Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability of life on Earth. Biodiversity is typically a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near the equator, which is the result of the warm climate and high primary productivity. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, and is richest in the tropics. These tropical forest ecosystems cover less than 10 percent of earth's surface, and contain about 90 percent of the world's species. Marine biodiversity is usually 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. Biodiversity generally 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 discovered in 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, 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. Named the 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.
The United Nations designated 2011–2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. and 2021-2030 as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration  According to a 2019 report by IPBES, 25% of plant and animal species are threatened with extinction as the result of human activity.
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 previously identified:
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 United Nations 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.
Gaston & Spicer's definition in their book "Biodiversity: an introduction" is "variation of life at all levels of biological organization".
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 regions generally. Rain forests that have had wet climates for a long time, such as Yasuní National Park in Ecuador, have particularly high biodiversity.
Terrestrial biodiversity is thought to be up to 25 times greater than ocean biodiversity. A new method used in 2011, 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.
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 factors 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 rule.
In 2016, an alternative hypothesis ("the fractal biodiversity") was proposed to explain the biodiversity latitudinal gradient. In this study, the species pool size and the fractal nature of ecosystems were combined to clarify some general patterns of this gradient. This hypothesis considers temperature, moisture, and net primary production (NPP) as the main variables of an ecosystem niche and as the axis of the ecological hypervolume. In this way, it is possible to build fractal hypervolumes, whose fractal dimension rises up to three moving towards the equator.
A biodiversity hotspot is a region with a high level of endemic species that have 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.
Brazil's 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. Colombia is 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 America combined, 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 independently. 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 examined."
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 of the Earth. Until approximately 600 million years ago, all life consisted of microorganisms – archaea, bacteria, and single-celled protozoans and protists.
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, 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 dynamics.
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.
In 2011, in his Biodiversity-related Niches Differentiation Theory, Roberto Cazzolla Gatti proposed that species themselves are the architects of biodiversity, by proportionally increasing the number of potentially available niches in a given ecosystem. This study led to the idea that biodiversity is autocatalytic. An ecosystem of interdependent species can be, therefore, considered as an emergent autocatalytic set (a self-sustaining network of mutually "catalytic" entities), where one (group of) species enables the existence of (i.e., creates niches for) other species. This view offers a possible answer to the fundamental question of why so many species can coexist in the same ecosystem.
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.
"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:
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
Greater species diversity
Other sources have reported somewhat conflicting results and in 1997 Robert Costanza and his 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.
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. they 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.
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.
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 the World Health Organisation (2018) only 71% of the global population used a safely managed drinking-water service.
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. Biodiversity is 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 potential. 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.
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.
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.
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 and time."
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, though there have been attempts to create artificial pollinators using unmanned aerial vehicles. The economic activity of pollination alone represented between $2.1-14.6 billions in 2003.
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 estimates include:
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.
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 58% of its biodiversity since 1970 according to a 2016 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 hit in 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.
A 2017 study published in PLOS One found that the biomass of insect life in Germany had declined by three-quarters in the last 25 years. Dave Goulson of Sussex University stated that their study suggested that humans "appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse."
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 16,119.
Jared Diamond describes an "Evil Quartet" of habitat destruction, overkill, introduced species and secondary extinctions. Edward O. Wilson prefers the acronym HIPPO, standing for Habitat destruction, Invasive species, Pollution, human over-Population and Over-harvesting. The most authoritative classification in use today is IUCN's Classification of Direct Threats (version 2.0 released in 2016) which has been adopted by major international conservation organizations such as the US Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International and BirdLife International.
The 11 main direct threats to conservation are:
1. residential & commercial development
2. farming activities
3. energy production & mining
4. transportation & service corridors
5. biological resource usages
6. human intrusions & activities that alter, destroy, simply disturb habitats and species from exhibiting natural behaviors
7. natural system modifications
8. invasive & problematic species, pathogens & genes
10. catastrophic geological events
11. climate changes
Habitat destruction has played a key role in extinctions, especially in relation to tropical forest destruction. Factors contributing to habitat loss include: 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. Even the simplest forms of agriculture affect diversity – through clearing/draining land, discouraging weeds and "pests", and encouraging just a limited set of domesticated plant and animal species. 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 community).
