This Week in History: the Global Biodiversity Crisis

It's a frightening thought, but according to Henry Choong, Royal BC Museum Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, we are in the midst of a global biodiversity crisis.

Species we have documented, and some we do not even know exist, are being lost.

And biodiversity and museums are very closely linked.

"I think the prevailing view of museums are places that have exhibits" explains Choong. "Places that visitors come to, and indeed they are.

"The other part of the museum that most people do not see, or think about, is the collections.

"Not only do [museums] have specimens collected over time, with information about where these specimens are collected from, by whom, and when, but museums are often the only places that have the people who study the organisms that are collected."

Chung hopes to raise awareness of the ongoing loss of species, and ecosystems, throughout the world.

"We are losing species that we are not even aware of. And the rate of that loss is faster than we can document."

So is this a natural phenomenon, or is mankind to blame?

'It's actually a function of both" says Choong.  "You will have a certain rate of loss which is a natural loss of species, but you also have an accelerated rate of loss with human activities."

Those activities include land development and habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, and the spread of invasive species.

"Initially," says Choong, "it might affect one group, or it might affect a particular environment that that species lives in, and then eventually, your effects will cascade."

Which is why collecting, documenting and preserving specimens is vital.

"Natural history collections actually reflect the history of life through time" stresses Choong.