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Good UN overview on biodiversity (8 min)
Bozeman video (7 min)




BIODIVERSITY or biological diversity:

Variety of life on the planet (richness of the natural world now in

decline underpins sustainable life on earth).

Probably about 1.8 million species known to exist. May represent only
10% of the actual total number of species. New species being
discovered all the time!

May be defined as the totality of different organisms, the genes they

contain, and the ecosystems they form THUS considered at three
levels: genetic diversity, species diversity and ecosystem

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.

N.B. Caribbean = one of the top 5 hotspots for marine and terrestrial
biodiversity, having many endemic species! In Jamaica alone there are
>200 endangered species including the crocodile, frogs, the black
grouper (fish), brown pelican, corals, swallowtail butterfly, iguana,
manatee etc. threatened by factors such as population increase,
mining, hunting and predation.

Main components:

Species diversity variety of living species within a geographic area.

Measure of both number of individuals of each species and number of
different species in a community. Some ecosystems may have a dominant
species (e.g. mangroves in wetlands area studied).
Takes into account:
Species richness - the number of species within a particular sample
area (more species present, richer the habitat)

(in combination with)

Species evenness/abundance - the evenness in number of

individuals of each species in the area (records abundance of
individuals in each species)

So: Two areas, 1 & 2, may have same species richness (with 2 species, a and
b) but area 1 has 46 of species a and 48 of species b, whereas area 2 has 90
of species a and only 4 of species b. So you may see mainly species a (due to
larger number) in area 2 and deduce that it is less diverse than area 1. More
useful therefore to take species evenness in conjunction with species
richness as an indicator of species diversity, because it includes
rarer species.

Species diversity index can be calculated thus:

N = total number of individuals of all species found
n = total number of individuals belonging to a particular species

N (N1)

High value indicates a diverse habitat. In a habitat with a low value (thus
a few species dominating), any small change in the environment that affects
one of those species could damage the entire habitat.

May also consider the relative abundance of species of various

categories (such as size classes, trophic levels, taxonomic groups).

N.B. There may be equal richness but different evenness. e.g. island A with 3
species of lizards is less diverse than island B with 2 species of lizard and 1
of birds.

Therefore, species diversity can be assessed in terms of the number of

species or the range of different types of species an area contains.

The species level = most appropriate for considering the diversity between
organisms, largely because:

It is easier to work with species are quite easy to identify by eye in

the field, whereas genetic diversity requires laboratories, time &
resources to identify, while ecosystem diversity needs many complex
measurements to be taken over a long period of time.
Species are easier to conceptualize. Theyre well known, well
researched, distinct units of diversity.

N.B. Each species often plays a particular "role" in the ecosystem (occupies a
particular niche), so the addition or loss of single species may impact the
system as a whole; a change in the number of species in an ecosystem is a
readily obtainable and easily understandable measure of how healthy the
ecosystem is.

Species richness is concentrated in equatorial regions; this relates to factors

like temperature, rainfall patterns & light intensity. The greater the variety
in a physical environment, the greater the diversity is likely to be.

Species diversity does seem to contribute to the stability of an

ecosystem, making it more able to resist changes. It is loss of dominant
species that is usually most catastrophic; this can be brought about by
hurricanes (mangrove destruction), coastal development (destroying
seagrass communities) and deforestation, etc.


Data collection is often time-consuming & can be costly

Data may not reveal ecological health of a particular species

Does not indicate genetic diversity of a species

Information is incomplete. Many species are not yet recorded/left to be

discovered! e.g. only 5% of microorganisms are estimated to have
been described; larger, more appealing and more significant species,
as well as those that are relatively easy to study and locate, tend to be
the focus of studies.

Genetic diversity refers to the differences in genetic make-up

between distinct species, as well as the genetic variations within a
single species (may examine with one population or compare several
populations). Variety present at level of genes.
Least visible & perhaps least studied level of biological diversity.
Measured with DNA-based techniques.
Introduced by recombination, gene & chromosome mutation.
Shaped by evolutionary forces/natural selection (alters frequency of
genes within a pool).
May differ by alleles (different variants of same gene), by entire genes
(which determine traits, such as ability to metabolize a particular
substance), or by units larger than genes such as chromosomal

Important as it represents the raw material for evolution & adaptation.

