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Introduction to Biodiversity And Its Extinction

The term BIODIVERSITY was first coined by the entomologist E.O. Wilson in 1986
A neologism from biology and diversity, it refers to the variety of life on the planet. There is no
single standard definition for biodiversity.
Biodiversity may be defined as the totality of different organisms, the genes they contain, and the
ecosystems they form.
The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as the variability among living
organisms from all sources including, among other things, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic
ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within
species, between species and of ecosystems.
Biodiversity may be considered at three levels: genetic diversity, species diversity, and
ecosystem diversity
A species may be defined as a group of organisms which are able to interbreed freely under
natural conditions to produce viable offspring
Species diversity may be measured using the following characteristics:
Species richness - the number of species within a particular sample area.
Species evenness this refers to the evenness in number of individuals of each species in the area
Therefore, species diversity can be assessed in terms of the number of species or the range of
different types of species an area contains


In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon),
normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last
individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before
this point.

Types of extinction
Local extinction, or extirpation, is the condition of a species (or other taxon) which ceases to
exist in the chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere. Local extinctions
are contrasted with global extinctions. Most local extinctions involve losses of one or more
populations of species.

Ecological extinction is defined as the reduction of a species to such low abundance that,
although it is still present in the community, it no longer interacts significantly with other
Ecological extinction stands out because it is the interaction ecology of a species that is
important for conservation work. They state that unless the species interacts significantly with
other species in the community (e.g. it is an important predator, competitor, symbiont, mutualist,
or prey) its loss may result in little to no adjustment to the abundance and population structure of
other species
In biological extinction, a species is no longer found anywhere on the earth. Biological
extinction is forever and represents a loss of natural capital

Below a certain density threshold, flying
foxes are no longer effective seed disperser
Salt water crocodile extinct from Java
Gone Forever: Extinct species
Endangered and Threatened Species Are Ecological Smoke Alarms

Biologists classify species heading toward biological extinction as either endangered or
threatened. An endangered species has so few individual survivors that the species could soon
become extinct over all or most of its natural range (the area where it is normally found). A
threatened species (also known as a vulnerable species) is still abundant in its natural range but,
because of declining numbers, is likely to become endangered in the near future Some species
have characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to ecological and biological extinction
As biodiversity expert Edward O. Wilson puts it, The first animal species to go are the big, the
slow, the tasty, and those with valuable parts such as tusks and skins. Some species also have
behavioral characteristics that make them prone to extinction. The passenger pigeon and the
Carolina parakeet nested in large flocks that made them easy to kill. Key deer are nicotine
addicts that get killed by cars because they forage for cigarette butts along highways. According
to the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the current rate of species extinction is at least
100 times the rate that existed before modern humans appeared about 150,000 years ago
In due time, all species will become extinct. Evidence indicates that before humans came on the
scene, the earths estimated natural or background extinction rate was roughly one extinct
species per million species per year. This amounted to an extinction rate of about 0.0001% per
year. Using the methods just described, biologists conservatively estimate that the current rate of
extinction is at least 100 times the background extinction rate, or 0.01% a year. Conservation
biologists project that the extinction rate caused by habitat loss, global warming, and other
effects of human activities will increase to 1,00010,000 times the natural rate during this
century. This amounts to an annual extinction rate of 0.1% to 1% per year.

Endangered Plants and Animals

So what is all the fuss about? If all species eventually become extinct, why should we worry
about losing a few more because of our activities? Does it matter that the bird species, the
remaining orangutans, or some unknown plant or insect in a tropical forest becomes prematurely
extinct because of human activities? New species eventually evolve to take the places of those
lost through mass extinctions. So why should we care if we speed up the extinction rate over the
next 50100 years? The answer is: because it will take 510 million years for natural speciation
to rebuild the biodiversity we are likely to destroy during your lifetime. Conservation biologists
and ecologists say we should act now to prevent premature extinction of species because of their
instrumental valuetheir usefulness to us in the form of their economic and ecological services.
For example, some plant species provide economic value in the form of food crops, fuel wood
and lumber, paper, and medicine. About one of every seven of the worlds plant species is in
danger of becoming extinct, and this percentage is expected to increase. Another instrumental
value is the genetic information that allows species to adapt to changing environmental
conditions and to form genetically modified species. Genetic engineers use this information to
produce new types of crops and foods. Scientists warn of the alarming loss of genetic diversity in
the small number of crop plants that feed the world and from the premature extinction of wild
plants whose genes are used by genetic engineers to develop improved crop varieties. One of the
tragedies of the current extinction crisis is that we do not know what we are losing, because no
one has ever seen or named many of the species that are becoming extinct. To make matters
worse, we have no clue about their genetic makeup and their roles in sustaining ecosystems and
in improving human welfare.
Many people believe that each wild species has intrinsic or existence value based on its inherent
right to exist and play its ecological roles, regardless of its usefulness to us. According to this
view, we have an ethical responsibility to protect species from becoming prematurely extinct as a
result of human activities, and to prevent the degradation of the worlds ecosystems and its
overall biodiversity. Each species in the encyclopedia of life is a masterpiece of evolution that
possesses a unique combination of genetic traits that adapt it to its natural environment larger
organisms and recycle the nutrients needed by all life.

