What is Biodiversity? [return to Home Page]

What is biodiversity?

On a simple level, it is purely the variety of organisms that may be found in a geographical area. One could describe the biodiversity of the east coast of the United States as well as the biodiversity of a flower garden in southeastern Minnesota during a single week in June. For example, in Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, the birds that visit twice a year, for only a matter of weeks, add to a level of biodiversity unmatched in many other areas of the nation.

There are now many conceptualizations of this term. An early definition is "The total spectrum of living variability from genes through species through higher taxa, including ecological interactions, communities, and populations."

Why is biodiversity important?

Biodiversity provides ecosystem services that support human and other life on Earth. Research demonstrated that in general, on the average, greater diversity leads to greater productivity in plant communities, greater nutrient retention in ecosystems, and greater ecosystem stability (Tilman 2000, 208).

Where is biodiversity especially high?

Biodiversity has been historically correlated with primary production in an ecosystem. This leads to areas with high energy input (Sun or otherwise) to have very high biodiversities. Coral reefs and tropical rain forests are famous for their very high biodiversity (Howlett et al. 2000, 207).

How healthy is Earth's biodiversity?

Earth is presently experiencing the greatest killing of species since the end of the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago (Turning Point Project, A14). A main cause of species extinctions is human destruction of natural habitats.

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