More genetic diversity in a species or population means a greater ability for
some of the individuals in it to adapt to changes in the environment. Less
diversity leads to uniformity problematic as it is unlikely that any individual
in the population would be able to adapt to changing conditions.

N.B. Clearing natural vegetation reduces the sizes of natural habitats &
population sizes of any resident species. This reduces the gene pool for the
species, reducing the genetic variation & the ability of the species to evolve.
Modern agricultural practices often use monocultures (large cultures of
genetically identical plants) and selective breeding. Advantageous when it
comes to growing & harvesting crops (e.g. all the plants can be harvested at
once), but problematic when a disease/parasite attacks the field, as every
plant in the field will be susceptible. Also unable to cope with changing
conditions. Genetic erosion has occurred.

Within species, genetic diversity often increases with environmental

variability. If the environment often changes, different genes will have an
advantage at different times or places. In this situation, genetic diversity
stays high because many genes are in the population at any given time. If
the environment didn't change, then the small number of genes that had an
advantage in that unchanging environment would spread at the cost of the
others, causing a drop in genetic diversity. N.B. the maintenance of varied
gene pools decreases the likelihood of species extinction.

Ecosystem diversity encompasses the broad differences between

ecosystem types, and the diversity of habitats and ecosystem
processes within each ecosystem type. "Ecosystem" represents all levels
greater than species: associations, communities, ecosystems, and the like.
Refers to the range of different habitats found within a particular area.
More ecosystems within an area usually increases the richness of
species present as wide variety of ecological niches are provided.
Deals with species distributions and community patterns, the role and
function of key species, and combines species functions and

N.B. This is the least-understood level due to the complexity of the

interactions. Trying to understand all the species in an ecosystem and how
they affect each other and their surroundings while at the same time being
affected themselves, is extremely complex.

Difficulties in Examining Ecosystem Diversity:

The enormous range of terrestrial & aquatic environments on earth has
been classified into different ecosystems. Major habitat types include
tropical rain forests, grasslands, wetlands, coral reefs and mangroves.
Measuring changes in the extent of ecosystems is difficult, because
there is no globally agreed classification of ecosystems.

Transitions between them are usually not very sharp. This lack of sharp
boundaries is known as "open communities" (as opposed to "closed
communities," which would have sudden transitions) and makes
studying ecosystems difficult.
Species contained within a given ecosystem vary over time.

The classification of the earths immense variety of ecosystems into a

manageable system is a major scientific challenge.


Biodiversity is on the decline
Biodiversity is constantly under threat largely from man!
Environmental degradation is occurring on a global scale.

Threats to biodiversity include:

habitat loss, disruption & fragmentation (land being converted for use
in agriculture/industry/transport/buildings as well as draining of
wetlands, deforestation, flooding of valleys etc.)
introduction of species into new habitats (invasive alien species)
pesticide/fertiliser use
increased pollution
climate change
overexploitation & non-sustainable extraction of resources (e.g.
hunting, over-fishing)
increase in human population
killing for protection (think vectors of disease) or sport or to reduce
competition for crops (pests)

Approx. 17,500 species per year are lost. Extinction rate is estimated to be
1000 times higher than what would be expected minus human exploitation.


Biodiversity has INTRINSIC VALUE. It is a fundamental part of Earths life

support system. Our well-being depends on a fully functional biosphere
that is in balance. Loss of biodiversity may lead to adverse consequences
such as climate change.

The maintenance of biodiversity is important for the following


A. Ecological stability

Each species performs a particular function within an ecosystem (think

niches!), e.g. producers capture & store energy, producing organic material;
decomposers break down organic material & help cycle nutrients throughout
ecosystem; other species control erosion or pests, fix atmospheric gases, or
help regulate climate. All species contribute to ecosystem function in a
small but significant way. Therefore, the loss of a species from an
ecosystem will steadily damage its ability to function.

Biodiversity is required for the efficient provision of ECOSYSTEM SERVICES,

vital to human survival, yet so often taken for granted:

Protection of water resources

Air & water purification (e.g. natural vegetation helps to maintain

hydrological cycles & stabilizes run-off, prevent dry-land salinity &
regulate underground water tables)

Soil formation & protection (fertility maintained; erosion prevented)

Nutrient storage & cycling

Organic waste decomposition and pollution breakdown & absorption

Climate stability

Reduced carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere

Recovery from unpredictable events

Allows for pollination of flowers & crops

Supplies food to entire ecosystem (think energy flow!)