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 occur in fresh water, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005, which was confirmed by the "Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment" organised by the biodiversity platform and the French Institut de recherche pour le développement (MNHNP).
Co-extinctions are a form of habitat destruction. Co-extinction occurs when the extinction or decline in one species accompanies similar processes in another, such as in plants and beetles.
A 2019 report has revealed that bees and other pollinating insects have been wiped out of almost a quarter of their habitats across the United Kingdom. The population crashes have been happening since 1980s and are affecting the biodiversity. The increase in industrial farming and pesticide use, combined with disease, invasive species and climate change is threatening the future of these insects and the agriculture they support.
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 common. 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 in 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 from Eastern 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.
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 period.
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 whole.
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 hybridization.
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 climate.
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 International.
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.
The world's population numbered nearly 7.6 billion as of mid-2017 (which is approximately one billion more inhabitants compared to 2005) and is forecast to reach 11.1 billion in 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 US, we would need 3.9 Earths.
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.
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.
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 Encyclopedia of Life and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
Protected areas are 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. Some scientists have called on the global community to designate as protected areas 30 percent of the planet by 2030, and 50 percent by 2050, in order to mitigate biodiversity loss from anthropogenic causes.
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 sanctuaries aim only at conservation of species and have the following features:
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 are endemic. 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:
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 about the need to conserve nature.
In botanical gardens, plants are grown and displayed primarily for scientific and educational purposes. They consist of a collection of living plants, grown outdoors or under glass in greenhouses and conservatories. In addition, a botanical garden may include a collection of dried plants or herbarium and such facilities as lecture rooms, laboratories, libraries, museums and experimental or research plantings.
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 biodiversity.
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.
Global agreements such as the 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 not respected.
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.
Biodiversity is taken into account in some political and judicial decisions:
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.
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 [macroscopic] 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 hypothesis.
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 diversity.
The overarching driver of species extinction is human population growth and increasing per capita consumption.
In the past 500 years, humans have triggered a wave of extinction, threat, and local population declines that may be comparable in both rate and magnitude with the five previous mass extinctions of Earth’s history.
The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.” The BHL consortium works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing tens of thousands of titles and more than 100,000 volumes.
Founded in 2005, BHL soon became the third broad digitization project for biodiversity literature, after Gallica and AnimalBase. In 2008, the size of Gallica and AnimalBase was passed, and BHL is now by far the world's largest digitization project for biodiversity literature.It is a cornerstone organization of the Encyclopedia of Life.Biodiversity hotspot
A biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with significant levels of biodiversity that is threatened with humans.Norman Myers wrote about the concept in two articles in “The Environmentalist” (1988), and 1990 revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others “Hotspots: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions” and a paper published in the journal Nature.To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot on Myers 2000 edition of the hotspot-map, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of vascular plants as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation. Around the world, 36 areas qualify under this definition. These sites support nearly 60% of the world's plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, with a very high share of those species as endemics. Some of these hotspots support up to 15,000 endemic plant species and some have lost up to 95% of their natural habitat.Biodiversity hotspots host their diverse ecosystems on just 2.3% of the planet's surface, however, the area defined as hotspots covers a much larger proportion of the land. The original 25 hotspots covered 11.8% of the land surface area of the Earth. Overall, the current hotspots cover more than 16% of the land surface area, but have lost around 85% of their habitat. This loss of habitat explains why approximately 60% of the world's terrestrial life lives on only 2.3% of the land surface area.Biodiversity loss
Biodiversity loss is the extinction of species (plant or animal) worldwide, and also the local reduction or loss of species in a certain habitat.
