Diverse means different. Biodiversity is a scientific description for the situation on earth where there are animals from all around the world living in different ecosystems, such as in the water, in the air, under the earth or upon the earth. There is diversity in function, looks, and habitat. They live in different ways. There is diversity even among the members of a given species.
There are many different dimensions of biodiversity. Living beings can be classified as to their genetic makeup. Their habitat and ecosystem will define the diversity also. Groups with shared characteristics will be named under one group, but within that group are many diverse types. Another feature of biodiversity is how these dimensions change over time. One must look at all these aspects to investigate the relationship between changes in biodiversity and changes in ecosystems.
Biodiversity includes all ecosystems whether they are unmanaged or managed systems. Unmanaged systems would be open prairies or forests. A managed system would be a farm or city park. Managed or cultivated areas account for twenty-four percent of the earth's land surface. It is important to study and maintain the biodiversity of these managed systems which are controlled by humans, not nature.
Although it is difficult to really measure biodiversity, humans can still understand where it exists, how it is changing with time, the reasons for the changes and the consequences of these changes for the ecosystem and humans involved They can then determine the means to counteract some of these changes.
In order to assess all the trends of biodiversity around the world, one must study traits of organisms over time, including a number of species, types of plants and how their interactions affect their function. For example, a bee's ability or method of pollination might change over time. In addition, it is important to know how the interactions affect ecosystems. At this point in time, it is difficult to measure changes in biodiversity in species because accurate data is not available.
No one indicator can measure all the dimensions of biodiversity. The average global temperature and carbon dioxide levels are two indicators which are used to measure the anthropogenic effects on the world's climate. Anthropogenic refers to the influence of human beings on nature. In other words, scientists would like to measure how much harm is being done to the world's ecosystems and organisms by humans.
What scientists know most accurately about is the taxonomic diversity. Taxonomy refers to classifying living organisms into species and types. There is a lack of scientific knowledge, however, regarding information about species in tropical ecosystems, marine and freshwater organisms, invertebrates, microorganisms and organisms which live under the earth. Because of this lack of knowledge, the estimates of the total number of species in the world are quite varied, from five to thirty million.
There are some ways that scientists can use to make good guesses about aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Aquatic ecosystems involve organisms which live in the water. Terrestrial ecosystems involve organisms which live on the land. They have fairly accurate data about species which live in the north temperate regions, lands north of tropical areas and south of very cold regions. Most macroorganisms (those which can be seen by the naked eye) live in small clusters around the world and have a high level of diversity in a small area. Microorganisms have much more global diversity because of their large population, lower levels of clustering and ranges which are greater.
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