Some research suggests that the more diverse an ecosystem the better
it can withstand environmental stress and the more productive it is.
With a range of pathways available for primary production and ecological
processes such as nutrient recycling, there are always alternatives
available so an ecosystem could continue to function in spite of damage
done to an entity. The loss of a species often decreases the ability of the
system to maintain itself or to recover in case of damage. But very complex
mechanisms underlie these ecological effects.

Diversity leads to INCREASED RESISTANCE & thus readier recovery from

stresses like drought.

B. Economic benefits to humans (utilitarian reasons)

Think about the usefulness or economic value of biodiversity both direct &
indirect. It is a reservoir of resources to be drawn upon for the
manufacture of food, pharmaceutical & cosmetic products (so erosion of
biodiversity may well lead to resource shortages).

Important economic commodities that biodiversity supplies us with

FOOD: Think about agriculture, animal-rearing, & fisheries (with
maintenance of genetic diversity of wild strains so as to permit
introduction of more viable/beneficial genes into crop plants for greater
hardiness). N.B. more than 90% of our food comes from just 30 types
of plant. Consider also the increased demand for healthy organic
foods. Moreover, some species are pollinators (indirect economic
value) if lacking, harvests may fail! Beneficial predators are also
useful in pest control (important for farmers).

MEDICATION: Many drugs derived from biological sources. Wild plant

species have long been used for medicinal purposes, e.g. quinine (used
to treat malaria) from the bark of the Cinchona tree; digitalis from the
Foxglove plant (for chronic heart trouble), antibiotics from fungi &
bacteria, morphine from the Poppy plant (for pain relief). MANY more
possibilities exist in the search for cures for known & emerging
diseases. (Think about Dr Henry Lowes work!). Studies of animals
have led to greater understanding of human diseases & more effective

INDUSTRY: Biological resources provide wide range of industrial

materials such as fibres for clothing, building materials & fuels, and
facilitate mining, dams & power plant construction. Various products
derived from plants include: oils, lubricants, perfumes, fragrances,
dyes, paper, waxes, rubber, latexes, resins, poisons & cork. Supplies
from animal origin include wool, silk, fur, leather, lubricants, waxes.
Animals also used as mode of transportation while microorganisms are
used in various industries (think brewing!). Moreover, evolution & the
natural world provides answers for many technological problems faced
e.g. best shape for a wing & ideas for new inventions!

TOURISM & RECREATION: Biodiversity = source of economical wealth.

Ecotourism is a growing industry, of increasing importance in
Caribbean. Wild nature = source of beauty & joy for many. Often
provides inspiration for art (literature, painting, film etc.), promotes
bird-watching & natural history studies.

Calculations put a figure on economic value of natural ecosystems in

1997 at USD$33 x 1012

Much more remains to be discovered! Bioprospecting is the search for

previously unknown useful chemicals.
N.B. Indirect economic value can also be placed on various ecological
services provided e.g. water quality, soil structure, etc.

C. Ethical reasons

Every species has a value in its own right as such, every living thing has an
intrinsic right to survive. Humans have a moral duty, an ethical responsibility,
to look after the environment & other living organisms. If we believe that all
species have a right to exist, we cannot cause voluntarily their extinction nor
diminish their quality of life by degrading their environment. No justification
of human benefit is needed!

Man as the custodian we have a moral responsibility to pass on a world in

good condition to future generations (N.B. concept that ALL life has value is
a part of many religious traditions). Man is obliged to reverse the decline if he
is the cause of it!

D. Aesthetic reasons

Conserving wildlife for the pleasure it provides. We like beauty! We get joy
and a sense of well-being as we witness the infinite variety of nature. Contact
with nature provides for our physical, intellectual & emotional health. Nature
permeates art, music, literature, and influences our recreational pursuits.

SO when thinking about why we should conserve, or the value of

biodiversity, remember that the value can be categorized in various ways:

INTRINSIC or ETHICAL. Based on a respect for life (each species has

a right to exist; humans are a part of nature), reverence for the living
world, a sense of the intrinsic value in nature, the concept of divine
creation. People must assume responsibility for actions.

