BIODIVERSITY, a portmanteau of "biological diversity," generally
refers to the variety and variability of life on
Earth . According to
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme , biodiversity typically
measures variation at the genetic , the species , and the ecosystem
level. Terrestrial biodiversity tends to be greater near the equator
, which seems to be the result of the warm climate and high primary
Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on
Earth , and
is richest in the tropics. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less
than 10 per cent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 percent of
the world's species. Marine biodiversity tends to be highest along
coasts in the Western Pacific , where sea surface temperature is
highest and in the mid-latitudinal band in all oceans. There are
latitudinal gradients in species diversity .
tends to cluster in hotspots, and has been increasing through time,
but will be likely to slow in the future.
Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions .
More than 99.9 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth,
amounting to over five billion species, are estimated to be extinct .
Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 10
million to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million have been
documented and over 86 percent have not yet been described. More
recently, in May 2016, scientists reported that 1 trillion species are
estimated to be on
Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one
percent described. The total amount of related
DNA base pairs on
Earth is estimated at 5.0 x 1037 and weighs 50 billion tonnes . In
comparison, the total mass of the biosphere has been estimated to be
as much as 4 TtC (trillion tons of carbon ). In July 2016, scientists
reported identifying a set of 355 genes from the Last Universal Common
Ancestor (LUCA) of all organisms living on Earth.
The age of the
Earth is about 4.54 billion years. The earliest
undisputed evidence of life on
Earth dates at least from 3.5 billion
years ago, during the
Eoarchean Era after a geological crust
started to solidify following the earlier molten
Hadean Eon. There are
microbial mat fossils found in 3.48 billion-year-old sandstone
Western Australia . Other early physical evidence of
a biogenic substance is graphite in 3.7 billion-year-old
meta-sedimentary rocks discovered in
Western Greenland . More
recently, in 2015, "remains of biotic life " were found in 4.1
billion-year-old rocks in Western Australia. According to one of the
researchers, "If life arose relatively quickly on
Earth .. then it
could be common in the universe ."
Since life began on
Earth , five major mass extinctions and several
minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity. The
Phanerozoic eon (the last 540 million years) marked a rapid growth in
biodiversity via the
Cambrian explosion —a period during which the
majority of multicellular phyla first appeared. The next 400 million
years included repeated, massive biodiversity losses classified as
mass extinction events. In the
Carboniferous , rainforest collapse 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–Paleogene extinction event
Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event , occurred 65 million years
ago and has often attracted more attention than others because it
resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs .
The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing
biodiversity reduction and an accompanying loss of genetic diversity .
Holocene extinction , the reduction is caused primarily by
human impacts , particularly habitat destruction. Conversely,
biodiversity positively impacts human health in a number of ways,
although a few negative effects are studied.
United Nations designated 2011–2020 as the United Nations
* 1 Etymology
* 2 Definitions
* 3 Distribution
* 3.1 Latitudinal gradients
* 3.2 Hotspots
Evolution and history
* 4.1 Evolutionary diversification
* 5.1 The balance of evidence
* 5.1.1 Services enhanced
* 126.96.36.199 Provisioning services
* 188.8.131.52 Regulating services
* 5.1.2 Services with mixed evidence
* 184.108.40.206 Provisioning services
* 220.127.116.11 Regulating services
* 5.1.3 Services hindered
* 18.104.22.168 Provisioning services
* 22.214.171.124 Regulating services
* 126.96.36.199 Provisioning services
* 188.8.131.52 Regulating services
* 5.4 Business and industry
* 5.5 Leisure, cultural and aesthetic value
* 5.6 Ecological services
* 6 Number of species
* 7 Measuring biodiversity
Species loss rates
* 9 Threats
* 9.2 Introduced and invasive species
* 9.4 Hybridization, genetic pollution/erosion and food security
* 10 The
* 11 Conservation
* 11.1 Protection and restoration techniques
* 12 Protected areas
* 12.1 National parks
* 12.3.1 Steps to conserve the forest cover
* 12.4 Zoological parks
* 12.5 Botanical gardens
* 14 Legal status
* 14.1 International
* 14.2 National level laws
* 15 Analytical limits
Taxonomic and size relationships
* 16 Diversity study (botany)
* 17 See also
* 18 References
* 19 Further reading
* 20 External links
* 20.1 Documents
* 20.2 Tools
* 20.3 Resources
The term biological diversity was used first by wildlife scientist
and conservationist Raymond F. Dasmann in the year 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 , 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 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 the term
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 (NRC). It first
appeared in a publication in 1988 when sociobiologist E. O. Wilson
used it as the title of the proceedings of that forum.
