Biodiversity or biological diversity is the name given to the wide variety of living beings that exist on planet Earth and that establish natural relationships with each other. It is the product of billions of years of evolution.
When an environment is biodiverse or has high biodiversity, it means that it is a place inhabited by many species of living beings. In comparison, there are others that are less populated or populated by a smaller variety of species.
It was used for the first time in 1986 in a lecture on the subject by Walter G. Rosen at the National Forum on Biodiversity. This notion has been useful to make visible the opposite, i.e., the impoverishment of biodiversity.
What are the main characteristics of biodiversity?
Below, we are going to detail some characteristics of biodiversity that we believe are most important:
Origin of biodiversity
The term, which comes from biodiversity, was coined by Walter Rosen in 1986 during the conference on the subject held at the National Forum on Biodiversity, in Washington, United States.
Biodiversity is the result of the evolution of living things shaped in a process that is four billion years old over which the different life forms and genetic processes within each species have developed.
That has resulted in the combination of those life forms that have intertwined in their environments, creating the world as we know it today.
Different species arose in the Phanerozoic period, some 540 million years ago, as only bacteria and microorganisms existed until that time.
In the course of time, the evolutionary process experienced setbacks due to mass extinctions that have occurred throughout the history of the planet.
It was in the so-called «Cambrian explosion» of the Phanerozoic that multicellular organisms first emerged, which over hundreds of millions of years gave rise to other species, including our own.
Types of biodiversity
There are mainly three types of diversity:
- Species diversity: is related to the number of species in a given place or area. Each species will have a biological or scientific classification.
- Ecosystem diversity: refers to the different ecosystems, their size and/or abundance around the world. It can be classified depending on their distribution on a global, continental or more local level.
- Genetic diversity: refers to the genetic diversity that may exist among members of the same species. Size, height, color, etc…
What is biodiversity?
Human beings and animals
There are currently seven billion human beings, but in relation to the other species, there is no specific criterion about the number, so much so that the gap is between 3 and 30 million; of these, it is estimated that almost eight million are animal species, of which only almost two million have been cataloged.
Plants and biodiversity
With respect to plants, another important component of biodiversity, it is estimated that there are almost three hundred thousand species, of which just over two hundred thousand have been cataloged, and of the 600 thousand species of fungi estimated, only almost 50 thousand have been cataloged.
One of the important aspects of biodiversity is that it is related to the conditions of each area where the climate, the soil, the landscape in which living things live and plants develop
influences the climate, the soil, and the landscape in which living things live and plants develop.
Many times change in biodiversity are influenced by the struggle for survival in the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom, which is manifested in the power of animal jaws, the strength of trees, and the mutation and evolution of each species.
Which are the regions with the highest biodiversity?
There is greater biodiversity where climatic conditions, water, and light are optimal for life, such as the Amazon rainforest rich in flora and fauna species, as opposed to desert areas, where the growth and development of plants and animals are difficult due to the aridity of the terrain and lack of water.
Arctic areas also present stumbling blocks to biodiversity growth, subject to profound changes in recent decades due to the melting of the poles and the presumed future disappearance of the thousand-year-old polar bears, due to the effects of climate change.
In areas where life becomes difficult, only the strongest survive, which is not the case in places where the climate favors species development.
What dangers does biodiversity face?
Never as much as now has biodiversity been subjected to enormous dangers, especially by the hand of man, who is to blame for the changes taking place in the ecological environment around the world.
Logging, burning, and indiscriminate hunting, have all contributed to affecting the planet’s biodiversity.
Animals and plants have been subjected to the permanent aggression of industrial processes that attack their environment, causing disasters in nature, as occurs with greenhouse gases that increase the average temperature of the planet, resulting in profound changes in biodiversity as air, land, and water are contaminated.
Natural and man-made disasters
The proliferation of fires during 2019, caused a devastating effect on biodiversity in Australia where hundreds of millions of animals died and millions of plants also disappeared.
University of Sydney biodiversity expert Chris Dickman.
Among the species wiped out by the fire are koalas, Australia’s iconic animals.
The same had happened months earlier in the Amazon fire, home to 2.5 million species of insects, 2,500 species of birds, 550 species of reptiles, and 600 species of mammals, according to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization.
This incident, which lasted for months, resulted in the irreversible loss of many species and a change in the biodiversity of what is considered the lungs of the world, as it absorbs millions of tons of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, contributing to slowing climate change.
This violent attack on biodiversity is having dire consequences for human life, to the point that scientists have warned of the danger of the distortion of nature as we know it.
Regions with the highest biodiversity
The intertropical zone is home to the greatest biodiversity.
The most biodiverse regions of the planet are the tropics, Cancer, and Capricorn, which cover 40% of the Earth’s surface. This is because they are warm zones with little temperature change between seasons. 80% of known life accumulates in them.
- Tropic of Cancer. It crosses from west to east the territories of Mexico, Bahamas, Bahamas, Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Libya, Chad, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, India, Bangladesh, Burma, and China.
- Tropic of Capricorn. It crosses from west to east the territories of Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Australia.
The intertropical or equatorial zone is above all an enormous source of biodiversity. It is found especially in the American, African and Asian rainforests, the largest reservoirs of species on the planet.
How is biodiversity assessed?
The following parameters are usually used to evaluate the biodiversity of a specific region:
- Richness. It consists of the number of ecosystem elements, depending on the level of analysis: number of differentiated genes, number of species, number of habitats, etc.
- Relative abundance. The frequency with which one of the analyzed elements appears in the ecosystem in relation to the others that accompany it.
- Differentiation. The degree of genetic, taxonomic, or functional remoteness of the elements was analyzed. It should be noted that biodiversity is not a static, immobile attribute, but dynamic and constantly changing. Nor is it uniformly distributed on the planet.
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