Biodiversity

Biodiversity

Overview

Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 forms within a given ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

, biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

, or an entire planet
Planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar region
Polar region
Earth's polar regions are the areas of the globe surrounding the poles also known as frigid zones. The North Pole and South Pole being the centers, these regions are dominated by the polar ice caps, resting respectively on the Arctic Ocean and the continent of Antarctica...

s support fewer species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

.

Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions. One estimate is that less than 1% of the species that have existed on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 are extant.

Since life began on Earth, five major mass extinctions and several minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity.
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Encyclopedia

Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 forms within a given ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

, biome
Biome
Biomes are climatically and geographically defined as similar climatic conditions on the Earth, such as communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, and are often referred to as ecosystems. Some parts of the earth have more or less the same kind of abiotic and biotic factors spread over a...

, or an entire planet
Planet
A planet is a celestial body orbiting a star or stellar remnant that is massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, is not massive enough to cause thermonuclear fusion, and has cleared its neighbouring region of planetesimals.The term planet is ancient, with ties to history, science,...

. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar region
Polar region
Earth's polar regions are the areas of the globe surrounding the poles also known as frigid zones. The North Pole and South Pole being the centers, these regions are dominated by the polar ice caps, resting respectively on the Arctic Ocean and the continent of Antarctica...

s support fewer species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

.

Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions. One estimate is that less than 1% of the species that have existed on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 are extant.

Since life began on Earth, five major mass extinctions and several minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity. The Phanerozoic
Phanerozoic
The Phanerozoic Eon is the current eon in the geologic timescale, and the one during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 542 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared...

 eon (the last 540 million years) marked a rapid growth in biodiversity via the Cambrian explosion
Cambrian explosion
The Cambrian explosion or Cambrian radiation was the relatively rapid appearance, around , of most major phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record, accompanied by major diversification of other organisms, including animals, phytoplankton, and calcimicrobes...

—a period during which nearly every phylum of multicellular organism
Multicellular organism
Multicellular organisms are organisms that consist of more than one cell, in contrast to single-celled organisms. Most life that can be seen with the the naked eye is multicellular, as are all animals and land plants.-Evolutionary history:Multicellularity has evolved independently dozens of times...

s first appeared. The next 400 million years included repeated, massive biodiversity losses classified as mass extinction events. In the Carboniferous
Carboniferous
The Carboniferous is a geologic period and system that extends from the end of the Devonian Period, about 359.2 ± 2.5 Mya , to the beginning of the Permian Period, about 299.0 ± 0.8 Mya . The name is derived from the Latin word for coal, carbo. Carboniferous means "coal-bearing"...

, rainforest collapse
Rainforest collapse
Rainforest collapse refers to the actual past and theoretical future destruction of rainforests through a process of habitat fragmentation to the point where little rainforest biome is left, only to survive in isolated refugia....

 led to a great loss of plant and animal life. The Permian–Triassic extinction event, 251 million years ago, was the worst; vertebrate recovery took 30 million years. The most recent, the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, occurred 65 million years ago, and has often attracted more attention than others because it resulted in the extinction of the dinosaur
Dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

s.

The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction and an accompanying loss of genetic diversity
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

. Named the Holocene extinction, the reduction is caused primarily by human impacts, particularly habitat
Habitat (ecology)
A habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant or other type of organism...

 destruction. Conversely, biodiversity impacts human health in a number of ways, both positively and negatively.

The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 designated 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity
United Nations Decade on Biodiversity
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011-2020 the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity . The UN Decade on Biodiversity serves to support and promote implementation of the objectives of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with the goal of significantly...

.

Etymology


The term biological diversity was used first by wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond F. Dasmann in the 1968 lay book A Different Kind of Country advocating conservation. The term was widely adopted only after more than a decade, when in the 1980s it came into common usage in science and environmental policy. Thomas Lovejoy
Thomas Lovejoy
Dr. Thomas Eugene Lovejoy III is chief biodiversity adviser to the president of the World Bank, senior adviser to the president of the United Nations Foundation, and president of the Heinz Center for Science,...

, in the foreword to the book Conservation Biology, introduced the term to the scientific community. Until then the term "natural diversity" was common, introduced by The Science Division of The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a US charitable environmental organization that works to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive....

 in an important 1975 study, "The Preservation of Natural Diversity." By the early 1980s TNC's Science program and its head, Robert E. Jenkins, Lovejoy and other leading conservation scientists at the time in America advocated the use of "biological diversity".

The term's contracted form biodiversity may have been coined by W.G. Rosen in 1985 while planning the 1986 National Forum on Biological Diversity organized by the National Research Council
United States National Research Council
The National Research Council of the USA is the working arm of the United States National Academies, carrying out most of the studies done in their names.The National Academies include:* National Academy of Sciences...

 (NRC). It first appeared in a publication in 1988 when entomologist E. O. Wilson
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher , theorist , naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants....

 used it as the title of the proceedings
Proceedings
In academia, proceedings are the collection of academic papers that are published in the context of an academic conference. They are usually distributed as printed books either before the conference opens or after the conference has closed. Proceedings contain the contributions made by researchers...

 of that forum.

Since this period the term has achieved widespread use among biologists, environmentalists, political leaders, and concerned citizens.

A similar term in the United States is "natural heritage." It predates the others and is more accepted by the wider audience interested in conservation. Broader than biodiversity, it includes geology and landforms (geodiversity
Geodiversity
Geodiversity is the variety of earth materials, forms and processes that constitute and shape the Earth, either the whole or a specific part of it. Relevant materials include minerals, rocks, sediments, fossils, soils and water. Forms may comprise folds, faults, landforms and other expressions of...

).

Definitions


"Biological diversity" or "biodiversity" can have many interpretations. It is most commonly used to replace the more clearly defined and long established terms, species diversity
Species diversity
Species diversity is an index that incorporates the number of species in an area and also their relative abundance. It is a more comprehensive value than species richness....

 and species richness
Species richness
Species richness is the number of different species in a given area. It is represented in equation form as S.Species richness is the fundamental unit in which to assess the homogeneity of an environment. Typically, species richness is used in conservation studies to determine the sensitivity of...

. Biologists most often define biodiversity as the "totality of genes, species, and ecosystems of a region". An advantage of this definition is that it seems to describe most circumstances and presents a unified view of the traditional three levels at which biological variety has been identified:
  • species diversity
    Species diversity
    Species diversity is an index that incorporates the number of species in an area and also their relative abundance. It is a more comprehensive value than species richness....

  • ecosystem diversity
    Ecosystem diversity
    Ecosystem diversity refers to the diversity of a place at the level of ecosystems. The term differs from biodiversity, which refers to variation in species rather than ecosystems...

  • genetic diversity
    Genetic diversity
    Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....


In 2003 Professor Anthony Campbell at Cardiff University
Cardiff University
Cardiff University is a leading research university located in the Cathays Park area of Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom. It received its Royal charter in 1883 and is a member of the Russell Group of Universities. The university is consistently recognised as providing high quality research-based...

, UK and the Darwin Centre, Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire is a county in the south west of Wales. It borders Carmarthenshire to the east and Ceredigion to the north east. The county town is Haverfordwest where Pembrokeshire County Council is headquartered....

, defined a fourth level: Molecular Diversity
Molecular Diversity
Molecular Diversity is a scientific journal published quarterly by Springer Science+Business Media. Molecular Diversity presents refereed papers describing the development, application and theory of molecular diversity, and combinatorial chemistry in basic and applied research and drug discovery....

.

This multilevel construct is consistent with Dasmann and Lovejoy. An explicit definition consistent with this interpretation was first given in a paper by Bruce A. Wilcox commissioned by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) for the 1982 World National Parks Conference. Wilcox's definition was "Biological diversity is the variety of life forms...at all levels of biological systems (i.e., molecular, organismic, population, species and ecosystem)...".
The 1992 United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Earth Summit
Earth Summit
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 June to 14 June 1992.-Overview:...

 defined "biological diversity" as "the variability among living organisms from all sources, including, 'inter alia', terrestrial, marine
Marine (ocean)
Marine is an umbrella term. As an adjective it is usually applicable to things relating to the sea or ocean, such as marine biology, marine ecology and marine geology...