Since this period the term has achieved widespread use among
biologists, environmentalists, political leaders and concerned
A similar term in the United States is "natural heritage." It
pre-dates the others and is more accepted by the wider audience
interested in conservation. Broader than biodiversity, it includes
geology and landforms.
A sampling of fungi collected during summer 2008 in Northern
Saskatchewan mixed woods, near LaRonge is an example regarding the
species diversity of fungi. In this photo, there are also leaf lichens
and mosses .
"Biodiversity" is most commonly used to replace the more clearly
defined and long established terms, species diversity and species
richness . 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 types of biological variety
* taxonomic diversity (usually measured at the species diversity
* ecological diversity often viewed from the perspective of
* morphological diversity which stems from genetic diversity and
* functional diversity which is a measure of the number of
functionally disparate species within a population (e.g. different
feeding mechanism, different motility, predator vs prey, etc.)
This multilevel construct is consistent with Datman 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
Earth Summit defined
"biological diversity" as "the variability among living organisms from
all sources, including, 'inter alia', terrestrial , marine and other
aquatic ecosystems 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 .
One textbook's definition is "variation of life at all levels of
Biodiversity can be defined genetically as the diversity of alleles,
genes and organisms . They study processes such as mutation and gene
transfer that drive evolution.
Measuring diversity at one level in a group of organisms may not
precisely correspond to diversity at other levels. However, tetrapod
(terrestrial vertebrates ) taxonomic and ecological diversity shows a
very close correlation.
A conifer forest in the
Swiss Alps (National Park )
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 ) depends on temperature,
precipitation, altitude, soils , geography and the presence of other
species. The study of the spatial distribution of organisms , species
and ecosystems , is the science of biogeography .
Diversity consistently measures higher in the tropics and in other
localized regions such as the
Cape Floristic Region and lower in polar
Rain forests that have had wet climates for a long
time, such as Yasuní National Park in
Ecuador , have particularly
Terrestrial biodiversity is thought to be up to 25 times greater than
ocean biodiversity. A recently discovered method put the total number
of species on
Earth at 8.7 million, of which 2.1 million were
estimated to live in the ocean. However, this estimate seems to
under-represent the diversity of microorganisms.
Latitudinal gradients in species diversity
Generally, there is an increase in biodiversity from the poles to the
tropics . 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 appear to follow this
A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a high level of endemic
species that has experienced great habitat loss . The term hotspot
was introduced in 1988 by
Norman Myers . While hotspots are spread
all over the world, the majority are forest areas and most are located
in the tropics .
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 and India are also particularly notable.
characterized by high biodiversity, with the highest rate of species
by area unit worldwide and it has the largest number of endemics
(species that are not found naturally anywhere else) of any country.
About 10% of the species of the
Earth can be found in Colombia,
including over 1,900 species of bird, more than in
Europe and North
Colombia has 10% of the world's mammals species, 14%
of the amphibian species and 18% of the bird species of the world.
Madagascar dry deciduous forests and lowland rainforests possess a
high ratio of endemism . Since the island separated from mainland
Africa 66 million years ago, many species and ecosystems have evolved
Indonesia 's 17,000 islands cover 735,355 square miles
(1,904,560 km2) and contain 10% of the world's flowering plants, 12%
of mammals and 17% of reptiles , amphibians and birds —along with
nearly 240 million people. Many regions of high biodiversity and/or
endemism arise from specialized habitats which require unusual
adaptations, for example, alpine environments in high mountains , or
Northern European peat bogs .
Accurately measuring differences in biodiversity can be difficult.
Selection bias amongst researchers may contribute to biased empirical
research for modern estimates of biodiversity. In 1768, Rev. Gilbert
White succinctly observed of his Selborne, Hampshire "all nature is so
full, that that district produces the most variety which is the most
EVOLUTION AND HISTORY
Evolution Apparent marine fossil diversity during
Biodiversity is the result of 3.5 billion years of evolution . 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
Earth . Until approximately 600 million years ago, all life
consisted of archaea , bacteria , protozoans and similar single-celled
The history of biodiversity during the
Phanerozoic (the last 540
million years), starts with rapid growth during the Cambrian explosion
—a period during which nearly every phylum of multicellular
organisms 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
Permian-Triassic extinction event
Permian-Triassic extinction event , 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 . 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 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
9 million, the vast majority arthropods . Diversity appears to
increase continually in the absence of natural selection.
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 pattern of growth, life on land
(insects, plants and tetrapods)shows an exponential 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."
It also appears that the diversity continue to increase over time,
especially after mass extinctions.