ANTHROPOCENTRIC VALUE (suggesting that humans are the most

significant entity on earth) comprised of DIRECT & INDIRECT
ECONOMIC BENEFIT to humans. We depend on biodiversity for
our survival.

o DIRECT VALUE (a cost can be assigned) this a wide range of

goods, medicines, food provision, fuels, ecotourism (thus a
source of income), many useful products e.g. thermophilic
enzyme used in PCR is mass-produced by GM bacteria.

o INDIRECT VALUE (have economic value without being

consumed per se; incidental benefits conferred to humans,
harder to quantify) this encompasses all the ecosystem
services provided climate regulation, air composition, removal
of organic wastes, water purification, soil formation & fertility,
nutrient cycling, protection from erosion, etc. Network of
relationships helps to maintain cycles any loss may disrupt in
unpredictable ways. You could also include under this heading
aesthetic values and the recreational use of the natural
environment for activities such as hiking and SCUBA diving.
Educational & scientific knowledge also has tremendous non-
consumptive value. There are unknown & unexplored potentials
of biodiversity!

Biodiversity seems to be essential to maintain ecological balance and

stability as species are hugely inter-dependent. All species contribute
to ecosystem functioning.

Species diversity index often related to abiotic harshness of

environment (diversity usually greater in habitats with less demanding
abiotic conditions)

Often assume the greater the species diversity, the greater the
ecological stability.

Ecological stability refers to: RESISTANCE (ability of ecosystem to resist

change after a disturbance) and RESILIENCE (ability of ecosystem to
return to its original state, or recover, after having been changed).

ONE VIEW is that more complex (biodiverse) communities lead

to greater stability, aka high biodiversity promotes stability.

Accepted view has been: more complex, more stable ecosystem as

have many biotic interactions that buffer the ecosystem against

There are more alternative links between difference species (more

interactions) so a change in population numbers of one has less of an
impact on the density of others.

Moreover, there tends to be several species carrying out the same

function e.g. pollination, photosynthesis, decomposition so if one is
eliminated, another takes over (functional redundancy!).

Higher genetic & species diversity also tends to make ecosystems

more resistant and resilient to disturbance as it is more likely that
species will be present with the traits necessary to enable the
ecosystem to adjust to environmental change (e.g. drought). THUS
ecosystems continue to function and provide the all-important
ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling and water purification.

Biodiversity provides flexibility and insurance.

Loss of biodiversity should therefore reduce ecosystem stability. This

was found in a study of a rocky seashore where removal of one
predatory sea star species had a big impact of the biodiversity over
time leading to a lack of stability in the ecosystem. (But this could be
due to it being a keystone species one with a disproportionate effect).
Do have some evidence: A. 10 year ecological study of US grassland
which found that reduction in plant species richness led to a lowered
resistance of the grassland productivity to drought. B. A simpler
ecosystem had more invasions than a more diverse one. C. A study of
a grazing ecosystem in the Serengeti with seasonal changes found a
positive correlation between diversity and stability as greater diversity
reduced the magnitude of fluctuations in productivity induced by
seasonal variation. D. models of ecosystem function suggest that
increased biodiversity increases stability of functions such as
productivity and nutrient cycling. E. A simulated environment Ecotron
- in the UK found that reducing biodiversity reduced the productivity of
the community as well as other changes.

BUT: some low species diversity ecosystems are quite stable! The
relationship between species diversity and ecosystem stability may well vary
with the environment demanding abiotic conditions may have a thriving
simple community that is stable and less prone to human intervention
compared to a more fragile, abiotically less demanding tropical coral reef
boasting complex community! So there is evidence that low biodiversity need
not result in instability.

STILL a tropical rainforest with high species diversity and multiple

interactions may well be more stable than another tropical rainforest with
fewer species and interactions.

There are not enough field studies at the level of food webs to draw final
conclusions. Also one cannot be sure what level of biodiversity provides
insurance against catastrophic events. It has been found that a very diverse
tropical rainforest may have very little ability to recover once it has been


This has some evidence: A. using modelling, some multi-species communities
crashed in the lab. B. Introduced species can often reduce stability in an
ecosystem; invasive species can alter food webs dramatically, leading to the
collapse of an ecosystem. C. Many natural monocultures seem quite stable.