The latter phenomenon can be temporary or permanent, depending on whether the environmental degradation that leads to the loss is reversible through ecological restoration / ecological resilience or effectively permanent (e.g. through land loss). Global extinction has so far been proven to be irreversible.
Even though permanent global species loss is a more dramatic phenomenon than regional changes in species composition, even minor changes from a healthy stable state can have dramatic influence on the food web and the food chain insofar as reductions in only one species can adversely affect the entire chain (coextinction), leading to an overall reduction in biodiversity, possible alternative stable states of an ecosystem notwithstanding. Ecological effects of biodiversity are usually counteracted by its loss. Reduced biodiversity in particular leads to reduced ecosystem services and eventually poses an immediate danger for food security, also for humankind.Conservation biology
Conservation biology is the management of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.The conservation ethic is based on the findings of conservation biology.Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty. The Convention has three main goals including: the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
In other words, its objective is to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It is often seen as the key document regarding sustainable development. The Convention was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993. CBD has two supplementary agreements - Cartagena Protocol and Nagoya Protocol. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another. It was adopted on 29 January 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on 11 September 2003. The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity. It provides a transparent legal framework for the effective implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
The Nagoya Protocol on ABS was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and entered into force on 12 October 2014, 90 days after the deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification. Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.Endemism
Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. The extreme opposite of endemism is cosmopolitan distribution. An alternative term for a species that is endemic is precinctive, which applies to species (and subspecific categories) that are restricted to a defined geographical area.Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is an Act of the Parliament of Australia that provides a framework for protection of the Australian environment, including its biodiversity and its natural and culturally significant places. Enacted on 17 July 2000, it established a range of processes to help protect and promote the recovery of threatened species and ecological communities, and preserve significant places from decline. The EPBC Act replaced the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975.
The EPBC Act established the use of Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations, which have provided for the issuing of approvals and permits for a range of activities on Commonwealth land and land affecting the Commonwealth. For example, commercial picking of wildflowers is regulated under the EPBC Act, and cannot be undertaken without an appropriate permit. Failure to comply with the Act can result in penalties including remediation of damage, court injunctions, and criminal and civil penalties.
The EPBC Act is administered by the Australian Department of the Environment. On 16 October 2013 the Environment Minister announced that the Government had approved a framework for a "one stop shop" environmental approval process to accredit state planning systems under national environmental law, to create a single environmental assessment and approval process for nationally protected matters.On 16 June 2014 the proposed amendments passed the House of Representatives, despite opposition from environmental campaigners and significant legal commentators who have criticised the Bill and expressed concern with the delegation of Commonwealth environmental approval powers.European Nature Information System
The European Nature Information System (EUNIS) provides access to the publicly available data in the EUNIS database for species, habitat types and protected sites across Europe. It is part of the European Biodiversity data centre (BDC), and is maintained by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The database contains data
on species, habitat types and designated sites from the framework of Natura 2000,
from material compiled by the European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity
mentioned in relevant international conventions and in the IUCN Red Lists,
collected in the framework of the EEA's reporting activities.Fauna Europaea
Fauna Europaea is a database of the scientific names and distribution of all living multicellular European land and fresh-water animals. It serves as a standard taxonomic source for animal taxonomy within the Pan-European Species directories Infrastructure (PESI).Its construction was initially funded by the European Council (2000–2004). The project was co-ordinated by the University of Amsterdam which launched the first version in 2004, after which the database was transferred to the Natural History Museum Berlin in 2015.Germplasm Resources Information Network
Germplasm Resources Information Network or GRIN is an online USDA National Genetic Resources Program software project to comprehensively manage the computer database for the holdings of all plant germplasm collected by the National Plant Germplasm System.GRIN has extended its role to manage information on the germplasm reposits of insect (invertebrate), microbial, and animal species (see sub-projects).Global Biodiversity Information Facility
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is an international organisation that focuses on making scientific data on biodiversity available via the Internet using web services. The data are provided by many institutions from around the world; GBIF's information architecture makes these data accessible and searchable through a single portal. Data available through the GBIF portal are primarily distribution data on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes for the world, and scientific names data.