On the other hand, changes through the
Phanerozoic correlate much
better with the hyperbolic model (widely used in population biology ,
demography and macrosociology , as well as fossil biodiversity) than
with exponential and logistic models. The latter models imply that
changes in diversity are guided by a first-order positive feedback
(more ancestors, more descendants) and/or a negative feedback arising
from resource limitation. Hyperbolic model implies a second-order
positive feedback. The hyperbolic pattern of the world population
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
Most biologists agree however that the period since human emergence
is part of a new mass extinction, named the
Holocene extinction event
, 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 insects ) and many, though
discovered, are not yet classified (estimates are that nearly 90% of
all arthropods are not yet classified). Most of the terrestrial
diversity is found in tropical forests and in general, land has more
species than the ocean; some 8.7 million species may exists on Earth,
of which some 2.1 million live in the ocean.
Summer field in
Belgium (Hamois). The blue flowers are Centaurea
cyanus and the red are
Papaver rhoeas .
THE BALANCE OF EVIDENCE
Ecosystem services are the suite of benefits that ecosystems provide
to humanity." The natural species, or biota, are the caretakers of
all ecosystems. It is as if the natural world is an enormous bank
account of capital assets capable of paying life sustaining dividends
indefinitely, but only if the capital is maintained.
These services come in three flavors:
* Provisioning services which involve the production of renewable
resources (e.g.: food, wood, fresh water)
* Regulating services which are those that lessen environmental
change (e.g.: climate regulation, pest/disease control)
* Cultural services represent human value and enjoyment (e.g.:
landscape aesthetics, cultural heritage, outdoor recreation and
There have been many claims about biodiversity's effect on these
ecosystem services, especially provisioning and regulating services.
After an exhaustive survey through peer-reviewed literature to
evaluate 36 different claims about biodiversity's effect on ecosystem
services, 14 of those claims have been validated, 6 demonstrate mixed
support or are unsupported, 3 are incorrect and 13 lack enough
evidence to draw definitive conclusions.
* Greater species diversity of plants increases fodder yield
(synthesis of 271 experimental studies).
* Greater genetic diversity of plants (i.e.: diversity within a
single species) increases overall crop yield (synthesis of 575
experimental studies). Although another review of 100 experimental
studies reports mixed evidence.
* Greater species diversity of trees increases overall wood
production (Synthesis of 53 experimental studies). However, there is
not enough data to draw a conclusion about the effect of tree trait
diversity on wood production.
* Greater species diversity of fish increases the stability of
fisheries yield (Synthesis of 8 observational studies)
* Greater species diversity of natural pest enemies decreases
herbivorous pest populations (Data from two separate reviews;
Synthesis of 266 experimental and observational studies; Synthesis of
18 observational studies. Although another review of 38 experimental
studies found mixed support for this claim, suggesting that in cases
where mutual intraguild predation occurs, a single predatory species
is often more effective
* Greater species diversity of plants decreases disease prevalence
on plants (Synthesis of 107 experimental studies)
* Greater species diversity of plants increases resistance to plant
invasion (Data from two separate reviews; Synthesis of 105
experimental studies; Synthesis of 15 experimental studies )
* Greater species diversity of plants increases carbon
sequestration, but note that this finding only relates to actual
uptake of carbon dioxide and not long term storage, see below;
Synthesis of 479 experimental studies)
* Greater species diversity of plants increases soil nutrient
remineralization (Synthesis of 103 experimental studies)
* Greater species diversity of plants increases soil organic matter
(Synthesis of 85 experimental studies)
Services With Mixed Evidence
* None to date
* Greater species diversity of plants may or may not decrease
herbivorous pest populations. Data from two separate reviews suggest
that greater diversity decreases pest populations (Synthesis of 40
observational studies; Synthesis of 100 experimental studies). One
review found mixed evidence (Synthesis of 287 experimental studies ),
while another found contrary evidence (Synthesis of 100 experimental
* Greater species diversity of animals may or may not decrease
disease prevalence on those animals (Synthesis of 45 experimental and
observational studies), although a 2013 study offers more support
showing that biodiversity may in fact enhance disease resistance
within animal communities, at least in amphibian frog ponds. Many
more studies must be published in support of diversity to sway the
balance of evidence will be such that we can draw a general rule on
* Greater species and trait diversity of plants may or may not
increase long term carbon storage (Synthesis of 33 observational
* Greater pollinator diversity may or may not increase pollination
(Synthesis of 7 observational studies), but a publication from March
2013 suggests that increased native pollinator diversity enhances
pollen deposition (although not necessarily fruit set as the authors
would have you believe, for details explore their lengthy
* Greater species diversity of plants reduces primary production
(Synthesis of 7 experimental studies)
* Greater genetic and species diversity of a number of organisms
reduces freshwater purification (Synthesis of 8 experimental studies,
