Biodiversity

biological diversity

biological diversity or biodiversity, the number of species in a given habitat. Scientists have variously estimated that there are from 3 to 30 million extant species, of which 2.5 million have been classified, including 900,000 insects, 41,000 vertebrates, and 250,000 plants; the remainder are invertebrates, fungi, algae, and microorganisms. Although other species remain to be discovered, many are becoming extinct through deforestation, pollution, and human settlement. Much of this diversity is found in the world's tropical areas, particularly in the forest regions. A habitat in equilibrium has a balance between the number of species present and its resources. Diversity is affected by resources, productivity, and climate. The more pristine a diverse habitat, the better chance it has to survive a change or threat—either natural or human—because that change can be balanced by an adjustment elsewhere in the community; damaged habitats may be destroyed by breaking the food chain with removal of a single species. Thus, biological diversity helps prevent extinction of species and helps preserve the balance of nature. At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, more than 150 nations signed a treaty intended to protect the planet's biological diversity. See also ecology.

See E. O. Wilson, ed., Biological Diversity (1988); N. Eldredge, Life in the Balance (1998).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Living Planet in Crisis: Biodiversity Science and Policy
Joel Cracraft; Francesca T. Grifo.
Columbia University Press, 1999
Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity
Eric Chivian; Aaron Bernstein; Kofi Annan.
Oxford University Press, 2008
Biodiversity, Sustainability, and Human Communities: Protecting beyond the Protected
Tim O'Riordan; Susanne Stoll-Kleemann.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Sparing Nature: The Conflict between Human Population Growth and Earth's Biodiversity
Jeffrey K. McKee.
Rutgers University Press, 2003
Making Nature, Shaping Culture: Plant Biodiversity in Global Context
Lawrence Busch; William B. Lacy; Jeffrey Burkhardt; Douglas Hemken; Jubel Moraga-Rojel; Timothy Koponen; José De Souza Silva.
University of Nebraska Press, 1995
Nature in Fragments: The Legacy of Sprawl
Elizabeth A. Johnson; Michael W. Klemens.
Columbia University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Part I "Biodiversity and the Genesis of Sprawl"
Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity in the United States
Bruce A. Stein; Lynn S. Kutner; Jonathan S. Adams.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Sustainable Development in Third World Countries: Applied and Theoretical Perspectives
Valentine Udoh James.
Praeger, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Indigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation, and Development"
The Third World in Global Environmental Politics
Marian A. L. Miller.
Lynne Rienner, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Biodiversity Regime"
The Emergence and Growth of Biotechnology: Experiences in Industralised and Developing Countries
Rohini Acharya.
Edward Elgar, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Part II "Biotechnology and Biodiversity"
Footprints in the Jungle: Natural Resource Industries, Infrastructure, and Biodiversity Conservation
Ian A. Bowles; Glenn T. Prickett; Amy E. Skoczlas.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Biodiversity Dynamics: Turnover of Populations, Taxa, and Communities
Michael L. McKinney; James A. Drake.
Columbia University Press, 1998
The Ecological City: Preserving and Restoring Urban Biodiversity
Rutherford H. Platt; Rowan A. Rowntree; Pamela C. Muick.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1994
Exploring Agrodiversity
Harold Brookfield.
Columbia University Press, 2001
Agrodiversity: Learning from Farmers across the World
Harold Brookfield; Helen Parsons; Muriel Brookfield.
United Nations University Press, 2003
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