Posted by Nina Zitani and Greg Thorn, 3 April 2011
Biodiversity is all of Earth's life, or the tremendous
variety of life on Earth. More specifically it has three essential
components: 1) all of the species on the planet, 2) all of
the genetic diversity within all of the individuals of each species,
and 3) the habitats and ecosystems in which all of Earth's species live.
1) From the thousands of species in our oceans, to soil microbes, land plants, fungi, animals, and more, biodiversity is all of the species on the planet. You will have undoubtedly noticed a picture of a child in the slide show. As a biological species that evolved on Earth, humans (Homo sapiens) are a part of biodiversity. There are approximately 1.7 million described or known species. Estimates of the total number of species on Earth (the described species plus the undescribed, or unknown species) range from several million to tens of millions of species. Even if the conservative estimates of the actual number of species on Earth are true, currently we have a name for only about 1/2 of all of the species on Earth. If the higher estimates are true, then we have a name for even less, perhaps only 1/4, 1/6, 1/8, or (?) of all species on Earth.
Japanese cranes (Hokkaido, Japan, photo RG Thorn)
2) Biodiversity also includes all of the variation found within species. Many individuals of a single species represent more biodiversity than just a few individuals of that same species. The conservation implications of this fact are that we need to protect entire populations - not just several individuals of each species.
3) The whole is much, much greater than the sum of the individual parts. Biodiversity as a whole is manifest in all of the natural habitats and ecosystems on Earth. Species do not live in isolation. Groups of species live in communities, and communities of species interact with abiotic (non-living) aspects of our environment (such as climate and soils) to form habitats and ecosystems.
More on Biodiversity...
The term "biodiversity" was introduced to the English language by E. O. Wilson in 1988 when he edited the book Biodiversity,
the proceedings of the first US conference on the subject. To learn
more about biodiversity start with "an essay by E. O. Wilson": www.eowilson.org
arose on Earth through the process of evolution. To learn more about
biodiversity and the scientific theory of evolution we recommend
starting with the excellent website "Understanding Evolution": http://evolution.berkeley.edu
is the science of biodiversity. Systematists worldwide are working on
understanding biodiversity by elucidating the evolutionary relationships
between species, and groups of species. To learn more, see the
extraordinary "Tree of Life Web Project": http://tolweb.org