although an attempt by the authors to investigate the effect of
detritivore diversity on freshwater purification was unsuccessful due
to a lack of available evidence (only 1 observational study was found
* Effect of species diversity of plants on biofuel yield (In a
survey of the literature, the investigators only found 3 studies)
* Effect of species diversity of fish on fishery yield (In a survey
of the literature, the investigators only found 4 experimental studies
and 1 observational study)
* Effect of species diversity on the stability of biofuel yield (In
a survey of the literature, the investigators did not find any
* Effect of species diversity of plants on the stability of fodder
yield (In a survey of the literature, the investigators only found 2
* Effect of species diversity of plants on the stability of crop
yield (In a survey of the literature, the investigators only found 1
* Effect of genetic diversity of plants on the stability of crop
yield (In a survey of the literature, the investigators only found 2
* Effect of diversity on the stability of wood production (In a
survey of the literature, the investigators could not find any
* Effect of species diversity of multiple taxa on erosion control
(In a survey of the literature, the investigators could not find any
studies – they did however find studies on the effect of species
diversity and root biomass)
* Effect of diversity on flood regulation (In a survey of the
literature, the investigators could not find any studies)
* Effect of species and trait diversity of plants on soil moisture
(In a survey of the literature, the investigators only found 2
Other sources have reported somewhat conflicting results and in 1997
Robert Costanza and colleagues reported the estimated global value of
ecosystem services (not captured in traditional markets) at an average
of $33 trillion annually.
Since the stone age , species loss has accelerated above the average
basal rate, driven by human activity. Estimates of species losses are
at a rate 100-10,000 times as fast as is typical in the fossil record.
Biodiversity also affords many non-material benefits including
spiritual and aesthetic values, knowledge systems and education.
Amazon Rainforest in South
Agricultural diversity can be divided into two categories:
intraspecific diversity , which includes the genetic variety within a
single species, like the potato (
Solanum tuberosum ) that is composed
of many different forms and types (e.g.: in the U.S. we might compare
russet potatoes with new potatoes or purple potatoes, all different,
but all part of the same species, S. tuberosum).
The other category of agricultural diversity is called interspecific
diversity and refers to the number and types of different species.
Thinking about this diversity we might note that many small vegetable
farmers grow many different crops like potatoes and also carrots,
peppers, lettuce etc.
Agricultural diversity can also be divided by whether it is
‘planned’ diversity or ‘associated’ diversity. This is a
functional classification that we impose and not an intrinsic feature
of life or diversity. Planned diversity includes the crops which a
farmer has encouraged, planted or raised (e.g.: crops, covers,
symbionts and livestock, among others), which can be contrasted with
the associated diversity that arrives among the crops, uninvited
(e.g.: herbivores, weed species and pathogens, among others).
The control of associated biodiversity is one of the great
agricultural challenges that farmers face. On monoculture farms, the
approach is generally to eradicate associated diversity using a suite
of biologically destructive pesticides , mechanized tools and
transgenic engineering techniques , then to rotate crops . Although
some polyculture farmers use the same techniques, they also employ
integrated pest management strategies as well as strategies that are
more labor-intensive, but generally less dependent on capital,
biotechnology and energy.
Interspecific crop diversity is, in part, responsible for offering
variety in what we eat. Intraspecific diversity, the variety of
alleles within a single species, also offers us choice in our diets.
If a crop fails in a monoculture, we rely on agricultural diversity to
replant the land with something new. If a wheat crop is destroyed by a
pest we may plant a hardier variety of wheat the next year, relying on
intraspecific diversity. We may forgo wheat production in that area
and plant a different species altogether, relying on interspecific
diversity. Even an agricultural society which primarily grows
monocultures, relies on biodiversity at some point.
* The Irish potato blight of 1846 was a major factor in the deaths
of one million people and the emigration of about two million. It was
the result of planting only two potato varieties, both vulnerable to
Phytophthora infestans , which arrived in 1845
* When rice grassy stunt virus struck rice fields from
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
Coffee rust attacked coffee plantations in
Sri Lanka ,
Central America in 1970. A resistant variety was found in Ethiopia.
The diseases are themselves a form of biodiversity.
Monoculture 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.
The diverse forest canopy on
Barro Colorado Island , Panama,
yielded this display of different fruit
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,
an ecologist at Bard College and Drew Harvell, associate director for
Environment of the
Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) at
Cornell University .
The growing demand and lack of drinkable water on the planet presents
an additional challenge to the future of human health. Partly, the
problem lies in the success of water suppliers to increase supplies
and failure of groups promoting preservation of water resources.