The mission of the Global Biodiversity information Facility (GBIF) is to facilitate free and open access to biodiversity data worldwide to underpin sustainable development. Priorities, with an emphasis on promoting participation and working through partners, include mobilising biodiversity data, developing protocols and standards to ensure scientific integrity and interoperability, building an informatics architecture to allow the interlinking of diverse data types from disparate sources, promoting capacity building and catalysing development of analytical tools for improved decision-making.
GBIF strives to form informatics linkages among digital data resources from across the spectrum of biological organisation, from genes to ecosystems, and to connect these to issues important to science, society and sustainability by using georeferencing and GIS tools. It works in partnership with other international organisations such as the Catalogue of Life partnership, Biodiversity Information Standards, the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), and GEOSS.
From 2002-2014, GBIF awarded a prestigious global award in the area of biodiversity informatics, the Ebbe Nielsen Prize, valued at €30,000 annually. As at 2018, the GBIF Secretariat currently presents two annual prizes: the GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Challenge and the Young Researchers Award.INaturalist
iNaturalist is a citizen science project and online social network of naturalists, citizen scientists, and biologists built on the concept of mapping and sharing observations of biodiversity across the globe. iNaturalist may be accessed via its website or from its mobile applications. Observations recorded with iNaturalist provide valuable open data to scientific research projects, conservation agencies, other organizations, and the public. The project has been called "a standard-bearer for natural history mobile applications."Important Bird Area
An Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) is an area identified using an internationally agreed set of criteria as being globally important for the conservation of bird populations.
IBA was developed and sites are identified by BirdLife International. Currently there are over 12,000 IBAs worldwide. These sites are small enough to be entirely conserved and differ in their character, habitat or ornithological importance from the surrounding habitat. In the United States the Program is administered by the National Audubon Society.Often IBAs form part of a country's existing protected area network, and so are protected under national legislation. Legal recognition and protection of IBAs that are not within existing protected areas varies within different countries. Some countries have a National IBA Conservation Strategy, whereas in others protection is completely lacking.Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera
The Interim Register of Marine and Nonmarine Genera (IRMNG) is a taxonomic database containing the scientific names of the genus, species, and higher ranks of many plants, animals and other kingdoms, both living and extinct, within a standardized taxonomic hierarchy, with associated machine-readable information on habitat (e.g. marine/nonmarine) and extant/fossil status for the majority of entries. The database aspires to provide complete coverage of both accepted and unaccepted genus names across all kingdoms, with a subset only of species names included as a lower priority. In its March 2019 release, IRMNG contained 490,095 genus names, of which 236,514 were listed as "accepted", 120,194 "unaccepted", 7,391 of "other" status i.e. interim unpublished, nomen dubium, nomen nudum, taxon inquirendum or temporary name, and 125,996 as "uncertain" (unassessed for taxonomic status at this time). The data originate from a range of (frequently domain-specific) print, online and database sources, and are reorganised into a common data structure to support a variety of online queries, generation of individual taxon pages, and bulk data supply to other biodiversity informatics projects. IRMNG content can be queried and displayed freely via the web, and download files of the data down to the taxonomic rank of genus as at specific dates are available in the Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A) format.