, and other aquatic ecosystems
Marine biology
Marine biology is the scientific study of organisms in the ocean or other marine or brackish bodies of water. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather...

, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems". This definition is used in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity , known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is an international legally binding treaty...

.

One textbook's definition is "variation of life at all levels of biological organization".

Geneticist
Geneticist
A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics, the science of genes, heredity, and variation of organisms. A geneticist can be employed as a researcher or lecturer. Some geneticists perform experiments and analyze data to interpret the inheritance of skills. A geneticist is also a Consultant or...

s define it as the diversity of genes and organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s. They study processes such as mutation
Mutation
In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

s, gene transfer, and genome dynamics that generate evolution.

Measuring diversity at one level in a group of organisms may not precisely correspond to diversity at other levels. However, tetrapod
Tetrapod
Tetrapods are vertebrate animals having four limbs. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are all tetrapods; even snakes and other limbless reptiles and amphibians are tetrapods by descent. The earliest tetrapods evolved from the lobe-finned fishes in the Devonian...

 (terrestrial vertebrates) taxonomic and ecological diversity shows a very close correlation.

Distribution


Biodiversity is not evenly distributed, rather it varies greatly across the globe as well as within regions. Among other factors, the diversity of all living things (biota
Biota (ecology)
Biota are the total collection of organisms of a geographic region or a time period, from local geographic scales and instantaneous temporal scales all the way up to whole-planet and whole-timescale spatiotemporal scales. The biota of the Earth lives in the biosphere.-See...

) depends on temperature, precipitation, altitude, soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

s, geography and the presence of other species. The study of the spatial distribution of organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s, species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

, and ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s, is the science of biogeography
Biogeography
Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species , organisms, and ecosystems in space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities vary in a highly regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area...

.

Diversity consistently measures higher in the tropics
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

 and in other localized regions such as Cape Floristic Province and lower in polar regions generally. In 2006 many species were formally classified as rare
Rare species
A rare species is a group of organisms that are very uncommon or scarce. This designation may be applied to either a plant or animal taxon, and may be distinct from the term "endangered" or "threatened species" but not "extinct"....

 or endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 or threatened
Threatened species
Threatened species are any speciesg animals, plants, fungi, etc.) which are vulnerable to endangerment in the near future.The World Conservation Union is the foremost authority on threatened species, and treats threatened species not as a single category, but as a group of three categories,...

; moreover, scientists have estimated that millions more species are at risk which have not been formally recognized. About 40 percent of the 40,177 species assessed using the IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

 criteria are now listed as threatened with extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

—a total of 16,119.

Generally terrestrial biodiversity is up to 25 times greater than ocean biodiversity.

Latitudinal gradients


Generally, there is an increase in biodiversity from the poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

 to the tropics
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

. Thus localities at lower latitudes have more species than localities at higher latitudes. This is often referred to as the latitudinal gradient in species diversity. Several ecological mechanisms may contribute to the gradient, but the ultimate factor behind many of them is the greater mean temperature at the equator compared to that of the poles.

Even though terrestrial biodiversity declines from the equator to the poles, some studies claim that this characteristic is unverified in aquatic ecosystems, especially in marine ecosystems. The latitudinal distribution of parasites does not follow this rule. Other instances of great diversity in higher latitudes have also been recorded.

Hotspots


A biodiversity hotspot
Biodiversity hotspot
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.The concept of biodiversity hotspots was originated by Norman Myers in two articles in “The Environmentalist” , revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others in...

 is a region with a high level of endemic species. Hotspots were first named in 1988 by Dr. Sabina Virk. Many hotspots have large nearby human populations. While hotspots are spread all over the world, the majority are forest areas and most are located in the tropics
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

.

Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

's Atlantic Forest is considered one such hotspot, containing roughly 20,000 plant species, 1,350 vertebrates, and millions of insects, about half of which occur nowhere else. The island of Madagascar
Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country located in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa...

, particularly the unique Madagascar dry deciduous forests
Madagascar dry deciduous forests
The Madagascar dry deciduous forests represent a tropical dry forest ecoregion generally situated in the western part of Madagascar. The area has high numbers of endemic plant and animal species but has suffered large-scale clearance for agriculture...

 and lowland rainforests, possess a high ratio of endemism. Since the island separated from mainland Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

 65 million years ago, many species and ecosystems have evolved independently. Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

's 17,000 islands cover 735355 square miles (1,904,560.7 km²) contain 10% of the world's flowering plants, 12% of mammals and 17% of reptile
Reptile
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

s, amphibian
Amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s and bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s—along with nearly 240 million people.
Many regions of high biodiversity and/or endemism arise from specialized habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

s which require unusual adaptations, for example alpine
Alpine climate
Alpine climate is the average weather for a region above the tree line. This climate is also referred to as mountain climate or highland climate....

 environments in high mountain
Mountain
Image:Himalaya_annotated.jpg|thumb|right|The Himalayan mountain range with Mount Everestrect 58 14 160 49 Chomo Lonzorect 200 28 335 52 Makalurect 378 24 566 45 Mount Everestrect 188 581 920 656 Tibetan Plateaurect 250 406 340 427 Rong River...

s, or Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

an peat bog
Bog
A bog, quagmire or mire is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses or, in Arctic climates, lichens....

s.

Accurately measuring differences in biodiversity can be difficult. Selection bias
Selection bias
Selection bias is a statistical bias in which there is an error in choosing the individuals or groups to take part in a scientific study. It is sometimes referred to as the selection effect. The term "selection bias" most often refers to the distortion of a statistical analysis, resulting from the...

 amongst researchers may contribute to biased empirical research for modern estimates of biodiversity. In 1768 Rev. Gilbert White
Gilbert White
Gilbert White FRS was a pioneering English naturalist and ornithologist.-Life:White was born in his grandfather's vicarage at Selborne in Hampshire. He was educated at the Holy Ghost School and by a private tutor in Basingstoke before going to Oriel College, Oxford...

 succinctly observed of his Selborne, Hampshire
Selborne
Selborne is a village in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire, England. It is south of Alton. It will be just within the extreme northern boundary of the proposed South Downs National Park, which is due to take effect in mid-2010....

 "all nature is so full, that that district produces the most variety which is the most examined."

Evolution



Biodiversity is the result of 3.5 billion years of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

. The origin of life has not been definitely established by science, however some evidence suggests that life may already have been well-established only a few hundred million years after the formation of the Earth
Age of the Earth
The age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years This age is based on evidence from radiometric age dating of meteorite material and is consistent with the ages of the oldest-known terrestrial and lunar samples...

. Until approximately 600 million years ago, all life consisted of archaea
Archaea
The Archaea are a group of single-celled microorganisms. A single individual or species from this domain is called an archaeon...

, bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

, protozoans and similar single-celled organisms.

The history of biodiversity during the Phanerozoic
Phanerozoic
The Phanerozoic Eon is the current eon in the geologic timescale, and the one during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 542 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared...

 (the last 540 million years), starts with rapid growth during the Cambrian explosion
Cambrian explosion
The Cambrian explosion or Cambrian radiation was the relatively rapid appearance, around , of most major phyla, as demonstrated in the fossil record, accompanied by major diversification of other organisms, including animals, phytoplankton, and calcimicrobes...

—a period during which nearly every phylum of multicellular organism
Multicellular organism
Multicellular organisms are organisms that consist of more than one cell, in contrast to single-celled organisms. Most life that can be seen with the the naked eye is multicellular, as are all animals and land plants.-Evolutionary history:Multicellularity has evolved independently dozens of times...

s first appeared. Over the next 400 million years or so, invertebrate diversity showed little overall trend, and vertebrate diversity shows an overall exponential trend. This dramatic rise in diversity was marked by periodic, massive losses of diversity classified as mass extinction events. A significant loss occurred when rainforests collapsed in the carboniferous. The worst was the Permo-Triassic extinction, 251 million years ago. Vertebrates took 30 million years to recover from this event.

The fossil record suggests that the last few million years featured the greatest biodiversity in history
History of Earth
The history of the Earth describes the most important events and fundamental stages in the development of the planet Earth from its formation 4.578 billion years ago to the present day. Nearly all branches of natural science have contributed to the understanding of the main events of the Earth's...

