What is Biodiversity? – Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at AMNH

The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it. Biodiversity includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered, but every living thing—even organisms we still know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertegrates. Biodiversity is important everywhere; species and habitats in your area as well as those in distant lands all play a role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

We need biodiversity to satisfy basic needs like food, drinking water, fuel, shelter, and medicine. Much of the world’s population still uses plants and animals as a primary source of medicine, and in the United States alone, about 57% of the 150 most prescribed drugs have their origins in biodiversity. Ecosystems provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests. Many flowering plants depend on animals for pollination, and 30% of human crops depend on the free services of pollinators.

Biodiversity is also valued for its own sake; for the many cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic values people place on nature and natural areas.

Threats To Biodiversity

Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet. Ecosystems are being rapidly altered, and the planet is undergoing a massive loss of biodiversity.

Every day, thousands of pollutantas are discharged into our environment, threatening biodiversity, affecting indivudual species or degrading entire ecosystems.While the Earth has always experienced changes and extinctions, the current changes are occurring at an unprecendented rate. Still more sobering, most threats to biodiversity are caused by human activity.

The good new is that it is within our
power to change our actions to help
ensure the survivial of species and
natural systems—and ultimately,

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