What is Biodiversity?

Did you know that scientists have identified more than 1.7
million species living on Earth? There are insects, plants, fish, reptiles,
amphibians, birds, and mammals living on land, in the air, and in the
water. There are also millions of microorganisms that live all around us
that you can’t see. Scientists believe that there are millions more living
on Earth that have not been discovered yet. Biodiversity is a simple
idea. It is the enormous variety of life on Earth, which includes all of
the plants, animals, fungi, and other living things in an area.
Biodiversity can also be the variety of ecosystems where
organisms live. An ecosystem is a community of living things and their
physical environment. Examples are coral reefs, wetlands, deserts and
forests. Animals, plants and other living things live in different
ecosystems. Each place has its own characteristics and climate. The
climate affects its biodiversity and the variety of species, genes and
ecosystems make up Earth’s biodiversity.
Scientists classify
Examples are horses,
organisms have genes.
the organism looks like
genes.

similar living things in groups called species.
ladybugs and roses. The cells of all living
Genes hold the instructions that decide what
and how it works. Every species has different

Threats to Biodiversity
Over the past 100 years, biodiversity has decreased significantly.
Many plants and animals have become extinct. A species dies out
while a new species develops to take it’s place. Scientists say that
plant and animal species are becoming extinct at 1,000 times the
natural rate. Many believe that the actions of humans have changed
the natural process of extinction.
Today, plants and animals face many threats, including habitat
loss, introduced species, climate change and pollution. Introduced
species are plants and animals brought from their natural habitat to
live in a new habitat. Examples of introduces species are rabbits in
Australia and the European starling in North America. If an introduced
species survives, it can become a serious threat to biodiversity. They
may overgrow and prevents other plants from growing.

Overconsumption of Resources happen when people use animals
or plants faster than they can reproduce naturally. Ocean habitats are
especially at risk from over consumption. As fish species are lost, it
affects the entire ocean ecosystem. Pollution is also a threat to
biodiversity. Bug spray, lawn fertilizers and other chemicals make our
lives easier but when toxic chemicals from industry, farming or
neighborhoods leak into the environment, they can kill of damage
plants and animals.
Throughout history, the Earth’s climate has
When climate changes rapidly, plants and animals
adapt. Today, warmer ocean temperatures threaten
reefs. When water temperature rises, the algae living
This creates an area of dead, bleached coral reefs.

slowly changed.
are less able to
the world’s coral
in coral reefs die.

There are many species around the world that are at risk for
extinction:




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1

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in
in
in
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8
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mammals
birds
amphibians
plants
corals