How Do Humans Accelerate Species Extinction

Figure shows the basic and secondary causes of the endangerment and premature extinction of
wild species.
Conservation biologists
summarize the most
important secondary
causes of premature
extinction using the
HIPPCO: Habitat
destruction, degradation,
and fragmentation;
Invasive (nonnative)
species; Population
growth (too many people consuming
too many resources); Pollution; Climate change; and Overexploitation According to biodiversity
researchers, the greatest threat to wild species is habitat, degradation, and fragmentation. The
bird species shown in are just a few of many species whose extinctions are being hastened by
loss and fragmentation of habitat from forest clearing and degradation. Deforestation in tropical
areas is the greatest eliminator of species, followed by the destruction and degradation of coral
reefs and wetlands, plowing of grasslands, and pollution of streams, lakes, and oceans. Globally,
temperate biomes have been affected more by habitat loss and degradation than have tropical
biomes because of widespread economic development in temperate countries over the past 200
years. Such development is now shifting to many tropical biomes. Island speciesmany of them
endemic species found nowhere else on earthare especially vulnerable to extinction when their
habitats are destroyed, degraded, or fragmented. This is why the collection of islands that makes
up the state of Hawaiiwith 63% of its species at riskis Americas extinction capital. Any
habitat surrounded by a different one can be viewed as a habitat island for most of the species
that live there. Most national parks and other nature reserves are habitat islands, many of them
encircled by potentially damaging logging, mining, energy extraction, and industrial activities.
Habitat fragmentation-by roads, logging, agriculture, and urban developmentoccurs when a
large, continuous area of habitat is reduced in area and divided into smaller, more scattered, and
isolated patches or habitat islands (Figure 8-7, p. 156). This process can block migration routes
and divide populations of a species into smaller and more isolated groups that are more
vulnerable to predators, competitor species, disease, and catastrophic events such as storms and
fires. Also, it creates barriers that limit the abilities of some species to disperse and colonize new
areas, to get enough to eat, and to find mates.

Fragmentation and destruction of Great Ape habitat in
Central Africa
Bengal Tiger Habitat loss

Habitat fragmented by numerous roads
Population Growth, Overconsumption, Pollution, and Climate Change Can
Cause Species Extinctions

Past and projected human population growth and excessive and wasteful consumption of
resources have caused premature extinction of some species. During the 1950s and 1960s,
populations of fish eating birds such as ospreys, brown pelicans, and bald eagles plummeted. A
chemical derived from the pesticide DDT, when biologically magnified in food webs, made the
birds eggshells so fragile they could not reproduce successfully. Also hard hit were such
predatory birds as the prairie falcon, sparrow hawk, and peregrine falcon, which help control
rabbits, ground squirrels, and other crop eaters.

In the past, most natural climate changes have taken place over long periodsgiving species
more time to adapt, move, or evolve to cope with the change. Considerable evidence indicates
that human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation are likely to bring
about rapid climate change during this century.

A 2004 study by Conservation International predicted that climate change could drive more than
a quarter of all land animals and plants to extinction by the end of this century. Some scientific
studies indicate that polar bears and 10 of the worlds 17 penguin species are threatened because
of higher temperatures and melting sea ice in their polar habitats.

