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What is Biodiversity?

Blackbutt Plateau Source: D Milledge

Biodiversity, a shortening of the term “biological diversity”, and is in its simplest definition the variety of life. Biodiversity encompasses all the variety of life from the genetic to ecosystem level including the interactions between genes, individual organisms, species and the physical environment.

Biodiversity is often considered at three levels:

  • Genetic diversity - the variety of genetic information contained in all individuals of plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. Genes are the basic building blocks of life. Each individual has their own specific genetic makeup. Different populations of the same species have different genetic compositions. Maintaining genetic variation assists species to survive changes in their environment.
  • Species diversity – the variety of species within a habitat or region and is usually measured by the number of species in a particular place at a given time.
  • Ecosystem diversity – the variety of ecosystems in a given place. An ecosystem is an ecological unit composed of plant, animal, fungal and micro-organism communities and their interactions with their surrounding environment.

The conservation of biodiversity requires consideration of all of these levels of diversity and complexities of interactions between them.