While the distribution of clean water increases, in some parts of the
world it remains unequal. According to 2008 World
Sheet, only 62% of least developed countries are able to access clean
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.
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
Biodiversity has been critical to advances throughout the
field of bionics . 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, indeed claims about the value of undiscovered
pharmaceuticals may not provide enough incentive for companies in free
markets to search for them because of the high cost of development;
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
Agriculture production, pictured is a tractor and a chaser bin
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 ,
birdwatching or natural history study.
Biodiversity inspires musicians
, 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 , fishkeeping 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 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 effects of biodiversity Eagle Creek ,
Biodiversity supports many ecosystem services :
"There is now unequivocal evidence that biodiversity loss reduces the
efficiency by which ecological communities capture biologically
essential resources, produce biomass, decompose and recycle
biologically essential nutrients... There is mounting evidence that
biodiversity increases the stability of ecosystem functions through
time... Diverse communities are more productive because they contain
key species that have a large influence on productivity and
differences in functional traits among organisms increase total
resource capture... The impacts of diversity loss on ecological
processes might be sufficiently large to rival the impacts of many
other global drivers of environmental change... Maintaining multiple
ecosystem processes at multiple places and times requires higher
levels of biodiversity than does a single process at a single place
It plays a part in regulating the chemistry of our atmosphere and
water supply .
Biodiversity is directly involved in water purification
, recycling nutrients and providing fertile soils. Experiments with
controlled environments have shown that humans cannot easily build
ecosystems to support human needs; for example insect pollination
cannot be mimicked, and that activity alone represented between
$2.1-14.6 billions in 2003.
NUMBER OF SPECIES
Global biodiversity Discovered and predicted
total number of species on land and in the oceans
According to Mora and colleagues, the total number of terrestrial
species is estimated to be around 8.7 million while the number of
oceanic species is much lower, estimated at 2.2 million. The authors
note that these estimates are strongest for eukaryotic organisms and
likely represent the lower bound of prokaryote diversity. Other
* 220,000 vascular plants , estimated using the species-area
* 0.7-1 million marine species
* 10–30 million insects ; (of some 0.9 million we know today)
* 5–10 million bacteria ;
* 1.5-3 million fungi , estimates based on data from the tropics,
long-term non-tropical sites and molecular studies that have revealed
cryptic speciation . Some 0.075 million species of fungi had been
documented by 2001)
* 1 million mites
* The number of microbial species is not reliably known, but the
Global Ocean Sampling Expedition dramatically increased the estimates
of genetic diversity by identifying an enormous number of new genes
from near-surface plankton 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 and
other taxonomic categories.
Since the rate of extinction has increased, many extant species may
become extinct before they are described. Not surprisingly, in the
animalia the most studied groups are birds and mammals , whereas
fishes and arthropods are the least studied animals groups.
Main articles: diversity index and measurement of biodiversity
SPECIES LOSS RATES
Further information: loss of biodiversity
No longer do we have to justify the existence of humid tropical
forests on the feeble grounds that they might carry plants with drugs
that cure human disease. Gaia theory forces us to see that they offer
much more than this. Through their capacity to evapotranspirate vast
volumes of water vapor, they serve to keep the planet cool by wearing
a sunshade of white reflecting cloud. Their replacement by cropland
could precipitate a disaster that is global in scale.
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 . Estimates reach as high as 140,000
species per year (based on Species-area theory ). This figure
indicates unsustainable 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. As of 2012, some studies suggest that
25% of all mammal species could be extinct in 20 years.
In absolute terms, the planet has lost 52% of its biodiversity since
1970 according to a 2014 study by the
World Wildlife Fund . The Living
Planet Report 2014 claims that "the number of mammals, birds,
reptiles, amphibians and fish across the globe is, on average, about
half the size it was 40 years ago". Of that number, 39% accounts for
the terrestrial wildlife gone, 39% for the marine wildlife gone and
76% for the freshwater wildlife gone.
Biodiversity took the biggest
Latin America , plummeting 83 percent. High-income countries
showed a 10% increase in biodiversity, which was canceled out by a
loss in low-income countries. This is despite the fact that
high-income countries use five times the ecological resources of
low-income countries, which was explained as a result of process
whereby wealthy nations are outsourcing resource depletion to poorer
nations, which are suffering the greatest ecosystem losses.
In 2006 many species were formally classified as rare or endangered
or threatened ; 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
criteria are now listed as threatened with extinction —a total of
Jared Diamond describes an "Evil Quartet" of habitat destruction,
overkill, introduced species and secondary extinctions. Edward O.
Wilson prefers the acronym HIPPO, standing for
Invasive species, Pollution, human over-
Over-harvesting. The most authoritative classification in use today
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 and
Life International .