. However, not all scientists support this view, since there is uncertainty as to how strongly the fossil record is biased by the greater availability and preservation of recent geologic
Geology
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

 sections. Some scientists believe that corrected for sampling artifacts, modern biodiversity may not be much different from biodiversity 300 million years ago., whereas others consider the fossil record reasonably reflective of the diversification of life. Estimates of the present global macroscopic species diversity vary from 2 million to 100 million, with a best estimate of somewhere near 13–14 million, the vast majority arthropod
Arthropod
An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton , a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the phylum Arthropoda , and include the insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and others...

s. Diversity appears to increase continually in the absence of natural selection.

Evolutionary diversification


The existence of a "global carrying capacity", limiting the amount of life that can live at once, is debated, as is the question of whether such a limit would also cap the number of species. While records of life in the sea shows a logistic
Logistic function
A logistic function or logistic curve is a common sigmoid curve, given its name in 1844 or 1845 by Pierre François Verhulst who studied it in relation to population growth. It can model the "S-shaped" curve of growth of some population P...

 pattern of growth, life on land (insects, plants and tetrapods)shows an exponential
Exponential growth
Exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of a mathematical function is proportional to the function's current value...

 rise in diversity. As one author states, "Tetrapods have not yet invaded 64 per cent of potentially habitable modes, and it could be that without human influence the ecological and taxonomic diversity of tetrapods would continue to increase in an exponential fashion until most or all of the available ecospace is filled."

On the other hand, changes through the Phanerozoic
Phanerozoic
The Phanerozoic Eon is the current eon in the geologic timescale, and the one during which abundant animal life has existed. It covers roughly 542 million years and goes back to the time when diverse hard-shelled animals first appeared...

 correlate much better with the hyperbolic
Hyperbolic growth
When a quantity grows towards a singularity under a finite variation it is said to undergo hyperbolic growth.More precisely, the reciprocal function 1/x has a hyperbola as a graph, and has a singularity at 0, meaning that the limit as x \to 0 is infinity: any similar graph is said to exhibit...

 model (widely used in population biology
Population biology
Population biology is a study of populations of organisms, especially the regulation of population size, life history traits such as clutch size, and extinction...

, demography
Demography
Demography is the statistical study of human population. It can be a very general science that can be applied to any kind of dynamic human population, that is, one that changes over time or space...

 and macrosociology
Macrosociology
Macrosociology is an approach to the discipline which emphasizes the analysis of social systems and populations on a large scale, at the level of social structure, and often at a necessarily high level of theoretical abstraction. Microsociology, by contrast, focuses on the individual social agency...

, as well as fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

 biodiversity) than with exponential and logistic models. The latter models imply that changes in diversity are guided by a first-order positive feedback
Positive feedback
Positive feedback is a process in which the effects of a small disturbance on a system include an increase in the magnitude of the perturbation. That is, A produces more of B which in turn produces more of A. In contrast, a system that responds to a perturbation in a way that reduces its effect is...

 (more ancestors, more descendants) and/or a negative feedback
Negative feedback
Negative feedback occurs when the output of a system acts to oppose changes to the input of the system, with the result that the changes are attenuated. If the overall feedback of the system is negative, then the system will tend to be stable.- Overview :...

 arising from resource limitation. Hyperbolic model implies a second-order positive feedback. The hyperbolic pattern of the world population
World population
The world population is the total number of living humans on the planet Earth. As of today, it is estimated to be  billion by the United States Census Bureau...

 growth arises from a second-order positive feedback between the population size and the rate of technological growth. The hyperbolic character of biodiversity growth can be similarly accounted for by a feedback between diversity and community structure complexity. The similarity between the curves of biodiversity and human population probably comes from the fact that both are derived from the interference of the hyperbolic trend with cyclical and stochastic
Stochastic
Stochastic refers to systems whose behaviour is intrinsically non-deterministic. A stochastic process is one whose behavior is non-deterministic, in that a system's subsequent state is determined both by the process's predictable actions and by a random element. However, according to M. Kac and E...

 dynamics.

Most biologists agree however that the period since human emergence is part of a new mass extinction, named the Holocene extinction event
Holocene extinction event
The Holocene extinction refers to the extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch . The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods; a sizeable fraction of these extinctions are occurring in the...

, caused primarily by the impact humans are having on the environment. It has been argued that the present rate of extinction is sufficient to eliminate most species on the planet Earth within 100 years.

New species are regularly discovered (on average between 5–10,000 new species each year, most of them insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s) and many, though discovered, are not yet classified (estimates are that nearly 90% of all arthropod
Arthropod
An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton , a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the phylum Arthropoda , and include the insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and others...

s are not yet classified). Most of the terrestrial diversity is found in tropical forests.

Human benefits


Biodiversity supports ecosystem services including air quality, climate (e.g., sequestration), water purification, pollination
Pollination
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred in plants, thereby enabling fertilisation and sexual reproduction. Pollen grains transport the male gametes to where the female gamete are contained within the carpel; in gymnosperms the pollen is directly applied to the ovule itself...

, and prevention of erosion
Erosion
Erosion is when materials are removed from the surface and changed into something else. It only works by hydraulic actions and transport of solids in the natural environment, and leads to the deposition of these materials elsewhere...

.

Since the stone age
Stone Age
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric period, lasting about 2.5 million years , during which humans and their predecessor species in the genus Homo, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus, widely used exclusively stone as their hard material in the...

, species loss has accelerated above the prior rate, driven by human activity. Estimates of species loss are at a rate 100-10,000 times as fast as is typical in the fossil record.

Non-material benefits include spiritual and aesthetic values, knowledge systems and the value of education.

Agriculture




Crop diversity
Crop diversity
Crop diversity is the variance in genetic and phenotypic characteristics of plants used in agriculture. Crops may vary in seed size, branching pattern, in height, flower color, fruiting time, or flavor. They may also vary in less obvious characteristics such as their response to heat, cold or...

 aids recovery when the dominant cultivar
Cultivar
A cultivar'Cultivar has two meanings as explained under Formal definition. When used in reference to a taxon, the word does not apply to an individual plant but to all those plants sharing the unique characteristics that define the cultivar. is a plant or group of plants selected for desirable...

 is attacked by a disease or predator:
  • The Irish potato blight of 1846 was a major factor in the deaths of one million people and the emigration of another million. It was the result of planting only two potato varieties, both vulnerable to the blight.
  • When rice grassy stunt virus
    Rice grassy stunt virus
    Rice grassy stunt virus is a plant pathogenic virus transmitted by the brown planthopper , Nilaparvata lugens, and by two other Nilaparvata species, N. bakeri and N. muiri. The virus is found in South and Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and Taiwan. From 1970 to 1977 RGSV incidence was high in...

     struck rice fields from Indonesia to India in the 1970s, 6,273 varieties were tested for resistance. Only one was resistant, an Indian variety, and known to science only since 1966. This variety formed a hybrid with other varieties and is now widely grown.
  • Coffee rust attacked coffee plantations in Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Central America in 1970. A resistant variety was found in Ethiopia. Although the diseases are themselves a form of biodiversity.


Monoculture
Monoculture
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from...

 was a contributing factor to several agricultural disasters, including the European wine industry collapse in the late 19th century, and the US Southern Corn Leaf Blight epidemic of 1970.

Although about 80 percent of humans' food supply comes from just 20 kinds of plants, humans use at least 40,000 species. Many people depend on these species for food, shelter, and clothing. Earth's surviving biodiversity provides resources for increasing the range of food and other products suitable for human use, although the present extinction rate shrinks that potential.

Human health


Biodiversity's relevance to human health is becoming an international political issue, as scientific evidence builds on the global health implications of biodiversity loss. This issue is closely linked with the issue of climate change, as many of the anticipated health risks of climate change are associated with changes in biodiversity (e.g. changes in populations and distribution of disease vectors, scarcity of fresh water, impacts on agricultural biodiversity and food resources etc.) This is because the species most likely to disappear are those that buffer against infectious disease transmission, while surviving species tend to be the ones that increase disease transmission, such as that of West Nile Virus, Lyme disease and Hantavirus, according to a study done co-authored by Felicia Keesing, and ecologist at Bard College, and Drew Harvell, associate director for Environment of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
The David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future is a research organization created in Fall 2007 at Cornell University. ACSF advances multidisciplinary research in Energy, the Environment and Economic Development, and cultivates collaborations within and beyond Cornell.- History :ACSF,...

