What is biodiversity?

As a general rule, biodiversity is greatest around the equator and least marked at the poles.

Biodiversity refers to the variation of life forms. It can be used to describe the variation of life in a single ecosystem, a geographic region, or an entire planet. Many biologists believe that biodiversity is an important part of sustainability and that the more biodiverse a region is, the healthier it is. As a general rule, biodiversity is greater around the equator and less marked at the poles, due to the harsher and more demanding environment at the poles.

The term appears to have been coined in print in 1988 by EO Wilson, a famous biologist. Concerns about biological diversity were already well established; as early as 1975, the Nature Conservancy was publishing studies on diversity in various regions and talking about the impact of diversity on the well-being of the earth and other life forms. Studies in multiple regions often include a discussion of biodiversity, which can be calculated in a variety of ways, from complex rubrics to basic counts of how many different species there are.

One of the biggest benefits of biodiversity is flexibility. A large number of unique species can flex with changing conditions, with the number of various life forms increasing or decreasing to suit a changing environment. Biodiversity can also help make natural populations stronger and healthier by promoting the best individuals through competition and predation. Biodiverse crops tend to do better than monocultures, and biodiversity also contributes to the delicate balance of ecosystems, helping to regulate waste disposal, water quality, fertilization, and environmental factors.

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At the lowest levels, biologists examine biodiversity in terms of unique ecosystems, sometimes also called biomes. They can also compare biodiversity across ecosystems; for example, two watersheds with similar geographic and geological conditions may have different levels of biodiversity. Some biologists also look at larger regions or entire countries; questioning, for example, the impact of heavy commercial agriculture on a nation’s biodiversity.

As a planet, Earth itself is incredibly biodiverse. The planet hosts organisms that range in size from tiny viruses to enormous whales, and life forms have been discovered everywhere, from the seemingly hostile environments around hydrothermal vents to the lush tropical regions that mark the Earth’s equator. Many biologists feel that steps must be taken to preserve this biodiversity because it benefits the health of the Earth as a whole, and more studies may be needed to understand the exact interactions of all life on Earth. Biodiversity is also simply aesthetically pleasing, as many visitors from the tropics and other regions with incredible biodiversity have observed.

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