The data include homonyms (with their authorities), including both available (validly published) and selected unavailable names.IRMNG was initiated in 2006 by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) Australia at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, and since has been hosted by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) since 2016. VLIZ also hosts the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), using a common infrastructure.Content from IRMNG is used by several global Biodiversity Informatics projects including Open Tree of Life, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), and the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL), in addition to others including the Atlas of Living Australia and the Global Names Architecture (GNA)'s Global Names Resolver. From 2018 onwards, IRMNG data are also being used to populate the taxonomic hierarchy and provide generic names for a range of taxa in the areas of protists (kingdoms Protozoa and Chromista) and plant algae (Charophyta, Chlorophyta, Glaucophyta and Rhodophyta) in the Catalogue of Life. IRMNG identifiers have also been associated with numerous Wikipedia taxon pages, based on content harvested from IRMNG and stored in Wikidata.IRMNG was initiated and designed by Tony Rees. For his work on this and other projects, GBIF awarded him the 2014 Ebbe Nielsen Prize. The citation said, in part:
IRMNG in particular has been a tool of enormous importance to GBIF and others in supplying much of the detail for a global taxonomic classification of all life and as high-value taxon trait data in a form which can readily be reused in data validation and to enhance species pages.
IRMNG is now managed and curated by Rees, with assistance from the VLIZ team.Marine biology
Marine biology is the scientific study of marine life, organisms in the sea. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy.
A large proportion of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. The exact size of this large proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. The ocean is a complex three-dimensional world covering approximately 71% of the Earth's surface. The habitats studied in marine biology include everything from the tiny layers of surface water in which organisms and abiotic items may be trapped in surface tension between the ocean and atmosphere, to the depths of the oceanic trenches, sometimes 10,000 meters or more beneath the surface of the ocean. Specific habitats include coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, the surrounds of seamounts and thermal vents, tidepools, muddy, sandy and rocky bottoms, and the open ocean (pelagic) zone, where solid objects are rare and the surface of the water is the only visible boundary. The organisms studied range from microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton to huge cetaceans (whales) 25–32 meters (82–105 feet) in length. Marine ecology is the study of how marine organisms interact with each other and the environment.
Marine life is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.Many species are economically important to humans, including both finfish and shellfish. It is also becoming understood that the well-being of marine organisms and other organisms are linked in fundamental ways. The human body of knowledge regarding the relationship between life in the sea and important cycles is rapidly growing, with new discoveries being made nearly every day. These cycles include those of matter (such as the carbon cycle) and of air (such as Earth's respiration, and movement of energy through ecosystems including the ocean). Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain effectively unexplored.MycoBank
MycoBank is an online database, documenting new mycological names and combinations, eventually combined with descriptions and illustrations. It is run by the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures fungal biodiversity center in Utrecht.Each novelty, after being screened by nomenclatural experts and found in accordance with the ICN (International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants), is allocated a unique MycoBank number before the new name has been validly published. This number then can be cited by the naming author in the publication where the new name is being introduced. Only then, this unique number becomes public in the database.
By doing so, this system can help solve the problem of knowing which names have been validly published and in which year.
MycoBank is linked to other important mycological databases such as Index Fungorum, Life Science Identifiers, Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and other databases. MycoBank is one of three nomenclatural repositories recognized by the Nomenclature Committee for Fungi; the others are Index Fungorum and Fungal Names.National Biodiversity Network
The National Biodiversity Network (UK) (NBN) is a collaborative venture set up in 2000 in the United Kingdom committed to making biodiversity information available through various media, including on the internet via the NBN Atlas—the data search website of the NBN.South African National Biodiversity Institute
The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is an organisation under the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, tasked with research and dissemination of information on biodiversity.Wikispecies
Wikispecies is a wiki-based online project supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. Its aim is to create a comprehensive free content catalogue of all species; the project is directed at scientists, rather than at the general public. Jimmy Wales stated that editors are not required to fax in their degrees, but that submissions will have to pass muster with a technical audience. Wikispecies is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and CC BY-SA 3.0.
Started in September 2004, with biologists across the world invited to contribute, the project had grown a framework encompassing the Linnaean taxonomy with links to Wikipedia articles on individual species by April 2005.
|Hierarchy of life|
Template: Threatened species by region
|IUCN Red List|
1 Pre-2001 categories and subcategories shown in italics.
Zoos, aquariums and aviaries
|Types of zoos|
Zoos portal • Category: Zoos • Category: Aquaria