 (ACSF) at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

.

Some of the health issues influenced by biodiversity include dietary health and nutrition security, infectious disease, medical science and medicinal resources, social and psychological health. Biodiversity is also known to have an important role in reducing disaster risk, and in post-disaster relief and recovery efforts.

Biodiversity provides critical support for drug discovery and the availability of medicinal resources. A significant proportion of drugs are derived, directly or indirectly, from biological sources: at least 50% of the pharmaceutical compounds on the US market are derived from plants, animals, and micro-organisms, while about 80% of the world population depends on medicines from nature (used in either modern or traditional medical practice) for primary healthcare. Only a tiny fraction of wild species has been investigated for medical potential. Biodiversity has been critical to advances throughout the field of bionics
Bionics
Bionics is the application of biological methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology.The word bionic was coined by Jack E...

. Evidence from market analysis and biodiversity science indicates that the decline in output from the pharmaceutical sector since the mid-1980s can be attributed to a move away from natural product exploration ("bioprospecting") in favor of genomics and synthetic chemistry; meanwhile, natural products have a long history of supporting significant economic and health innovation. Marine ecosystems are particularly important, although inappropriate bioprospecting can increase biodiversity loss, as well as violating the laws of the communities and states from which the resources are taken.

Business and industry



Many industrial materials derive directly from biological sources. These include building materials, fibers, dyes, rubber and oil. Biodiversity is also important to the security of resources such as water, timber, paper, fiber, and food. As a result, biodiversity loss is a significant risk factor in business development and a threat to long term economic sustainability.

Leisure, cultural and aesthetic value


Biodiversity enriches leisure activities such as hiking
Hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

, birdwatching
Birdwatching
Birdwatching or birding is the observation of birds as a recreational activity. It can be done with the naked eye, through a visual enhancement device like binoculars and telescopes, or by listening for bird sounds. Birding often involves a significant auditory component, as many bird species are...

 or natural history study. Biodiversity inspires musician
Musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

s, painters, sculptors, writers and other artists. Many cultures view themselves as an integral part of the natural world which requires them to respect other living organisms.

Popular activities such as gardening
Gardening
Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants. Ornamental plants are normally grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants are grown for consumption , for their dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use...

, fishkeeping
Fishkeeping
Fishkeeping is a popular hobby concerned with keeping fish in a home aquarium or garden pond. There is also a fishkeeping industry, as a branch of agriculture.-Types of fishkeeping systems:...

 and specimen collecting strongly depend on biodiversity. The number of species involved in such pursuits is in the tens of thousands, though the majority do not enter commerce.

The relationships between the original natural areas of these often exotic animals and plants and commercial collectors, suppliers, breeders, propagators and those who promote their understanding and enjoyment are complex and poorly understood. The general public responds well to exposure to rare and unusual organisms, reflecting their inherent value.

Philosophically it could be argued that biodiversity has intrinsic aesthetic and spiritual value to mankind
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

 in and of itself. This idea can be used as a counterweight to the notion that tropical forests and other ecological realms are only worthy of conservation because of the services they provide.

Ecological services



Biodiversity supports many ecosystem services
Ecosystem services
Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes...

 that are often not readily visible. It plays a part in regulating the chemistry of our atmosphere
Atmosphere
An atmosphere is a layer of gases that may surround a material body of sufficient mass, and that is held in place by the gravity of the body. An atmosphere may be retained for a longer duration, if the gravity is high and the atmosphere's temperature is low...

 and water supply
Water supply
Water supply is the provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations, community endeavours or by individuals, usually via a system of pumps and pipes...

. Biodiversity is directly involved in water purification
Water purification
Water purification is the process of removing undesirable chemicals, materials, and biological contaminants from contaminated water. The goal is to produce water fit for a specific purpose...

, recycling nutrient
Nutrient
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism's metabolism which must be taken in from its environment. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy...

s and providing fertile soils. Experiments with controlled environments have shown that humans cannot easily build ecosystems to support human needs; for example insect pollination
Entomophily
Entomophily is a form of pollination whereby pollen is distributed by insects. Several insect are reported to be responsible for the pollination of many plant species, particularly bees, Lepidoptera , wasps, flies, ants and beetles. Some plant species co-evolved with a particular pollinator, such...

 cannot be mimicked, and that activity alone represents tens of billions of dollars in ecosystem services
Ecosystem services
Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes...

 per year to humankind.

Daisyworld
Daisyworld
Daisyworld, a computer simulation, is a hypothetical world orbiting a star whose radiant energy is slowly increasing. It is meant to mimic important elements of the Earth-Sun system, and was introduced by James Lovelock and Andrew Watson in a paper published in 1983 to illustrate the plausibility...

 simulations, supported by evidence from scientific studies, has proven the positive co-relation of biodiversity with ecosystem stability
Ecological effects of biodiversity
The diversity of species and genes in ecological communities affects the functioning of these communities. These ecological effects of biodiversity in turn affect both climate change through enhanced greenhouse gases, aerosols and loss of land cover, and biological diversity, causing a rapid loss...

, protecting against disruption by extreme weather or human exploitation.

Number of species




According to the Global Taxonomy Initiative and the European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy, the total number of species for some phyla may be much higher than what was known in 2010:
  • 10–30 million insect
    Insect
    Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

    s; (of some 0.9 million we know today)
  • 5–10 million bacteria
    Bacteria
    Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

    ;
  • 1.5 million fungi;(of some 0.075 million we know today)
  • 1 million mite
    Mite
    Mites, along with ticks, are small arthropods belonging to the subclass Acari and the class Arachnida. The scientific discipline devoted to the study of ticks and mites is called acarology.-Diversity and systematics:...

    s
  • The number of microbial species is not reliably known, but the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition
    Global Ocean Sampling Expedition
    The Global Ocean Sampling Expedition is an ocean exploration genome project with the goal of assessing the genetic diversity in marine microbial communities and to understand their role in nature's fundamental processes. Begun as a Sargasso Sea pilot sampling project in August 2003, Craig Venter...

     dramatically increased the estimates of genetic diversity by identifying an enormous number of new genes from near-surface plankton
    Plankton
    Plankton are any drifting organisms that inhabit the pelagic zone of oceans, seas, or bodies of fresh water. That is, plankton are defined by their ecological niche rather than phylogenetic or taxonomic classification...

     samples at various marine locations, initially over the 2004-2006 period. The findings may eventually cause a significant change in the way science defines species
    Species
    In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

     and other taxonomic categories.


Since the rate of extinction has increased, many extant species may become extinct before they are described.

Species loss rates


During the last century, decreases in biodiversity have been increasingly observed. In 2007, German Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel cited estimates that up to 30% of all species will be extinct by 2050. Of these, about one eighth of known plant species are threatened with extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

. Estimates reach as high as 140,000 species per year (based on Species-area theory
Species-area curve
In ecology, a species-area curve is a relationship between the area of a habitat, or of part of a habitat, and the number of species found within that area. Larger areas tend to contain larger numbers of species, and empirically, the relative numbers seem to follow systematic mathematical...

). This figure indicates unsustainable
Sustainability
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

 ecological practices, because few species emerge each year. Almost all scientists acknowledge that the rate of species loss is greater now than at any time in human history, with extinctions occurring at rates hundreds of times higher than background extinction rates.

Threats


Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

 describes an "Evil Quartet" of habitat destruction, overkill, introduced species, and secondary extinctions. Edward O. Wilson prefers the acronym HIPPO, standing for habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, human over population, and over-harvesting. The most authoritative classification in use today is IUCN’s Classification of Direct Threats which has been adopted by major international conservation organizations such as the US Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International
Conservation International
Conservation International is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, which seeks to ensure the health of humanity by protecting Earth's ecosystems and biodiversity. CI’s work focuses on six key initiatives that affect human well-being: climate, food security, freshwater...

, and Birdlife International
BirdLife International
BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources...

.

