clients or a government so many of its voters? So why does this problem exist in conservation?
Some 90% of all of the Earth’s species are either invertebrates or micro-organisms, and the folly of ignoring the latter is encapsulated by UK Professor Tom Curtis writing in Nature Reviews Microbiology:
I make no apologies for putting micro-organisms on a pedestal above all other living things, for if the last blue whale choked to death on the last panda, it would be disastrous but not the end of the world. But if we accidentally poisoned the last two species of ammonia-oxidisers, that would be another matter. It could be happening now and we wouldn’t even know […]
Ammonia oxidisers are naturally occurring bacteria that are essential for maintaining the most economically valuable nutrient in soil: nitrogen. They are good examples of the other millions of mostly tiny soil species, either microbial or invertebrate, upon which all agriculture and forestry depends.
Their astonishing genetic, chemical, metabolic and population properties are those that generate the essential processes, such as nitrogen cycling, that drive all the primary industries. This being so, the primary industries are obviously biodiversity-based industries.
Yet we are confronted every day with a wide range of opinion that agriculture and forestry are the greatest threats to biodiversity. So how bad is this disconnect?