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Last updated on April 18, 2014 at 15:05 EDT

What is Biodiversity?

February 20, 2013

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “What Is” video, we are going to examine the earth’s wide variety of organisms through a concept called Biodiversity.

Biodiversity, short for “biological diversity,” simply means that all life is different: the earth is home to organisms that have different genes, live in different habitats, and function in different ecosystems.

Scientists study three main types of biodiversity: species, genetic, and ecosystem.

Species biodiversity is what most people think of when they hear the term “biodiversity.” A species is a group of genetically distinct organisms that can have offspring. To date, over 1.7 million species have been named, and new kinds of plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms are being discovered all of the time. Scientists have predicted that there are between 3 and 30 million species on earth!

Genetic biodiversity means that the genes within a species vary. For example, all dogs belong to the same species, but there are many different breeds that have genes for different traits such as size, color, and coat type.

Ecosystem biodiversity means that ecosystems, communities of living things, are different from one another. For example, some ecosystems are warm and wet, like tropical rain forests, and others are cold and dry, like arctic tundras.

Biodiversity is not consistent from place to place. Because warm areas are able to support so many different kinds of life, places near the equator tend to have a high amount of biodiversity, while areas near the poles have a much lower biodiversity.

Biodiversity is important because all species in an ecosystem have a role to play. When one or more of those species is eliminated, an ecosystem’s balance will suffer, and other species are forced to migrate or become extinct. A diverse ecosystem is strong and able to withstand natural disasters, disease, and drought. With an estimated one third of all species in danger of extinction, habitat conservation is more important than ever.