Biodiversity describes the whole range of the different varieties of living things and systems on this earth, including animal species, plant species, genes, ecosystems and landscapes.

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Why do we need to conserve biodiversity?

One way of explaining biodiversity is the phrase - ‘when we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.’ All living creatures need other creatures and plants in one way or another - even if the connection is not always clear.  Biodiversity is about the diversity - the range - of different living things and systems in an area.  The more plant, insect and animal species there are in one area the greater the biodiversity and the healthier the ecosystem!

A project which reintroduced wild wolves into Yellowstone National Park in North America led to enormous changes to the ecosystem.  Until recently many people, including ecologists and scientists, didn't understand the unique importance of top predators in an ecosystem - specifically the 'trophic cascade' effect.  A trophic cascade is a process which starts at the top of the food chain, working all the way down to the bottom.  

The wolves in Yellowstone National Park ate deer which had grazed the vegetation bare, so plants were able to flourish again - areas regenerated and trees were able to grow.  This provided food and shelter for hundreds of other animal species; insects, mammals, birds, birds of prey, amphibians and fish.  With more plants, trees and animals the soils improved and became stronger - less prone to erosion, drought and flooding.

The more biodiversity an area has, the healthier it is because it supports a large number of animal and plant species.  Understanding biodiversity is important for the environment, as well as people and medicine as we will explore -

 

 

 

Read More: Ecosystems

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