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see biological diversitybiological 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.
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The variety of all living things; a contraction of biological diversity. Biodiversity can be measured on many biological levels ranging from genetic diversity within a species to the variety of ecosystems on Earth, but the term most commonly refers to the number of different species in a defined area.

Numbers of extant species for selected taxonomic groups
Number of Estimated number Percent
Kingdom Phylum species described of species described
Protista 100,000 250,000 40.0
Fungi Eumycota 80,000 1,500,000 5.3
Plantae Bryophyta 14,000 30,000 46.7
Tracheophyta 250,000 500,000 50.0
Animalia Nematoda 20,000 1,000,000 2.0
Arthropoda 1,250,000 20,000,000 5.0
Mollusca 100,000 200,000 50.0
Chordata 40,000 50,000 80.0
*With permission, modified from G. K. Meffe and C. R. Carroll, Principles of Conservation Biology, 1997.

Recent estimates of the total number of species range from 7 to 20 million, of which only about 1.75 million species have been scientifically described. The best-studied groups include plants and vertebrates (phylum Chordata), whereas poorly described groups include fungi, nematodes, and arthropods (see table). Species that live in the ocean and in soils remain poorly known. For most groups of species, there is a gradient of increasing diversity from the Poles to the Equator, and the vast majority of species are concentrated in the tropical and subtropical regions.

Human activities, such as direct harvesting of species, introduction of alien species, habitat destruction, and various forms of habitat degradation (including environmental pollution), have caused dramatic losses of biodiversity; current extinction rates are estimated to be 100–1000 times higher than prehuman extinction rates.

Some measure of biodiversity is responsible for providing essential functions and services that directly improve human life. For example, many medicines, clothing fibers, and industrial products and the vast majority of foods are derived from naturally occurring species. In addition, species are the key working parts of natural ecosystems. They are responsible for maintenance of the gaseous composition of the atmosphere, regulation of the global climate, generation and maintenance of soils, recycling of nutrients and waste products, and biological control of pest species. Ecosystems surely would not function if all species were lost, although it is unclear just how many species are necessary for an ecosystem to function properly.


The tendency in ecosystems, when undisturbed, to have a great variety of species forming a complex web of interactions. Human population pressure and resource consumption tend to reduce biodiversity dangerously; diverse communities are less subject to catastrophic disruption.


The range of living organisms (such as plant and animal species) in an environment during a specific time period.


the existence of a wide variety of plant and animal species in their natural environments, which is the aim of conservationists concerned about the indiscriminate destruction of rainforests and other habitats
References in periodicals archive ?
The Environmental Atlas of Abu Dhabi Emirate captures the remarkable story of Abu Dhabi's natural heritage in an innovative and compelling way," said Dr Jaber Al Jaberi, Deputy Secretary-General of EAD who launched the atlas.
The accompanying exhibition will also include artefacts and photographs from the collection of Protection of Natural Heritage and Biodiversity of Cyprus association president, George Constantinou.
In fact, we often work with developers and local and national government to work out how projects can reduce their negative effect on wildlife - making sure these remaining precious treasures of our natural heritage get the proper protection they deserve.
In addition to showcasing the captivating imagery and film, the website also contains a broad range of information and facts about the wildlife and habitats, creating a valuable resource and reference tool for anyone interested in the natural heritage of the UAE.
As part of the project, the pupils visited a number of local natural heritage and wildlife sites across the region including Maze Park Nature Reserve, Portrack Marsh Nature Reserve and South Burdon Community Forest.
We will build on our partnership with the Egyptian Center for Documentation of Cultural & Natural Heritage to support similar high-profile projects to achieve the desired results in terms of image quality and overall projector performance.
Unesco world heritage centre programme specialist Marc Patry, ministry's natural heritage adviser Dr Saeed Al Khuzaie, commission's environment and wildlife director general Dr Adel Al Zayani attended.
Other investments include a pounds 557,000 sum from the Rural Development Fund, which the project will use to investigate the rural and natural heritage of the valley.
The trail has been financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and celebrates the area's industrial and natural heritage.
Ohio's Natural Heritage, particularly because of its wide range, the quality of its authorship, and the uniqueness of its approach, continues to meet a long-standing need.
Tom French, assistant director of the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife and head of the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program, noted on the agency's Web site that in addition to the helicopter surveys, ground teams would canvass known eagle territories in all of the state's wildlife districts.
The reserves range from the valley of the Spey to the summit of Ben Macdui at over 4,000ft and will be managed by RSPB Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage.

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