Why It Matters

Biodiversity & Ecosystems

Tropical forests store carbon and produce oxygen to provide the very air we breathe. But that’s not all they do.

When you support Stand For Trees, your purchase goes to protecting some of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots — from Asian rainforests to Zimbabwean wildlife corridors.

Keeping ecosystems healthy

Tropical forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. They provide habitat for millions of species, and countless more that have not been discovered yet. These can be flowers, plants, grasses, birds, insects, fish, soil microbes… and of course, endangered species and iconic wildlife.

We love our orangutans, lions, and jaguars, and they make the most spectacular photos. But they depend on the rest of the ecosystem, from worms and insects that make the soil richer, to trees that provide shade, food, and territory. That’s biodiversity. And it’s the foundation of every ecosystem.

Why is biodiversity so important?

Ecosystems are incredibly complex, with soils, plants, and trees providing habitat and food for small and large animals which support each other, and which also support the trees, plants, and soils themselves. These species interact in many ways: soil microbes improve conditions for plant growth; plants feed animals; birds may be animal food, use trees for shelter, and disperse trees’ seeds; and so on. The important thing is that each species plays a role in keeping the ecosystem rolling.

That’s one level of biodiversity, but there’s another: failsafes. If something goes wrong with one participant in this system, the others can pick up the slack. It’s the same reason business diversify into many different markets and products. And for an ecosystem, it means having multiple species that take on similar roles. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as they say.

And there’s a third level: every species needs a large enough population to make sure it has enough genetic diversity to stay healthy and to adapt to changing conditions.

Recap: What ecosystems need

Species

Many different types of species, each of which do something different, to make sure the ecosystem has everything it needs to keep functioning

Variety

Multiple species that do similar things, just in case something happens to one of them

Numbers

Large populations of each species, to make sure the species themselves remain viable

What biodiversity really is

The closer it gets to this ideal – in other words, the more biodiversity in the ecosystem – the stronger it is, the better it functions, and the better it can adapt to changes, even if unexpected or dramatic. That’s called resilience. And that’s why studies have found that an ecosystem may only decline slowly as it loses biodiversity – but when it loses too much, it hits a tipping point and falls off a cliff.

The more biodiversity in the ecosystem, the stronger it is, the better it functions, and the better it can adapt to changes.

Why does this matter? Well, all those endangered species that we love so much are often at the top of the food chain, and that means they depend on every other part of the ecosystem.

Plus, all those other species, large and small, are inherently valuable. If we want our forests to store carbon, host animals, and support communities, they need to stay strong. For example, recent studies have confirmed that higher biodiversity improves soil carbon storage, and that diverse forests store twice as much carbon as plantations that have only one species.

So we have to make sure that our tropical forests, and their priceless ecosystems and incredible biodiversity, stay intact. And that’s what Stand For Trees projects do.