Deforestation and increased road-building in the Amazon
Rainforest are a significant concern because of increased human
encroachment upon wild areas, increased resource extraction and
further threats to biodiversity. Main article:
Habitat destruction has played a key role in extinctions, especially
related to tropical forest destruction. Factors contributing to
habitat loss are: overconsumption , overpopulation , land use change ,
deforestation , pollution (air pollution , water pollution , soil
contamination ) and global warming 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
following deforestation ) 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
A 2007 study conducted by the
National Science Foundation found that
biodiversity and genetic diversity 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 , according to the
Ecosystem Assessment 2005, which was confirmed by the
Animal Diversity Assessment", organised by the
biodiversity platform and the French Institut de recherche pour le
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
Introduced species and
Invasive species Male
Lophura nycthemera (silver pheasant ), a native of
East Asia that has
been introduced into parts of
Europe for ornamental reasons
Barriers such as large rivers , seas , oceans , mountains and deserts
encourage diversity by enabling independent evolution on either side
of the barrier, via the process of allopatric speciation . The term
invasive species is applied to species that breach the natural
barriers that would normally keep them constrained. Without barriers,
such species occupy new territory, often supplanting native species by
occupying their niches, or by using resources that would normally
sustain native species.
The number of species invasions has been on the rise at least since
the beginning of the 1900s.
Species are increasingly being moved by
humans (on purpose and accidentally). In some cases the invaders are
causing drastic changes and damage to their new habitats (e.g.: zebra
mussels and the emerald ash borer in the Great Lakes region and the
lion fish along the North American Atlantic coast). Some evidence
suggests that invasive species are competitive in their new habitats
because they are subject to less pathogen disturbance. Others report
confounding evidence that occasionally suggest that species-rich
communities harbor many native and exotic species simultaneously
while some say that diverse ecosystems are more resilient and resist
invasive plants and animals. An important question is, "do invasive
species cause extinctions?" Many studies cite effects of invasive
species on natives, but not extinctions.
Invasive species seem to
increase local (i.e.: alpha diversity ) diversity, which decreases
turnover of diversity (i.e.: beta diversity ). Overall gamma diversity
may be lowered because species are going extinct because of other
causes, but even some of the most insidious invaders (e.g.: Dutch elm
disease, emerald ash borer, chestnut blight in North America) have not
caused their host species to become extinct. Extirpation , population
decline and homogenization of regional biodiversity are much more
Human activities have frequently been the cause of invasive
species circumventing their barriers, by introducing them for food
and other purposes.
Human activities therefore allow species to
migrate to new areas (and thus become invasive) occurred on time
scales much shorter than 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 , invasion
of US waterways was unintentional. In other cases, such as mongooses
Hawaii , the introduction is deliberate but ineffective (nocturnal
rats were not vulnerable to the diurnal mongoose). In other cases,
such as oil palms in
Indonesia and Malaysia, the introduction produces
substantial economic benefits, but the benefits are accompanied by
costly unintended consequences .
Finally, an introduced species may unintentionally injure a species
that depends on the species it replaces. In
Belgium , Prunus spinosa
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. For example, the
introduction of kudzu from Southeast Asia to Canada and the United
States has threatened biodiversity in certain areas.
Endemic species can be threatened with extinction through the
process of genetic pollution , i.e. uncontrolled hybridization ,
introgression and genetic swamping.
Genetic pollution leads to
homogenization or replacement of local genomes as a result of either a
numerical and/or fitness advantage of an introduced species.
Hybridization and introgression are side-effects of introduction and
invasion. These phenomena can be especially detrimental to rare
species that come into contact with more abundant ones. The abundant
species can interbreed with the rare species, swamping its gene pool .
This problem is not always apparent from morphological (outward
appearance) observations alone. Some degree of gene flow is normal
adaptation and not all gene and genotype constellations can be
preserved. However, hybridization with or without introgression may,
nevertheless, threaten a rare species' existence.
Overexploitation occurs when a resource is consumed at an
unsustainable rate. This occurs on land in the form of overhunting ,
excessive logging , poor soil conservation in agriculture and the
illegal wildlife trade .
About 25% of world fisheries are now overfished to the point where
their current biomass is less than the level that maximizes their
The overkill hypothesis , a pattern of large animal extinctions
connected with human migration patterns, can be used explain why
megafaunal extinctions can occur within a relatively short time
HYBRIDIZATION, GENETIC POLLUTION/EROSION AND FOOD SECURITY
The Yecoro wheat (right) cultivar is sensitive to salinity,
plants resulting from a hybrid cross with cultivar W4910 (left) show
greater tolerance to high salinity See also:
Food security and
In agriculture and animal husbandry , the Green Revolution
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 and genetic pollution.