Habitat destruction



Habitat
Habitat (ecology)
A habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant or other type of organism...

 destruction has played a key role in extinctions, especially related to tropical forest destruction. Factors contributing to habitat loss are: overpopulation
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

, deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

, pollution
Pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

 (air pollution
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

, water pollution
Water pollution
Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies . Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds....

, soil contamination
Soil contamination
Soil contamination or soil pollution is caused by the presence of xenobiotic chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment....

) and global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 or climate change.

Habitat size and numbers of species are systematically related. Physically larger species and those living at lower latitudes or in forests or oceans are more sensitive to reduction in habitat area. Conversion to "trivial" standardized ecosystems (e.g., monoculture
Monoculture
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from...

 following deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

) effectively destroys habitat for the more diverse species that preceded the conversion. In some countries lack of property rights or lax law/regulatory enforcement necessarily leads to biodiversity loss (degradation costs having to be supported by the community).

A 2007 study conducted by the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 found that biodiversity and genetic diversity
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

 are codependent—that diversity among species requires diversity within a species, and vice versa. "If any one type is removed from the system, the cycle can break down, and the community becomes dominated by a single species."
At present, the most threatened ecosystems are found in fresh water
Fresh Water
Fresh Water is the debut album by Australian rock and blues singer Alison McCallum, released in 1972. Rare for an Australian artist at the time, it came in a gatefold sleeve...

, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, released in 2005, is an international synthesis by over 1000 of the world's leading biological scientists that analyses the state of the Earth’s ecosystems and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers...

 2005, which was confirmed by the "Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment", organised by the biodiversity platform, and the French Institut de recherche pour le développement
Institut de recherche pour le développement
The Institut de recherche pour le développement is a French public science and technology research institute under the joint authority of the French ministries in charge of research and overseas development....

 (MNHNP).

Co-extinctions are a form of habitat destruction. Co-extinction occurs when the extinction or decline in one accompanies the other, such as in plants and beetles.

Introduced and invasive species



Barriers such as large rivers, sea
Sea
A sea generally refers to a large body of salt water, but the term is used in other contexts as well. Most commonly, it means a large expanse of saline water connected with an ocean, and is commonly used as a synonym for ocean...

s, oceans, mountains and deserts
Déserts
Déserts is a piece by Edgard Varèse for brass , percussion , piano, and tape. Percussion instruments are exploited for their resonant potential, rather than used solely as accompaniment...

 encourage diversity by enabling independent evolution on either side of the barrier. Invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 occur when those barriers are blurred. Without barriers such species occupy new niches, substantially reducing diversity. Repeatedly humans have helped these species circumvent these barriers, introducing them for food and other purposes. This has occurred on a time scale much shorter than the eons that historically have been required for a species to extend its range.

Not all introduced species are invasive, nor all invasive species deliberately introduced. In cases such as the zebra mussel
Zebra mussel
The zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, is a small freshwater mussel. This species was originally native to the lakes of southeast Russia being first described in 1769 by a German zoologist Peter Simon Pallas in the Ural, Volga and Dnieper rivers. They are still found nearby, as Pontic and Caspian...

, invasion
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 of US waterways was unintentional. In other cases, such as mongoose
Mongoose
Mongoose are a family of 33 living species of small carnivorans from southern Eurasia and mainland Africa. Four additional species from Madagascar in the subfamily Galidiinae, which were previously classified in this family, are also referred to as "mongooses" or "mongoose-like"...

s in Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, the introduction is deliberate but ineffective (nocturnal rat
Rat
Rats are various medium-sized, long-tailed rodents of the superfamily Muroidea. "True rats" are members of the genus Rattus, the most important of which to humans are the black rat, Rattus rattus, and the brown rat, Rattus norvegicus...

s were not vulnerable to the diurnal mongoose). In other cases, such as oil palm
Oil palm
The oil palms comprise two species of the Arecaceae, or palm family. They are used in commercial agriculture in the production of palm oil. The African Oil Palm Elaeis guineensis is native to West Africa, occurring between Angola and Gambia, while the American Oil Palm Elaeis oleifera is native to...

s in Indonesia and Malaysia, the introduction produces substantial economic benefits, but the benefits are accompanied by costly unintended consequences
Unintended Consequences
Unintended Consequences is a novel by John Ross, first published in 1996 by Accurate Press. The story chronicles the history of the gun culture, gun rights and gun control in the United States from the early 1900s through the late 1990s...

.

Finally, an introduced species may unintentionally injure a species that depends on the species it replaces. In Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, Prunus spinosa
Prunus spinosa
Prunus spinosa is a species of Prunus native to Europe, western Asia, and locally in northwest Africa. It is also locally naturalised in New Zealand and eastern North America....

 from Eastern Europe leafs much sooner than its West European counterparts, disrupting the feeding habits of the Thecla betulae butterfly (which feeds on the leaves). Introducing new species often leaves endemic and other local species unable to compete with the exotic species and unable to survive. The exotic organisms may be predators, parasites, or may simply outcompete indigenous species for nutrients, water and light.

At present, several countries have already imported so many exotic species, particularly agricultural and ornamental plants, that their own indigenous fauna/flora may be outnumbered.

Genetic pollution


Endemic species can be threatened with extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 through the process of genetic pollution
Genetic pollution
Genetic pollution is a controversial term for uncontrolled gene flow into wild populations. This gene flow is undesirable according to some environmentalists and conservationists, including groups such as Greenpeace, TRAFFIC, and GeneWatch UK.-Usage:...

, i.e. uncontrolled hybridization, introgression
Introgression
Introgression, also known as introgressive hybridization, in genetics is the movement of a gene from one species into the gene pool of another by the repeated backcrossing of an interspecific hybrid with one of its parent species...

 and genetic swamping. Genetic pollution leads to homogenization or replacement of local genomes as a result of either a numerical and/or fitness
Fitness (biology)
Fitness is a central idea in evolutionary theory. It can be defined either with respect to a genotype or to a phenotype in a given environment...

 advantage of an introduced species.
Hybridization and introgression are side-effects of introduction and invasion. These phenomena can be especially detrimental to rare species
Rare species
A rare species is a group of organisms that are very uncommon or scarce. This designation may be applied to either a plant or animal taxon, and may be distinct from the term "endangered" or "threatened species" but not "extinct"....

 that come into contact with more abundant ones. The abundant species can interbreed with the rare species, swamping its gene pool
Gene pool
In population genetics, a gene pool is the complete set of unique alleles in a species or population.- Description :A large gene pool indicates extensive genetic diversity, which is associated with robust populations that can survive bouts of intense selection...

. This problem is not always apparent from morphological
Morphology (biology)
In biology, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features....

 (outward appearance) observations alone. Some degree of gene flow
Gene flow
In population genetics, gene flow is the transfer of alleles of genes from one population to another.Migration into or out of a population may be responsible for a marked change in allele frequencies...

 is normal adaptation, and not all gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

 and genotype
Genotype
The genotype is the genetic makeup of a cell, an organism, or an individual usually with reference to a specific character under consideration...

 constellations can be preserved. However, hybridization with or without introgression may, nevertheless, threaten a rare species' existence.

Overexploitation


Overexploitation occurs when a resource is consumed at an unsustainable rate. This occurs on land in the form of overhunting, excessive logging
Logging
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

, poor soil conservation
Soil conservation
Soil conservation is a set of management strategies for prevention of soil being eroded from the Earth’s surface or becoming chemically altered by overuse, acidification, salinization or other chemical soil contamination...

 in agriculture and the illegal wildlife trade
Wildlife trade
The international wildlife trade is a serious conservation problem, addressed by the United Nations' Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora CITES, which currently has 175 member countries called Parties. The 15th meeting of the Parties took place in Doha,...

. Joe Walston, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asian programs, called the latter the "single largest threat" to biodiversity in Asia. The international trade of endangered species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 is second in size only to drug trafficking.

About 25% of world fisheries
Fishery
Generally, a fishery is an entity engaged in raising or harvesting fish which is determined by some authority to be a fishery. According to the FAO, a fishery is typically defined in terms of the "people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats,...

 are now overfished to the point where their current biomass is less than the level that maximizes their sustainable yield.