Polar bear threatened because of higher temperatures
Effects of dumping
Effect of DDT
Illegally Killing or Capturing and Selling Wild Species Can Threaten Them
Some protected species are illegally killed for their valuable parts or are sold live to collectors.
Such poaching endangers many larger animals and some rare plants. This illegal trade in wildlife
earns smugglers $610 billion a yearan average of $685,000 to $1.1 billion a minute.
Organized crime has moved into illegal wildlife smuggling because of the huge profits
involvedsurpassed only by the illegal international trade in drugs and weapons. At least two
thirds of all live animals smuggled around the world die in transit.

Poor people in areas rich with wildlife may kill or trap such species in an effort to make enough
money to survive and feed their families. Professional poachers also prey on these species. To
poachers, a live mountain gorilla is worth $150,000, a giant panda pelt $100,000, a chimpanzee

In 1950, an estimated 100,000 tigers roamed free in the world. Despite international protection,
only about 5,000 tigers remain in the wild, on an ever-shrinking range (Figure 9-8, top left).
Today all five tiger subspecies are endangered. The Bengal or Indian tiger is at risk because a
coat made from its fur can sell for as much as $100,000 in Tokyo. Wealthy collectors have paid
$10,000 or more for a Bengal tiger rug. With the body parts of a single tiger worth as much as
$25,000, it is not surprising that illegal hunting has skyrocketed. According to a 2006 study by
tiger experts, without emergency action to curtail poaching and preserve their habitat, few if any
tigers may be left in the wild within 20 years.

The global legal and illegal trade in wild species for use as pets is also a huge and very profitable
business. Many owners of wild pets do not know that for every live animal captured and sold in
the pet market, an estimated 50 others are killed or die in transit. Most people are also unaware
that some imported exotic animals can carry dangerous infectious diseases.

Illegal Fur Trade Poaching Rhinos for horns
International Treaties Help Protect Endangered Species
Several international treaties and conventions help protect endangered or threatened wild
species. One of the most far reaching is the 1975 Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES). This treaty, now signed by 152 countries, lists (1) some 900
species that cannot be commercially traded as live specimens or wildlife products because they
are in danger of extinction and (2) restricts international trade of 29,000 other species because
they are at risk of becoming threatened. CITES has helped reduce international trade in many
threatened animals, including elephants, crocodiles, and chimpanzees.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBO), ratified by 172 countries, legally binds signatory
governments to reversing the global decline of biological diversity.

National Laws Help Protect Endangered Species
In the Constitution of India it is clearly stated that it is the duty of the state to protect and
improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. The various
acts and laws implemented are:
The Wildlife Protection Act, Rules (1972) provides for the protection of birds and animals and
for all matters that are connected to it whether it be their habitat or the waterhole or the forests
that sustain them.
The Forest (Conservation) Act and Rules (1981) provides for the protection of and the
conservation of the forests.
The Biological Diversity Act (2002) is an act to provide for the conservation of biological
diversity, sustainable use of its components, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising
out of the use of biological resources and knowledge associated with it

Wildlife Refuges and Other Protected Areas Help Protect Endangered Species
A wildlife refuge, also called a wildlife sanctuary, is a naturally occurring sanctuary, such as
an island, that provides protection for species from hunting, predation or competition, it is
a protected area, a geographic territory within which wildlife is protected. Such wildlife refuges
are generally officially designated territories. The Wildlife Refuge has as its objective protecting
natural environments where conditions are assured for the existence and reproduction of species
or communities of the local flora and the resident or migratory fauna. It can be constituted by
private areas, as long as it is possible to make compatible the objectives of the unit with the
utilization of the land of the natural resources of the location by the landowners.
India has over 442 animal sanctuaries, referred to as Wildlife sanctuaries. Among these, the
41 Tiger Reserves are governed by Project Tiger, and are of special significance in the
conservation of the tiger. Some wildlife sanctuaries are specifically named Bird Sanctuary,
e.g. Keoladeo National Park before attaining National Park status. Many National Parks were
initially Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Wildlife sanctuaries are of national importance to conservation, usually due to some flagship
faunal species, is named National Wildlife Sanctuary, like the tri-state National Chambal
(Gharial) Wildlife Sanctuary for conserving the gharial.