It is not as simple as just more species = greater stability! It is more complex!


relationship between diversity and stability.

It is hard to say if a complex ecosystem is more or less stable as

there is limited evidence for and against. Few studies have been
attempted as stability is a long-term attribute that requires an extended
study. Several of the studies done have been criticized due to small spatial or
temporal scales.
So though on average, diversity may give rise to ecosystem stability,
diversity itself may not DRIVE the relationship. It is more important that
communities present can respond differentially. Where there are complex
energy pathways (weak trophic interactions), stability may be promoted.
Situation is still under study!



Conservation: management of earths resources so as to provide for the

needs of humans, now & in the future, at a sustainable level. Requires
public & government support. Active process!
Involves maintenance of biodiversity, including diversity between
species, genetic diversity within species, plus maintenance of a variety
of habitats & ecosystems.
Takes action to avoid species decline & extinction as well as prevent
permanent detrimental change to the environment
Conserves genetic diversity, protecting against future environmental
change, & the management of resources to meet mans needs in a
sustainable way.
May be in situ or ex situ

In Situ Conservation Methods

on siteminimize human impact on the natural environment;
protecting it.

Most appropriate way of conserving biodiversity (integrated

approach as maintains populations in surroundings where they have
developed their distinctive properties, together with inter-linked
species, thus keeping food webs & environment intact)

Conservation of species in their natural habitats. Must conserve

AREAS where populations of species exist naturally; protecting species
by protecting the habitat or cleaning the habitat or by providing
defense from predators.

Most effective; least expensive way of maintaining viable populations

achieve large scale maintenance for minimum management effort &

Includes use of nature parks & protected areas (often national parks &
reserves reserves tend to be smaller areas)

Requires large reserve with large enough population to maintain

genetic diversity over the long term. Wildlife reserves seek to allow
target species to exist in large numbers, promoting genetic diversity &
thus ongoing adaptation. This allows populations to maintain
evolutionary adaptations enabling them to adjust to shifting
environmental conditions.
Ensures other interlinked species are also preserved.

Permanently protects biodiversity and representative examples of


Facilitates scientific research, allows for sustainable use and enjoyment

of a healthy, natural environment.

May be only conservation method available e.g. for plant species with
recalcitrant seeds* (do not survive drying and freezing procedures)

May involve creating new habitats e.g. sinking ships to provide new
surfaces for coral to colonise

Various levels of protection exist with different levels of human use.

Requires legislation can be difficult to enforce.

May require setting up exclusion zones to prevent fishing/hunting at

certain times of year; may issue permits

May also involve preventing pollution & issuing permits for logging to
ensure that it is sustainable

Seek to prevent alien/introduced species & deforestation

Preferable but not always possible, especially where habitats are very
fragmented and vulnerable

Also represent a relatively small area so remain at risk in face of

catastrophic event e.g. major storm

The role of Protected Areas in maintaining biodiversity:

Protected area = geographically defined area that is designated or
regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives.
May be set aside for the protection of biological diversity and of natural &
associated cultural resources; managed through legal or other effective
means (e.g. restricting access).
Includes national parks and nature reserves, sustainable use reserves,
wilderness areas and heritage sites cover about 5.2% of Earths land

Protected areas (Pas) widely used as a conservation tool in order to maintain

a representative sample of unaltered species and ecosystems for the future,
and to limit the potential for environmental degradation through human
mismanagement of resources.

There is variation in standards of management as well as the ability to

protect and manage these areas even though guidelines exist for the various
categories. Some countries lack the resources needed. N.B. It is not always
best to lock out humans/exclude human activity humans are part of the
landscape! Humans often rely upon natural resources for their livelihood so
partners must be engaged. Holistic approach needed.