The overkill hypothesis explains why earlier megafauna
Megafauna
In terrestrial zoology, megafauna are "giant", "very large" or "large" animals. The most common thresholds used are or...

l extinctions occurred within a relatively short period of time. This can be connected with human migration
Human migration
Human migration is physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups. Historically this movement was nomadic, often causing significant conflict with the indigenous population and their displacement or cultural assimilation. Only a few nomadic...

.

Hybridization, genetic pollution/erosion and food security



In agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 and animal husbandry
Animal husbandry
Animal husbandry is the agricultural practice of breeding and raising livestock.- History :Animal husbandry has been practiced for thousands of years, since the first domestication of animals....

, the Green Revolution
Green Revolution
Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

 popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield. Often hybridized breeds originated in developed countries and were further hybridized with local varieties in the developing world to create high yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases. Local governments and industry have been pushing hybridization. Formerly huge gene pools of various wild and indigenous breeds have collapsed causing widespread genetic erosion
Genetic erosion
Genetic erosion is a process whereby an already limited gene pool of an endangered species of plant or animal diminishes even more when individuals from the surviving population die off without getting a chance to meet and breed with others in their endangered low population.Genetic erosion occurs...

 and genetic pollution. This has resulted in loss of genetic diversity
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

 and biodiversity as a whole.

(GM organisms)
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

 have genetic material altered by genetic engineering
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 procedures such as recombinant DNA technology. GM crops have become a common source for genetic pollution, not only of wild varieties but also of domesticated varieties derived from classical hybridization.

Genetic erosion coupled with genetic pollution may be destroying unique genotypes, thereby creating a hidden crisis which could result in a severe threat to our food security
Food security
Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. According to the World Resources Institute, global per capita food production has been increasing substantially for the past...

. Diverse genetic material could cease to exist which would impact our ability to further hybridize food crops and livestock against more resistant diseases and climatic changes.

Climate Change



Global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

 is also considered to be a major threat to global biodiversity. For example coral reefs -which are biodiversity hotspots- will be lost in 20 to 40 years if global warming continues at the current trend.

In 2004, an international collaborative study on four continents estimated that 10 percent of species would become extinct by 2050 because of global warming
Global warming
Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

. "We need to limit climate change or we wind up with a lot of species in trouble, possibly extinct," said Dr. Lee Hannah, a co-author of the paper and chief climate change biologist at the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International.

Overpopulation


From 1950 to 2011, world population increased from 2.5 billion to 7 billion and is forecast to reach a plateau of more than 9 billion during the 21st century. Sir David King
David King (scientist)
Sir David Anthony King FRS is the Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, Director of Research in Physical Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, Director of the Collegio Carlo Alberto, Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and a senior...

, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, told a parliamentary inquiry: "It is self-evident that the massive growth in the human population through the 20th century has had more impact on biodiversity than any other single factor."

The Holocene extinction


Rates of decline in biodiversity in this sixth mass extinction match or exceed rates of loss in the five previous mass extinction events
Extinction event
An extinction event is a sharp decrease in the diversity and abundance of macroscopic life. They occur when the rate of extinction increases with respect to the rate of speciation...

 in the fossil record. Loss of biodiversity results in the loss of natural capital
Natural capital
Natural capital is the extension of the economic notion of capital to goods and services relating to the natural environment. Natural capital is thus the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future...

 that supplies ecosystem goods and services
Ecosystem services
Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes...

. The economic value of 17 ecosystem services for Earth's biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

 (calculated in 1997) has an estimated value of US$ 33 trillion (3.3x1013) per year.

Conservation



Conservation biology
Conservation biology
Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction...

 matured in the mid-20th century as ecologists, naturalists, and other scientists began to research and address issues pertaining to global biodiversity declines.

The conservation ethic advocates management of natural resource
Natural resource
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

s for the purpose of sustaining biodiversity in species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

, ecosystems, the evolutionary process
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, and human culture and society.

Conservation biology is reforming around strategic plans to protect biodiversity. Preserving global biodiversity is a priority in strategic conservation plans that are designed to engage public policy and concerns affecting local, regional and global scales of communities, ecosystems, and cultures. Action plans identify ways of sustaining human well-being, employing natural capital
Natural capital
Natural capital is the extension of the economic notion of capital to goods and services relating to the natural environment. Natural capital is thus the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future...

, market capital, and ecosystem services
Ecosystem services
Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes...

.

Protection and restoration techniques


Exotic species removal allows less competitive species to recover their ecological niches. Exotic species that have become a pest can be identified taxonomically (e.g. with Digital Automated Identification SYstem (DAISY), using the barcode of life
Consortium for the Barcode of Life
Consortium for the Barcode of Life runs the International Barcode of Life project, a collaborative effort which aims to use DNA barcoding to generate a unique genetic barcode for every species of life on earth...

. Removal is practical only given large groups of individuals due to the economic cost.

Once the preservation of the remaining native species in an area is assured. "missing" species can be identified and reintroduced using databases such as the Encyclopedia of Life and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility
Global Biodiversity Information Facility
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility is an international organisation that focuses on making scientific data on biodiversity available via the Internet using web services. The data are provided by many institutions from around the world; GBIF's information architecture makes these data...

.
  • Biodiversity banking
    Biodiversity banking
    Biodiversity banking, also known as biodiversity trading, biodiversity offsets or conservation banking is a process by which biodiversity loss can be reduced by creating a framework which allows biodiversity to be reliably measured, and market based solutions applied to improving biodiversity...

     places a monetary value on biodiversity. One example is the Australian Native Vegetation Management Framework
    Native Vegetation Management Framework
    The Native Vegetation Management: A Framework for action 2002 is a Victorian strategy which aims to protect, enhance and revegetate Victoria's native vegetation. The Framework’s main goal is to "achieve a reversal, across the entire landscape of the long-term decline in the extent and quality of...

    .
  • Gene bank
    Gene bank
    Gene banks help preserve genetic material, be it plant or animal. In plants, this could be by freezing cuts from the plant, or stocking the seeds. In animals, this is the freezing of sperm and eggs in zoological freezers until further need. With corals, fragments are taken which are stored in water...

    s are collections of specimens and genetic material. Some banks intend to reintroduce banked species to the ecosystem (e.g. via tree nurseries).
  • Reducing and better targeting of pesticides allows more species to survive in agricultural and urbanized areas.
  • Location-specific approaches are less useful for protecting migratory species. One approach is to create wildlife corridor
    Wildlife corridor
    A wildlife corridor or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities . This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity that often occur within...

    s that correspond to the animals' movements. National and other boundaries can complicate corridor creation.

Resource allocation


Focusing on limited areas of higher potential biodiversity promises greater immediate return on investment than spreading resources evenly or focusing on areas of little diversity but greater interest in biodiversity.

A second strategy focuses on areas that retain most of their original diversity, which typically require little or no restoration. These are typically non-urbanized, non-agricultural areas. Tropical areas often fit both criteria, given their natively high diversity and relative lack of development.

Legal status


Biodiversity is taken into account in some political and judicial decisions:
  • The relationship between law and ecosystems is very ancient and has consequences for biodiversity. It is related to private and public property rights. It can define protection for threatened ecosystems, but also some rights and duties (for example, fishing
    Fishing
    Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

     and hunting rights).
  • Law regarding species is more recent. It defines species that must be protected because they may be threatened by extinction. The U.S. Endangered Species Act
    Endangered Species Act
    The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973, it was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and...

     is an example of an attempt to address the "law and species" issue.
  • Laws regarding gene pools are only about a century old. Domestication and plant breeding methods are not new, but advances in genetic engineering
    Genetic engineering
    Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

     has led to tighter laws covering distribution of genetically modified organisms, gene patent
    Patent
    A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

    s and process patents. Governments struggle to decide whether to focus on for example, genes, genomes, or organisms and species.


Global agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity , known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is an international legally binding treaty...

), give "sovereign national rights over biological resources" (not property). The agreements commit countries to "conserve biodiversity", "develop resources for sustainability" and "share the benefits" resulting from their use. Biodiverse countries that allow bioprospecting or collection of natural products, expect a share of the benefits rather than allowing the individual or institution that discovers/exploits the resource to capture them privately. Bioprospecting can become a type of biopiracy
Biopiracy
- Biopiracy and bioprospecting :Bioprospecting is an umbrella term describing the discovery of new and useful biological samples and mechanisms, typically in less-developed countries, either with or without the help of indigenous knowledge, and with or without compensation...

 when such principles are not respected.

