We explain what biodiversity is, how it is classified and some examples. Also, what are its characteristics, risks and importance.
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity or biological diversity is called 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 different species of living beings . In comparison, there are others less populated or populated by a lesser variety of species.
The word “biodiversity” comes from the English “ Biodiversity ” and was used for the first time in 1986 at the conference on the subject read by Walter G. Rosen at the National Forum on BioDiversity . This notion has been useful to make the opposite visible, that is, impoverishing biodiversity.
Biodiversity is threatened by numerous human activities that cause the depopulation of various ecological regions, even eradicating species. It is, therefore, a term with ecological implications, but also applicable to the description of various ecosystems by students of biology .
Origin of biodiversity
The biological diversity that populates the Earth today is the result of a long evolutionary process of four billion years (4,000,000,000 years).
Although it cannot be determined exactly , it is estimated that it was then that the first life forms appeared .
However, the development of biodiversity was slow , since until 600 million years ago, all life on the planet consisted of bacteria and microorganisms .
The enormous variety of life forms that we know today took its first steps in the Phanerozoic period , 540 million years ago. Then there was the so-called “Cambrian explosion”, in which multicellular organisms emerged for the first time.
Thus began a race of abundance . It suffered some setbacks, due to the various mass extinctions that have occurred throughout the history of the planet. However, it eventually led to the world as we know it, including the rise of our own species.
Types of biodiversity
In known species such as dogs we can observe genetic diversity.
Three levels of biodiversity are usually recognized:
- Genetic or intraspecific diversity. It consists of the abundance of genotypic versions, that is, genetic versions within the same species of living beings.
- Specific diversity. It consists of the abundance of genetic systems that distinguish species, that is, the abundance of species in a region.
- Total ecosystem diversity. It consists of the total abundance of the biological communities of the planet, which together constitute the so-called biosphere.
Because it is important?
In addition to the moral objective of protecting living beings, biodiversity is of the utmost importance for the survival of the human being himself . In the first place, it guarantees to a great extent the balance of gases in the atmosphere and therefore of the habitable conditions of the planet itself.
Another important point is that not all species in the world are known yet , and many are known only when they are about to be eradicated by our actions. Thus, we ignore what medical potentials there may be in them, and what mysteries they could solve in our understanding of our own existence.
Examples of biodiversity
60% of the life forms of the planet reside in the Amazon rainforests.
Biodiversity is everywhere. In everyday life we can distinguish it, for example, between dogs , of which there are 400 different breeds that nevertheless form the same species.
In more distant areas, such as the Amazon rainforests , there are true refuges of life untouched by man. Approximately 60% of the life forms on the planet reside there, 30% of which have so far been cataloged by science .
Regions with the greatest biodiversity
In the intertropical zone there is 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 areas with little change in temperature between their seasons. 80% of known life accumulates in them.
- Tropic of Cancer. It crosses from west to east the territories of Mexico , 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 a huge source of biodiversity. This is especially found in the American , African and Asian jungles , the largest reservoirs of species on the planet.
What dangers does biodiversity face?
Deforestation threatens the biodiversity of the region.
The main threats against biodiversity come from the hand of man . Industrial and agricultural activities often require radical modification of numerous ecosystems, for example through:
- The installation of machinery that keeps animals away or permanently modifies them.
- The dumping of waste that modifies the chemical conditions of the environment and alters the ecological balance.
- The introduction of new species into environments where they can reproduce uncontrollably and destroy endogenous species.
- The deforestation and logging, either for industrial timber and the paper , or to obtain cultivable land, or to expand urban sprawl.
- The mining and oil exploitation , in addition to the ecological catastrophes of its accidental spills of crude into the sea .
- The indiscriminate hunting of some species.
How is biodiversity assessed?
To assess the biodiversity of a specific region, the following parameters are usually used:
- Wealth. It consists of the number of elements of the ecosystem, 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 elements analyzed appears in the ecosystem in relation to the others that accompany it.
- Differentiation. It is the degree of genetic, taxonomic or functional distancing of the elements analyzed.
It should be noted that biodiversity is not a static, immobile attribute , but a dynamic and constantly changing attribute . It is also not uniformly distributed on the planet.
The carnivorous plant Heliamphora chimantensis is only found in Venezuela.
Endemic species are known as those that are specific and exclusive to a geographic region or a specific ecosystem. For example, the carnivorous plant Heliamphora chimantensis is typical of the savannas of southern Venezuela , and does not exist anywhere else on the planet.
Endemic species are the most susceptible to changes in their habitats by the human being , as they are unable to survive elsewhere. Therefore, if their habitats are not protected, an important part of the world’s biodiversity will be lost.
Biological balance is the adequate and fair trade-off between individuals being born, their food, and their predators . Therefore, it is one of the necessary conditions for the preservation of the planet’s biodiversity.
The preservation of the food chain or the trophic pyramid , which is a cycle of transmission of matter and energy between species, depends on this balance . Thanks to it, the subsistence of all is possible, in the terms dictated by natural selection.
Man’s intrusion into ecosystems unbalances them biologically . In some cases it eliminates necessary rungs of the pyramid and in others it allows the disorderly proliferation of some species and the extinction of others.
Preservation of biodiversity
Green Peace seeks to raise awareness about the care of planet Earth and its biodiversity.
There are many efforts and organizations that fight to preserve biodiversity. Since 2000, the UN declared May 22 as the International Day of Biological Diversity , and also 2010 as the International Year of Biological Diversity.
The purpose of these statements is to raise awareness of the urgent need to take action in this regard . Other organizations running similar campaigns include Green Peace, Earth Action, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
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