Protected Areas in Jamaica include:

1. The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park
1990 first terrestrial national park in Jamaica
Protects 33% of the ~30% of Jamaica that is still under natural
forest cover.
High in biodiversity one of the highest levels of endemism in
the Western Hemisphere. About 40% of the plants & animals
found there are endemic to Jamaica, or are found only in the
Parks ecosystems. In the Blue Mountain region, of 240 species
of higher plants, 47% are endemic. In the John Crow Mountains,
32% of the 278 species of flowering plants are endemic. Home
to the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (an endemic species: 2 nd
largest butterfly in the world). Other widely recognized endemic
animals are the Jamaican Tody, the Jamaican Blackbird and
various local hummingbirds, the Jamaica Hutia (Coney), the
Jamaican Boa (yellow snake) and many species of tree frogs.

2. The Montego Bay Marine Park

3. Portland Bight (Jamaicas largest nature reserve)

Goals of Jamaica's System of Protected Areas:

Economic Development: Expansion and diversification of Jamaicas
natural resource-based economy

Environmental Conservation: Conservation of Jamaicas heritage as

represented by its biodiversity, scenic landscapes and cultural
Sustainable Resources Use: Protection of ecological systems that
provide goods and services.

Recreation and Public Education: Provision of recreational and

educational opportunities to improve the quality of life for all Jamaicans
and visitors.

Public Participation and Local Responsibility: Promotion of local interest,

commitment and support for protected areas.

Ex Situ Conservation Methods


Preservation of components of biological diversity outside

their natural habitats

Protect endangered species by removing it from unsafe/threatened

habitat & placing it under the care of humans, often in simulated

Usually a last resort when population is so small that intervention is

required to prevent extinction OR when a species no longer exists in
the wild

Involves conservation of genetic resources, as well as wild &

cultivated species

Draws on a diverse body of techniques & facilities

Methods include: gene banks (including seed banks, sperm and ova
banks), in vitro plant tissue & microbial culture collections, captive
breeding of animals & artificial propagation of plants (with possible
reintroduction of both animals and plants into the wild), collecting
living organisms for zoos/aquaria/botanic gardens for research & public

Can be complementary to in-situ methods as they provide an

"insurance policy" against extinction.

Invaluable role in recovery programmes for endangered species (think

Iguanas in Jamaica)

Allows for maintenance of domesticated plants which cannot survive in

nature unaided

Provides excellent research opportunities on the components of

biological diversity. May play central role in public education &
awareness-raising by bringing members of the public into contact with
plants & animals they may not normally encounter.
BUT cannot recreate genetic variation of a species, nor symbiotic
counterparts, etc. that lead to adaptive evolution over time (actually
may halt/alter the process with artificial conditions). Protection of
genes is important for cross-breeding. Achieve with seed stores, sperm
banks, etc.

Also costly and may not be a viable approach for certain species e.g.
recalcitrant seeds

Botanic Gardens:
o very useful where habitats are fragmented & vulnerable to exploitation

o about 1500 exist worldwide holding approx. 15% of the worlds flora. Kew
Gardens (UK) alone has over 25,000 species. In Jamaica, there is Castleton
Gardens. But most are in temperate zones whereas plant diversity is
greatest in tropical regions.

o serve as field gene banks very useful for species that are hard to store
as seed, including perennials, vegetatively propagated crops and tree

o Variety of plants are cultivated for research, education (teach the public
about their roles in ecosystems as well as their economic value),
conservation (especially of endangered plant species) & ornamental
purposes. May use stock to reintroduce plants into habitats or place in
new areas.

o Plant populations are easier than animal populations to maintain

artificially/to conserve require less care that can be more readily
provided, lack complex behaviours, & are usually easier to breed and
propagate in captivity! Natural life cycle has dormant stage the seed,
produced in large numbers & easily collected in wild (without harming
ecosystem significantly). Plants can also often be bred asexually
(downside is that they are genetically identical). Tissue culture allows for
large numbers to be produced quickly.

o Do have gaps in coverage however

Seed banks:
o collections of seed samples (often from plants in the wild)

o Aim to preserve plant genes through long-term storage of germ plasm.

o Convenient & space-saving as seeds are small, tough & resistant. Can also
control for disease-free conditions.

o Use seeds for variety of reasons, including habitat reclamation &


o Target seeds from plants/regions most at risk from climate change etc.
o Seeds are resistant to desiccation, so dried to low moisture content &
stored at low temperature without losing viability (although there is a limit
to this).