This has resulted in loss of genetic diversity and biodiversity as a
Genetically modified organisms contain genetic material that is
altered through genetic engineering .
Genetically modified crops have
become a common source for genetic pollution in not only wild
varieties, but also in domesticated varieties derived from classical
Genetic erosion and genetic pollution have the potential to destroy
unique genotypes , threatening future access to food security . A
decrease in genetic diversity weakens the ability of crops and
livestock to be hybridized to resist disease and survive changes in
Effect of climate change on plant biodiversity
Polar bears on the sea ice of the
Arctic Ocean , near the
North Pole .
Climate change has started affecting bear populations.
Global warming is also considered to be a major potential threat to
global biodiversity in the future. For example, coral reefs - which
are biodiversity hotspots - will be lost within the century if global
warming continues at the current trend.
Climate change has seen many claims about potential to affect
biodiversity but evidence supporting the statement is tenuous.
Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide certainly affects plant
morphology and is acidifying oceans, and temperature affects species
ranges, phenology, and weather, but the major impacts that have
been predicted are still just potential impacts. We have not
documented major extinctions yet, even as climate change drastically
alters the biology of many species.
In 2004, an international collaborative study on four continents
estimated that 10 percent of species would become extinct by 2050
because of global warming. "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
A recent study predicts that up to 35% of the world terrestrial
carnivores and ungulates will be at higher risk of extinction by 2050
because of the joint effects of predicted climate and land-use change
under business-as-usual human development scenarios.
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. Some recent forecasts place the possible
number of people on the planet at 11 billion or 15 billion by 2100.
Sir David King , 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." At
least until the middle of the 21st century, worldwide losses of
pristine biodiverse land will probably depend much on the worldwide
human birth rate . Biologists such as
Paul R. Ehrlich and Stuart Pimm
have noted that human population growth and overconsumption are the
main drivers of species extinction.
According to a 2014 study by the
World Wildlife Fund , the global
human population already exceeds planet's biocapacity - it would take
the equivalent of 1.5 Earths of biocapacity to meet our current
demands. The report further points that if everyone on the planet had
the Footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8
Earths and if we lived the lifestyle of a typical resident of the USA,
we would need 3.9 Earths.
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 in
the fossil record .
Loss of biodiversity results in the loss of
natural capital that supplies ecosystem goods and services . From the
perspective of the method known as Natural Economy the economic value
of 17 ecosystem services for Earth's biosphere (calculated in 1997)
has an estimated value of US$33 trillion (3.3x1013) per year.
Conservation biology A schematic image
illustrating the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem
services, human well-being and poverty. The illustration shows where
conservation action, strategies and plans can influence the drivers of
the current biodiversity crisis at local, regional, to global scales.
The retreat of
Aletsch Glacier in the
Swiss Alps (situation in
1979, 1991 and 2002), due to global warming .
Conservation biology 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 resources for
the purpose of sustaining biodiversity in species , ecosystems , the
evolutionary process 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 , market
capital and ecosystem services .
In the EU Directive 1999/22/EC zoos are described as having a role in
the preservation of the biodiversity of wildlife animals by conducting
research or participation in breeding programs .
PROTECTION AND RESTORATION TECHNIQUES
Removal of exotic species will allow the species that they have
negatively impacted to recover their ecological niches. Exotic species
that have become pests can be identified taxonomically (e.g., with
Digital Automated Identification SYstem (DAISY), using the barcode of
life ). Removal is practical only given large groups of individuals
due to the economic cost.
As sustainable populations of the remaining native species in an area
become assured, "missing" species that are candidates for
reintroduction can be identified using databases such as the
Life and the Global
Biodiversity Information Facility
Biodiversity banking places a monetary value on biodiversity. One
example is the Australian
Native Vegetation Management Framework .
Gene banks are collections of specimens and genetic material. Some
banks intend to reintroduce banked species to the ecosystem (e.g., via
* Reduction of and better targeting of pesticides allows more
species to survive in agricultural and urbanized areas.
* Location-specific approaches may be less useful for protecting
migratory species. One approach is to create wildlife corridors that
correspond to the animals' movements. National and other boundaries
can complicate corridor creation.
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Protected areas is meant for affording protection to wild animals and
their habitat which also includes forest reserves and biosphere
reserves. Protected areas have been set up all over the world with the
specific aim of protecting and conserving plants and animals.
