• Grace Hu

Let's talk biodiversity


In recent years, the concept of biodiversity and its importance has been widely discussed. As humans continue to expand in population size, we've come into more direct competition with other species in terms of both habitat space and resources than ever before. More and more animal species have become extinct over the past few decades, and earth's biodiversity is being challenged ("What is Biodiversity?").

There are many definitions for biodiversity, operating under various levels such as genetic diversity, species diversity, ecosystem diversity and functional diversity. The most common definition is species diversity, which is simply counted as the number of species within a given area ("What is Biodiversity?"). Other widely discussed variables include genetic diversity and functional diversity, both of which are directly impacted by climate change ("Biodiversity - Genetic Diversity").

Genetic diversity represents the genetic variation within a population of organisms--these differences form the evolutionary basis for the preservation of a species and can provide insurance against environmental changes that could help the population recover from stressful impacts. There have been cases in which cultured banana crops have been completely wiped out by the same genetic disease, because all of the plants shared the same DNA and were equally susceptible (Prisco).

Meanwhile, the concept of functional diversity is rooted in the idea that every organism has their own ecological niche, or role, which it plays in the environment ("What is Biodiversity?"). Dandelions are primary producers, rabbits are herbivores, and foxes are predators that prey on herbivores, and so on and so forth. If some animals share the same ecological niche, then it can be argued that there's no need for all of them--only keeping one animal for each role would be enough. In the context of climate change, this means that the impact of the extinction of one species could be buffered by the continued presence of other species in the same space in the web of the ecosystem.

Climate change is an important issue to all societies today, and biodiversity continues to be lost as humans drastically alter the face of the planet and the world we live in. Biodiversity isn't just necessary for the maintenance of stable food webs and ecosystems, it's also important in the study of ecology and community dynamics ("Challenging Evolution").

References

Biodiversity - Genetic Diversity, www.biodiversity.ru/coastlearn/bio-eng/boxes/geneticdiv.html.

“Challenging Evolution: How GMOs Can Influence Genetic Diversity.” Science in the News, 12 Aug. 2015, sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/challenging-evolution-how-gmos-can-influence-genetic-diversity/.

Prisco, Jacopo. “Why Bananas as We Know Them Might Go Extinct (Again).” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Jan. 2016, www.cnn.com/2015/07/22/africa/banana-panama-disease/index.html.

“What Is Biodiversity?” Australian Museum, australianmuseum.net.au/what-is-biodiversity.


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