o Orthodox seeds may remain dormant for decades or even hundreds of

years if kept at low humidity (dried to 5 - 10% water content) &
temperature (-20C). Can x-ray before store to check for embryo. Must be
tested regularly for viability/germination (usually every 5 years). If must
(level drops below 85%), may germinate, grow & gather new seed on
harvesting for future storage (but this may lead to reduced vigour through

o With very long-term storage, organisms may lack the adaptations that
would allow them to thrive in changing habitats. Also, seeds will
deteriorate with age.

o Collected samples may not hold a representative sample of genetic


o Can be costly

o Some valuable seeds cannot be frozen recalcitrant seeds die when dried
and frozen including many tropical seeds (about 70%) these plants must
be grown in field gene banks* (*permanent living plant collections, e.g.
different varieties of wheat and cotton may be grown in small strips of

o Vegetatively reproducing plants also require an alternative strategy.


o Must attract people & provide a focus for public interest so as to gain
support for conservation & increase public knowledge about threats

o Aid understanding of breeding & feeding habits, habitat requirements etc.

o Exist to protect endangered & vulnerable species

o Role limited by space & expense limited capacity

o Species represented = biased subset! About 7000 vertebrate species held

globally. Biggest focus = vertebrates habitats often disappear/damaged
(especially that of top carnivores)

o Can increase stress on animal with unnatural conditions although they are
protected from predators & seek to maintain their health.
o Captive breeding helps to preserve genetic stocks of threatened species
& allows for re-introduction to the wild when possible (thus must also pay
attention to natural habitats). But is expensive process; can be very
difficult. May fail to breed successfully; genetic diversity is limited (as
have few individuals of each species) so variation may be lacking in
population (meaning is less likely to be able to adapt to changing
conditions). On the other hand, may be so successful, leads to over-
population in zoo especially as longer life spans are common. Also, if
successful, there is less need to capture wild varieties to supply zoos. N.B.
Captive Breeding usually involves other zoos (may exchange individuals)
so as to avoid weakening the stock with excessive inbreeding (careful
records are kept of parentage, preventing close relatives from mating).
Now artificial insemination & in vitro fertilization are possible. Ova, sperm
& embryos can be frozen (cryogenics) for future use when natural habitats
become available.

o Reintroduction into the wild can be problematic for several reasons,

including diseases they may lose resistance or introduce a new disease
into the wild. Behavior may change: they may not know how to search for
food, or how to survive predation and be accepted by other members of
community. Organisms adapt to the artificial conditions and so may lose
characteristics that are important for survival in the wild. Different genetic
make-up may alter reproductive habits/timing. Moreover, their natural
habitat may be destroyed or very limited. In Jamaica there has been some
success with the Iguana.

Sperm banks:
o Collection of frozen sperm, thus preserving animal genes (maintain
genetic diversity)

o Semen collected, sperm motility tested, medium diluted (with a buffer

citrate and albumen), placed in straws (thin tubes), then deep
frozen in liquid nitrogen (-196C). Thaw when needed for artificial

o Convenient storage method, recording better success than storage of

eggs/embryos, linked to fact that are small & unicellular rather than
large, mutlicellular embryos. They have a better surface area:volume
ratio (embryos/eggs take longer to cool); fewer cellular inclusions of
varying density that would freeze at different rates; and the nuclei are
smaller, less hydrated and contain more compact chromosomes that
would be less susceptible to freezing damage. DO still have some
damage possible especially if freezing is not uniform.

o Good survival rate; occupy little space; easily transported

Embryo banks:
o Frozen zoos can freeze embryos & hold genetic resources for many
endangered species
o Obtain embryos by stimulating super-ovulation, carrying out artificial
insemination, then testing the embryos before freezing them (cryogenic

o Embryo transfer & surrogacy can allow for an increase in numbers,

allowing for maintenance of population until the habitat becomes

o Allows for new genetic lines to be introduced without relocating adults (no
animal cooperation required!).

o Eggs are hard to freeze however as they are large cells that are prone to
damage by freezing/thawing as the water present crystallises and
damages internal membranes.

o Eggs also do not fertilise well on thawing usually intracytoplasmic sperm

injection has to be utilized. Embryos seem to be more likely to survive the
freezing/thawing cycle (has to do with changes to membrane upon

N.B. Any method of conservation that keeps whole organisms,

gametes, embryos, seeds, tissues or any other part of an organism
is known as a GENE BANK (stores whole genomes).

