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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 ?
Natural heritage in Syria is being damaged, and in some cases lost forever, as a result of the war.
The trust worked with Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside councils and Cestria Community Housing to design the WildGround training programme which aims to plug a skills gap within the natural heritage sector.
The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted in 1972.
We have not kept any Regional Restrictions for Nomination in this Category and therefore made this category as a Global Category, where anyone can send the Nomination or Recommendations, as it will be our pleasure for all Keralites to honor such people from anywhere across the globe, who have worked hard to preserve our natural heritage and wildlife", quoted by Mr Binu Kumar TN, (Business Head, South India Operations, Eixil Group).
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.
Our great national cathedrals and monuments are protected for the future so our rich natural heritage should be too.
The initiative aims to promote the UAE's natural heritage, which embraces a stunning variety of habitats, supporting a vast array of species, each superbly adapted to its particular environment.
Green TV, co-ordinated by Tees Valley Arts, aims to raise awareness and increase public access to areas of outstanding natural heritage in Teesside.
Epson, the global market leader in projectors, has announced a successful collaboration with the award-winning Egyptian Center for Documentation of Cultural & Natural Heritage (CULTNAT) in implementing a state-of-the-art IT solution to promote Egypt's rich cultural and natural heritage.
The award-winning Egyptian Center for Documentation of Cultural & Natural Heritage (Cultnat) is using new multimedia projectors from Epson to promote Egypt's rich cultural and natural heritage.
Central Asia with its unique historical background and numerous cultural and natural heritage sites remains one of the most under-represented regions on the World Heritage List.

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