Sovereignty principles can rely upon what is better known as Access and Benefit Sharing Agreements
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture , popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, is a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation,...

 (ABAs). The Convention on Biodiversity implies informed consent
Informed consent
Informed consent is a phrase often used in law to indicate that the consent a person gives meets certain minimum standards. As a literal matter, in the absence of fraud, it is redundant. An informed consent can be said to have been given based upon a clear appreciation and understanding of the...

 between the source country and the collector, to establish which resource will be used and for what, and to settle on a fair agreement on benefit sharing
International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture , popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, is a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation,...

.

Uniform approval for use of biodiversity as a legal standard has not been achieved, however. Bosselman argues that biodiversity should not be used as a legal standard, claiming that the remaining areas of scientific uncertainty cause unacceptable administrative waste and increase litigation without promoting preservation goals.

Taxonomic and size relationships


Less than 1% of all species that have been described have been studied beyond simply noting their existence. The vast majority of Earth's species are microbial. Contemporary biodiversity physics is "firmly fixated on the visible [macroscopic] world". For example, microbial life is metabolically and environmentally more diverse than multicellular life (see e.g., extremophile
Extremophile
An extremophile is an organism that thrives in physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth. In contrast, organisms that live in more moderate environments may be termed mesophiles or neutrophiles...

). "On the tree of life, based on analyses of small-subunit ribosomal RNA
Ribosomal RNA
Ribosomal ribonucleic acid is the RNA component of the ribosome, the enzyme that is the site of protein synthesis in all living cells. Ribosomal RNA provides a mechanism for decoding mRNA into amino acids and interacts with tRNAs during translation by providing peptidyl transferase activity...

, visible life consists of barely noticeable twigs. The inverse relationship of size and population recurs higher on the evolutionary ladder—"to a first approximation, all multicellular species on Earth are insects". Insect extinction rates are high—supporting the Holocene extinction hypothesis.

See also



  • 2011-2020 UN Decade on Biodiversity
    United Nations Decade on Biodiversity
    The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011-2020 the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity . The UN Decade on Biodiversity serves to support and promote implementation of the objectives of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with the goal of significantly...

  • 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership
    2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership
    The Biodiversity Indicators Partnership brings together a host of international organizations working on indicator development, to provide the best available information on biodiversity trends to the global community. The Partnership was initially established to help monitor progress towards the...

  • 2010 International Year of Biodiversity
    International Year of Biodiversity
    The International Year of Biodiversity was a year-long celebration of biological diversity and its value for life on Earth, taking place around the world in 2010...

  • Adaptation
    Adaptation
    An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

  • Agroecological restoration
    Agroecological restoration
    Agroecological restoration is the practice of re-integrating natural systems into agriculture in order to maximize sustainability, ecosystem services, and biodiversity...

  • Agricultural biodiversity
    Agricultural biodiversity
    Agricultural biodiversity is a sub-set of general biodiversity. It includes all forms of life directly relevant to agriculture: rare seed varieties and animal breeds , but also many other organisms such as soil fauna, weeds, pests, predators, and all of the native plants and animals existing on...

  • Amazonian forest
  • Applied ecology
    Applied ecology
    Applied ecology is a subfield within ecology, which considers the application of the science of ecology to real-world questions. It is an integrated treatment of the ecological, social, and biotechnological aspects of natural resource conservation and management. It is also called ecological or...

  • Biocomplexity
    Biocomplexity
    thumb|175px|right|Biocomplexity spiralBiocomplexity is the study of complex structures and behaviors that arise from nonlinear interactions of active biological agents, which may range in scale from molecules to cells to organisms...

  • Biodiversity banking
    Biodiversity banking
    Biodiversity banking, also known as biodiversity trading, biodiversity offsets or conservation banking is a process by which biodiversity loss can be reduced by creating a framework which allows biodiversity to be reliably measured, and market based solutions applied to improving biodiversity...

  • Biodiversity hotspot
    Biodiversity hotspot
    A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.The concept of biodiversity hotspots was originated by Norman Myers in two articles in “The Environmentalist” , revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others in...

  • Biodiversity informatics
    Biodiversity Informatics
    Biodiversity Informatics is the application of informatics techniques to biodiversity information for improved management, presentation, discovery, exploration and analysis...

  • Biogeography
    Biogeography
    Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species , organisms, and ecosystems in space and through geological time. Organisms and biological communities vary in a highly regular fashion along geographic gradients of latitude, elevation, isolation and habitat area...

  • Bioinformatics
    Bioinformatics
    Bioinformatics is the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology and medicine. Bioinformatics deals with algorithms, databases and information systems, web technologies, artificial intelligence and soft computing, information and computation theory, software...

  • BIOPAT - Patrons for Biodiversity
  • Biorisk
    Biorisk
    Biorisk is a term in the public domain that has been used frequently for various purposes and references can be found already in the early 90s...

  • BioWeb
    BioWeb
    The BioWeb is the connotation for a network of web-enabled biological devices which extends an internet of things to the Internet of Living Things of natural sensory devices. The BioWeb devices give insights to real-time ecological data and feedback to changes in the environment...

  • Canadian Biodiversity Information Network
    Canadian Biodiversity Information Network
    The Canadian Biodiversity Information Network was developed in 1996 to deliver information on the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and to serve as Canada's national node to the global Clearing House Mechanism . CBIN facilitates biodiversity-relevant information-sharing as part of Canada's...

  • Centres of Plant Diversity
    Centres of Plant Diversity
    Centres of Plant Diversity was established in 1998 as a joint classification initiative between the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature intended to identify the areas in the world that are of the highest conservation value in terms of protecting the...

  • Conservation Biology
    Conservation biology
    Conservation biology is the scientific study of the nature and status of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction...

  • Conservation Commons
    Conservation Commons
    The Conservation Commons is the expression of a cooperative effort of non-governmental organizations, international and multi-lateral organizations, governments, academia, and the private sector, to improve open access to and unrestricted use of, data, information and knowledge related to the...

  • Conservation ethic
    Conservation ethic
    Conservation is an ethic of resource use, allocation, and protection. Its primary focus is upon maintaining the health of the natural world: its, fisheries, habitats, and biological diversity. Secondary focus is on materials conservation and energy conservation, which are seen as important to...

  • Convention on Biological Diversity
    Convention on Biological Diversity
    The Convention on Biological Diversity , known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is an international legally binding treaty...

  • Deforestation
    Deforestation
    Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

  • Diversity index
    Diversity index
    A diversity index is a statistic which is intended to measure the local members of a set consisting of various types of objects. Diversity indices can be used in many fields of study to assess the diversity of any population in which each member belongs to a unique group, type or species...

  • Ecological economics
    Ecological economics
    Image:Sustainable development.svg|right|The three pillars of sustainability. Clickable.|275px|thumbpoly 138 194 148 219 164 240 182 257 219 277 263 291 261 311 264 331 272 351 283 366 300 383 316 394 287 408 261 417 224 424 182 426 154 423 119 415 87 403 58 385 40 368 24 347 17 328 13 309 16 286 26...

  • Ecological restoration
  • Extinction
    Extinction
    In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...


  • Ecology
    Ecology
    Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

  • Ecosystem diversity
    Ecosystem diversity
    Ecosystem diversity refers to the diversity of a place at the level of ecosystems. The term differs from biodiversity, which refers to variation in species rather than ecosystems...

  • Ethnic diversity
  • Ewens sampling formula
  • Forest farming
    Forest farming
    Forest farming is an agroforestry practice characterized by the four "I's"- Intentional, Integrated, Intensive and Interactive management of an existing forested ecosystem wherein forest health is of paramount concern. It is neither forestry nor farming in the traditional sense.Forest farming, or...

  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility
    Global Biodiversity Information Facility
    The Global Biodiversity Information Facility is an international organisation that focuses on making scientific data on biodiversity available via the Internet using web services. The data are provided by many institutions from around the world; GBIF's information architecture makes these data...

  • Gene pool
    Gene pool
    In population genetics, a gene pool is the complete set of unique alleles in a species or population.- Description :A large gene pool indicates extensive genetic diversity, which is associated with robust populations that can survive bouts of intense selection...