Other Conservation Methods include:

Restricting development in particular areas

Legally protecting endangered species; restricting their trade

Controlling pollution

Prohibiting the release of non-native animals/plants into an area may

even involve killing invasive species so as to reduce the
population/minimize damage



3rd largest island of the Caribbean with an area of ~ 11,425 km 2.

Huge diversity of species & ecosystems.

Jamaica has highest number of endemic birds & plants for any Caribbean
island (most bio-endemic island in the region).
Among the variety of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems are dry
and wet limestone forests, rainforest, riparian woodland, wetlands, caves,
rivers, seagrass beds and coral reefs.

The global value of Jamaicas biodiversity is indicated by the number 5

ranking of its endemic flora and fauna amongst islands worldwide.

> 8000 recorded species of animals & plants; >3500 marine species. 10
species of cacti, 60 of the 240 species of orchids, 31 endemic species of
birds, 33 of 43 species of reptilesthe list goes on!

Ranks amongst places with highest number of at-risk mammals, largely

because of threat to its endemic bats and the coney. Iguana is on the Red
List of endangered and threatened species.

Some of prevalent factors negatively impacting biodiversity in Jamaica

are: charcoal burning, farming, solid waste disposal in fresh water sources
& coastal areas, improper fishing methods.

Biodiversity is an integral part of our daily lives. Yet the level of awareness
and recognition of its importance is very low considering the destruction,
alteration and pollution of our natural resources. Food, clothes and shelter all
come from the components of biodiversity. The different species of crop
plants, livestock, fresh water and marine fishes are the sources of
agricultural industries. Selective plant and animal breeding enable the
cultivation of pathogen-resistant crops or hybrid species which tend to be
healthier than the parent stock. Variety in Jamaican craft items such as the
straw baskets made from the sisal plant, wicker furniture from the
Philodendron plant, leather products and rugs from cow and goat hides
depends on the diversity of our flora and fauna. Services provided by the
forests including watershed areas which provide groundwater and surface
water resources, stabilization of the worlds climate by absorbing solar
radiation and prevention of soil erosion are often taken for granted. Other
forests like mangrove forests along the coast, act as wave breakers and
protect the coastline from storm surges and extensive flooding during storms
and hurricanes.

The ways in which different societies define their culture are intimately linked
to biodiversity. Our national and local dishes (Ackee and Saltfish), our
national bird (Red-billed Streamertail Hummingbird), our national tree (Blue
Mahoe), and our national flower (Lignum Vitae) are typical examples. The
name Jamaica is said to be derived from the Amerindian name Xaymaca,
meaning land of wood and water. Every culture has folk songs and tales
which are usually based on the natural history of a country. Then there is folk
medicine, still alive among the indigenous peoples of the world and forming
the basis for much scientific research and discovery.

It is necessary to identify the components of biodiversity that must be

conserved and sustainably used. There are several information gaps for
Jamaican biodiversity which can only be met through more inventories and
research. In light of the growing concerns that Earth is experiencing rapid
increases in species extinction, ecosystems and their components,
endangered, threatened, and vulnerable species are priority issues. Past
extinctions of species or irreversible habitat destruction serve as reminders
to the inevitable consequences of irresponsible or indifferent attitudes
towards the care of our biodiversity. Effective conservation of our biological
resources is dependent on acquiring the relevant information which leads to
a better understanding of our biodiversity, effective management of
protected areas, sustainable harvest rates and sustainable uses of

Excepted from Jamaica Clearing House website important link for you to

Useful Links:
(Good pdf on the topic Biodiversity, set in Jamaica)
(Good pdf on The Importance of Wetlands)
(BBC Earth Report - The problem of monocultures approx. 11 min)
(32 minute video not that exciting mainly slides and voice but quite
useful in terms of a summary you could play it in the background does
have info on methods of conservation, advantages and disadvantages and
the like)
(Good summary notes in 2 minutes on methods of conservation, in situ and
ex situ)
(2 minute summary on Why Conservation is necessary)
(Kew Gardens seed banks, 2.5 minutes)
(Forestry Dept conserving biodiversity in Jamaica, 12.8 min)