The term biodiversity is defined as the variety of all living things including; different types of plants, animals, and microorganisms. As well as the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems they form. Biodiversity can be explored at three different levels; genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the number of different genes within a population. Species diversity refers to the different kinds of plants and animals in a specific area. Ecosystem diversity refers to the number of different ecological or environmental distinct areas. These different levels of biodiversity shall be explored further.
All forms of life on Earth contain genes, whether it’s plant, animal or micro-organism. Genetic diversity is the sum of genetic information contained in the genes of individual animals, plants, and microorganisms. Genetic diversity is the amount of genetic variation within the population of a species. Genetic diversity is considered important because the greater amount of genes there are in a population, the more likely that one of these genes will prove useful in the threat of a new disease or climate change. Subsequent inbreeding within a small population of a species may result in reduced fertility and increased susceptibility to disease.
The Cheetah species of big cat serves as a good example of the importance of genetic diversity. According to Andrea Becker around 10,000 years ago, the cheetah experienced a genetic bottleneck, where their population was reduced to very low numbers. The remaining animals became inbred, with the cheetahs varying genetically by only 1 percent, with most species varying by about 20 percent of their genes. This low genetic variability allows for debilitating, and even lethal genetic disorders to present more often than not. It also leads to lower reproductive success. According to Becker, even if the cheetahs survive as a species, it may be thousands of years before they fully recover their genetic heritage.
Species diversity is defined as the different flora and fauna and sustainable population level of each species within a particular climate or habitat zone. Species richness refers to the number of different species in an area, where species abundance refers to the number of individual per species. The composition of a species in a certain ecosystem is the result of evolution. Certain habitats such as rainforests and coral reefs contain many different species of plants, animals, and microorganisms. Other habitats or regions such as salt flats or deserts may contain less of a diversity.
Ecosystem diversity is harder to define than the other two levels of biodiversity. Ecosystem diversity refers to the variety of ecosystems in a certain location or place. An ecosystems diversity can only be evaluated on a local, regional basis rather than on a global scale. An ecosystem could cover any area such as; a coral reef, an oceanic depth or a small rock pool. An ecosystem is a community of organisms and their physical environment in interaction. An example of an ecosystems diversity would be the Great Barrier Reef located in Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet. It provides habitat for nearly 9,000 species of marine life including different corals and fish. Many of these plant and animal species develop a symbiosis relationship. A symbiosis is when two organisms live in a relationship in which at least one of them benefits. Coral reef ecosystems are teeming with the symbiotic relationship, an example of this can be found with the clownfish and sea anemone. The anemone’s tentacles are deadly to most fish, however, the clownfish has developed a coating of mucus which makes them immune to the sting of the anemone. The clown fish can, therefore, live among the anemone and obtain protection from predators. The clown fish also feeds on organisms that could harm the sea anemone and the clown fish’s fecal waste serve as nutrients to the sea anemone.
Andrea Becker, Examples of Genetic Diversity, Cited on 23th of May 2017
What Is Biodiversity, The Australian Museum’s website, Cited on 23th of May 2017
Professor David Bellwood, Biodiversity of the Great-Barrier-Reef, Cited on 23th of May 2017
Earth Science Symbiosis-in-the-coral-reef-ecosystem, Cited on 23th of May 2017