  • Genetic erosion
    Genetic erosion
    Genetic erosion is a process whereby an already limited gene pool of an endangered species of plant or animal diminishes even more when individuals from the surviving population die off without getting a chance to meet and breed with others in their endangered low population.Genetic erosion occurs...

  • Genetic pollution
    Genetic pollution
    Genetic pollution is a controversial term for uncontrolled gene flow into wild populations. This gene flow is undesirable according to some environmentalists and conservationists, including groups such as Greenpeace, TRAFFIC, and GeneWatch UK.-Usage:...

  • Global 200
    Global 200
    The Global 200 is the list of ecoregions identified by the World Wildlife Fund as priorities for conservation. According to the WWF, an ecoregion is defined as a "relatively large unit of land or water containing a characteristic set of natural communities that share a large majority of their...

  • Global warming
    Global warming
    Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

  • Green Revolution
    Green Revolution
    Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

  • Habitat conservation
    Habitat conservation
    Habitat conservation is a land management practice that seeks to conserve, protect and restore, habitat areas for wild plants and animals, especially conservation reliant species, and prevent their extinction, fragmentation or reduction in range...

  • Habitat fragmentation
    Habitat fragmentation
    Habitat fragmentation as the name implies, describes the emergence of discontinuities in an organism's preferred environment , causing population fragmentation...

  • Holistic management
    Holistic management
    A term that describes systems thinking approach to managing resources that builds biodiversity, improves production, generates financial strength, enhances sustainability, and improves the quality of life for those who use it...

  • Holocene extinction event
    Holocene extinction event
    The Holocene extinction refers to the extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch . The large number of extinctions span numerous families of plants and animals including mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods; a sizeable fraction of these extinctions are occurring in the...

  • Insect biodiversity
    Insect biodiversity
    Insect biodiversity accounts for a large proportion of all biodiversity on the planet, with over 1,000,000 insect species described.-Agriculture:...

  • International Day for Biological Diversity
    International Day for Biological Diversity
    The International Day for Biological Diversity is a United Nations–sanctioned international day for the promotion of biodiversity issues...

  • Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis
    Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis
    The Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis states that local species diversity is maximized when ecological disturbance is neither too rare nor too frequent. At low levels of disturbance, more competitive organisms will push subordinate species to extinction and dominate the ecosystem...

  • International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
    International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is one of the world's leading research partners in finding solutions to hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. IITA's award-winning research-for-development addresses the development needs of tropical countries...

  • International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
    International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
    The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture , popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, is a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation,...

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature
  • List of biodiversity databases
  • List of environmental issues
  • List of environmental topics
  • Living Planet Index
    Living Planet Index
    The Living Planet Index is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity, based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world....

  • Megadiverse countries
    Megadiverse countries
    The megadiverse countries are a group of countries that harbor the majority of the Earth's species and are therefore considered extremely biodiverse...



  • Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, released in 2005, is an international synthesis by over 1000 of the world's leading biological scientists that analyses the state of the Earth’s ecosystems and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers...

  • Millennium Seed Bank Project
    Millennium Seed Bank Project
    The Millennium Seed Bank Project is an international conservation project coordinated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Launched in the year 2000 and housed in the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building situated in the grounds of Wakehurst Place, West Sussex, its purpose is to provide an "insurance...

  • Monoculture
    Monoculture
    Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing or growing one single crop over a wide area. It is also known as a way of farming practice of growing large stands of a single species. It is widely used in modern industrial agriculture and its implementation has allowed for large harvests from...

  • Mutation
    Mutation
    In molecular biology and genetics, mutations are changes in a genomic sequence: the DNA sequence of a cell's genome or the DNA or RNA sequence of a virus. They can be defined as sudden and spontaneous changes in the cell. Mutations are caused by radiation, viruses, transposons and mutagenic...

  • National Biodiversity Network
    National Biodiversity Network
    The National Biodiversity Network is a collaborative venture in the United Kingdom committed to making biodiversity information available through various media, including on the internet via the NBN Gateway, the data search web site of the NBN....

  • Natural environment
    Natural environment
    The natural environment encompasses all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth or some region thereof. It is an environment that encompasses the interaction of all living species....

  • Natural landscape
    Natural landscape
    A natural landscape is a landscape that is unaffected by human activity. A natural landscape is intact when all living and nonliving elements are free to move and change. The nonliving elements distinguish a natural landscape from a wilderness. A wilderness includes areas within which natural...

  • Nature
    Nature
    Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

  • NatureServe
    NatureServe
    NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to provide the scientific basis for effective conservation action. NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs are the leading source for information about rare and endangered species and threatened ecosystems in...

  • Nutritional biodiversity
    Nutritional biodiversity
    Nutritional biodiversity is a diet that focuses on the diversity of an organism's nutritional consumption or intake. Some believe this diversity to relate to the overall health and vitality of the organism — human or animal....

  • Reconciliation ecology
    Reconciliation ecology
    Reconciliation ecology is the branch of ecology which studies ways to encourage biodiversity in human-dominated ecosystems. Michael Rosenzweig first articulated the concept in his book Win-Win Ecology, based on the theory that there is not enough area for all of Earth’s biodiversity to be saved...

  • rECOrd (Local Biological Records Centre)
    RECOrd (Local Biological Records Centre)
    rECOrd is a Local Biological Records Centre serving Cheshire, Halton, Warrington and Wirral - 'The Cheshire region'. It provides a local facility for the storage, validation and usage of Cheshire-based biological data under the National Biodiversity Network project...

  • Satoyama
    Satoyama
    is a Japanese term applied to the border zone or area between mountain foothills and arable flat land. Literally, sato means arable and livable land or home land, and yama means mountain...

  • Seedbank
    Seedbank
    A seedbank stores seeds as a source for planting in case seed reserves elsewhere are destroyed. It is a type of gene bank. The seeds stored may be food crops, or those of rare species to protect biodiversity. The reasons for storing seeds may be varied...

  • Sustainability
    Sustainability
    Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of union, an interdependent relationship and mutual responsible position with all living and non...

  • Sustainable development
    Sustainable development
    Sustainable development is a pattern of resource use, that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come...

  • Sustainable forest management
    Sustainable forest management
    Sustainable forest management is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable forest management uses very broad social, economic and environmental goals...

  • Unified neutral theory of biodiversity
    Unified neutral theory of biodiversity
    The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography is a hypothesis and the title of a monograph by ecologist Stephen Hubbell...

  • United States environmental law
  • Wild Solutions
    Wild Solutions
    Wild Solutions: How Biodiversity is Money in the Bank is a 2001 book by biologists Andrew Beattie and Paul R. Ehrlich. The authors explain the value of "wild solutions" to technical and medical problems that may reside in the diversity of the Earth's estimated 5 to 10 million species...

  • Wildlife preserve
  • World Conservation Monitoring Centre
    World Conservation Monitoring Centre
    The United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre is an executive agency of the United Nations Environment Programme, based in Cambridge in the United Kingdom. UNEP-WCMC has been part of UNEP since 2000, and has responsibility for biodiversity assessment and support...

  • World Conservation Union
    World Conservation Union
    The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources is an international organization dedicated to finding "pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges." The organization publishes the IUCN Red List, compiling information from a network of...

  • World Forestry Congress
    World Forestry Congress
    The World Forestry Congress is the largest and most significant gathering of the world's forestry sector and it has been held every six years since 1926 under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations , organized by the government of the host country...

  • World Network of Biosphere Reserves
    World Network of Biosphere Reserves
    The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves covers internationally-designated protected areas, known as biosphere reserves, that are meant to demonstrate a balanced relationship between man and nature The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves covers internationally-designated protected...



Further reading




External links


Documents


Tools

  • GLOBIO, an ongoing programme to map the past, current and future impacts of human activities on biodiversity
  • World Map of Biodiversity an interactive map from the United Nations Environment Programme
    United Nations Environment Programme
    The United Nations Environment Programme coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its...

     World Conservation Monitoring Centre
    World Conservation Monitoring Centre
    The United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre is an executive agency of the United Nations Environment Programme, based in Cambridge in the United Kingdom. UNEP-WCMC has been part of UNEP since 2000, and has responsibility for biodiversity assessment and support...


Resources