National park and nature reserve is the area selected by governments
or private organizations for special protection against damage or
degradation with the objective of biodiversity and landscape
conservation. National parks are usually owned and managed by national
or state governments. A limit is placed on the number of visitors
permitted to enter certain fragile areas. Designated trails or roads
are created. The visitors are allowed to enter only for study,
cultural and recreation purposes. Forestry operations, grazing of
animals and hunting of animals are regulated. Exploitation of habitat
or wildlife is banned.
Wildlife sanctuary aims only at conservation of species and have the
* The boundaries of the sanctuaries are not limited by state
* The killing, hunting or capturing of any species is prohibited
except by or under the control of the highest authority in the
department which is responsible for the management of the sanctuary.
* Private ownership may be allowed.
* Forestry and other usages can also be permitted.
The forests play a vital role in harbouring more than 45,000 floral
and 81,000 faunal species of which 5150 floral and 1837 faunal species
Plant and animal species confined to a specific
geographical area are called endemic species. In reserved forests,
rights to activities like hunting and grazing are sometimes given to
communities living on the fringes of the forest, who sustain their
livelihood partially or wholly from forest resources or products. The
unclassed forests covers 6.4 percent of the total forest area and they
are marked by the following characteristics:
* They are large inaccessible forests.
* Many of these are unoccupied.
* They are ecologically and economically less important.
Steps To Conserve The
* An extensive reforestation/afforestation program should be
* Alternative environment-friendly sources of fuel energy such as
biogas other than wood should be used.
Loss of biodiversity due to forest fire is a major problem,
immediate steps to prevent forest fire need to be taken.
* Overgrazing by cattle can damage a forest seriously. Therefore,
certain steps should be taken to prevent overgrazing by cattle.
* Hunting and poaching should be banned.
In zoological parks or zoos, live animals are kept for public
recreation, education and conservation purposes. Modern zoos offer
veterinary facilities, provide opportunities for threatened species to
breed in captivity and usually build environments that simulate the
native habitats of the animals in their care. Zoos play a major role
in creating awareness among common people about the need to conserve
Botanical garden is a garden in which plants are grown and displayed
primarily for scientific and educational purposes. It consists of a
collection of living plants, grown outdoors or under glass in
greenhouses and conservatories. In addition, it includes a collection
of dried plants or herbarium and such facilities as lecture rooms,
laboratories, libraries, museums and experimental or research
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
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.
A great deal of work is occurring to preserve the natural
Hopetoun Falls ,
Australia while continuing to
allow visitor access.
Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety ;
* Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Ramsar Convention (Wetlands);
Bonn Convention on Migratory Species;
World Heritage Convention (indirectly by protecting biodiversity
* Regional Conventions such as the Apia Convention
* Bilateral agreements such as the Japan-
Australia Migratory Bird
Global agreements such as the
Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity ,
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 when such principles are
Sovereignty principles can rely upon what is better known as Access
and Benefit Sharing Agreements (ABAs). The Convention on Biodiversity
implies informed consent 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 .
NATIONAL LEVEL LAWS
Biodiversity is taken into account in some political and judicial
* 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 and hunting
* Law regarding species is more recent. It defines species that must
be protected because they may be threatened by extinction. The U.S.
Species Act 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 have led to tighter laws covering distribution of
genetically modified organisms , gene patents and process patents.
Governments struggle to decide whether to focus on for example, genes,
genomes, or organisms and species.
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.
India passed the Biological Diversity Act in 2002 for the
conservation of biological diversity in India. The Act also provides
mechanisms for equitable sharing of benefits from the use of
traditional biological resources and knowledge.
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 world". For example, microbial life
is metabolically and environmentally more diverse than multicellular
life (see e.g., extremophile ). "On the tree of life, based on
analyses of small-subunit ribosomal RNA , 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
DIVERSITY STUDY (BOTANY)
The number of morphological attributes that can be scored for
diversity study is generally limited and prone to environmental
influences; thereby reducing the fine resolution required to ascertain
the phylogenetic relationships.
DNA based markers- microsatellites
otherwise known as simple sequence repeats (SSR) were therefore used
for the diversity studies of certain species and their wild relatives.
In the case of cowpea , a study conducted to assess the level of
genetic diversity in cowpea germplasm and related wide species, where
the relatedness among various taxa were compared, primers useful for
classification of taxa identified, and the origin and phylogeny of
cultivated cowpea classified show that SSR markers are useful in
validating with species classification and revealing the center of
Index of biodiversity articles
Measurement of biodiversity
Measurement of biodiversity
Deforestation and climate change
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Look up BIODIVERSITY in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to BIODIVERSITY .
* NatureServe: This site serves as a portal for accessing several
types of publicly available biodiversity data
Biodiversity Factsheet by the
University of Michigan
University of Michigan 's Center for