Major Wildlife Sanctuaries in India
Gene Banks Can Help Protect Endangered Species
Gene banks are a type of biorepository which preserve genetic material. In plants, this could be
by freezing cuts from the plant, or stocking the seeds. In animals, this is the freezing
of sperm and eggs in zoological freezers until further need. With corals, fragments are taken
which are stored in water tanks under controlled conditions.
In plants, it is possible to unfreeze the material and propagate it, however, in animals, a living
female is required for artificial insemination. While it is often difficult to utilize frozen animal
sperm and eggs, there are many examples of it being done successfully.
In an effort to conserve agricultural biodiversity, gene banks are used to store and conserve the
plant genetic resources of major crop plants and their crop wild relatives. There are many gene
banks all over the world, with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault being probably the most famous
Types of Gene Banks
The seed bank preserves dried seeds by storing them at a very low temperature. Spores and
pteridophytes are conserved in seed banks.
In tissue bank buds, protocorm and meristematic cells are conserved through particular light and
temperature arrangements in a nutrient medium.
In Cryobank, a seed or embryo is preserved at very low temperatures. It is usually preserved in
liquid nitrogen at -196C.
In pollen banks pollen grains are stored. We can make plants which are facing extinction in the
present world
The Government of India has established National Gene Banks for Microbes, Blue Green Algae,
Marine Cyanobacteria, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Drosophila, Filarial parasites, Seeds for
food and agricultural crops etc.

Botanical Gardens and Wildlife Farms Can Help Protect Endangered Species
The conservation of plant diversity is critical for sustainable development and botanic gardens
are playing a key role as centers of conservation action. Gardens maintain a wide range of
species as living plants, in seed banks and tissue culture; we estimate that there are probably over
80,000 species in cultivation in botanic gardens of the current estimate of 270,000 known plant
species in the world.
Botanic gardens also have important conservation collections particularly of rare and threatened
plants. According to the IUCN Red List of threatened plants 34,000 taxa are considered globally
threatened with extinction. Currently, over 10,000 threatened species, approximately a third, are
in botanic garden cultivation. These plants contribute to species recovery programmes and
provide long-term backup collections.
Botanic gardens also manage protected areas within and outside their garden to promote
biodiversity. These ecosystems such as forests, bush land, catchment areas, and coastal areas
provide essential services from the generation of water, cycling of nutrients and replenishment of
soil fertility and prevention of erosion which are vital to the livelihoods of all people.
Botanic gardens work with their local communities and visitors on education and environmental
conservation programmes which promote environmental awareness and sustainable living.
Globally, botanic gardens receive more than 200 million visitors a year.
Wildlife farming refers to the raising of non-domesticated animals in an agricultural setting to
produce whole living animals (to keep as pets) and commodities such as food, traditional
medicine and fiber.

Crocodile Farming: Unregulated hunting of crocodiles, mainly for their skins but also for meat,
led to major declines in the populations of all the three species on the African continent and the
introduction of trade controls under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Ostrich Farming: Ostriches are farmed in many areas in southern Africa for their skin which is
used in making luxury, high fashion leather goods and also for their high quality low fat and low
cholesterol red meat
Attempts at wild animal domestication have not been restricted to vertebrate species; invertebrate
species including snails and caterpillars have also been the subject of domestication.

Wildlife Farming

Botanical Gardens
Zoos and Aquariums Can Help Protect Some Species
Zoos, aquariums, game parks, and animal research centers are being used to preserve some
individuals of critically endangered animal species, with the long-term goal of reintroducing the
species into protected wild habitats.
Two techniques for preserving endangered terrestrial species are egg pulling and captive
breeding. Egg pulling involves collecting wild eggs laid by critically endangered bird species and
then hatching them in zoos or research centers. In captive breeding, some or all of the wild
individuals of a critically endangered species are captured for breeding in captivity, with the aim
of reintroducing the offspring into the wild. Captive breeding has been used to save the peregrine
falcon and the California condor.
Lack of space and money limits efforts to maintain breeding populations of endangered animal
species in zoos and research centers. The captive population of each species must number 100
500 individuals to avoid extinction through accidents, disease, or loss of genetic diversity
through inbreeding. Recent genetic research indicates that 10,000 or more individuals are needed
for an endangered species to maintain its capacity for biological evolution.
Public aquariums that exhibit unusual and attractive fishes and some marine animals such as
seals and dolphins also help educate the public about the need to protect such species. But public
aquariums have not served as effective gene banks for endangered marine species, especially
marine mammals that need large volumes of water.

Zoo Aquarium