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Biodiversity Types: Genetic,

Species and Ecological Diversity

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The living world is a complex combination of different levels of
organisms. The key components of life are at one extreme and
communities of species at the other extreme. The manifestations of all
types of diversities are found at all these levels of organisms.
Biodiversity is the shorter form of word biological diversity which
means diversity in the biological world. Thus one can define
biodiversity as the degree of variety in nature with regards to
biological species.

Types of Biodiversity:
(a) Genetic diversity:
It is the variation of genes within the species. This results distinct
population of one, even same species. It gives genetic variation within
a population or varieties within one species. There are two reasons for
differences between individual organisms. One is variation in the gene
which all organisms possess which is passed from one to its

The other is the influence of environment on each individual

organism. The variation in the sequence of four base pairs in DNA
chain forms the genetic variation in the organism. The recombination)
of genetic material during cell division makes it an imperative for
genetic diversity within a species. Loss of genetic diversity within a
species is called genetic erosion.


The whole area of agricultural productivity and development depend

on genetic diversity. The plant as well as animal genetic resources play
important role in the economy of a country. Genetic diversity is the
whole basis for a sustainable life system in the earth.

Scientists in many parts of the world are trying to introduce

genetically modified seeds in the agriculture sector for better yield as
well as for the resistance of drought and flood situations. The local
people or farmers are not showing any interest to preserve the natural
way of genetic diversity.

(b) Species diversity:

This refers to the variety of species within a particular region. The
number of species in a region is a measure for such diversity. The
richness of species in a given region provides a yard stick for species
diversity. Species diversity depends as much on the genetic diversity as
on the environmental condition.

Colder regions support less than the warmer regions for species
diversity. The good climate with good physical geography supports a
better species diversity. Species richness is a term which is used to
measure the biodiversity of a given site.
In addition to species richness, species endemism is a term used to
measure biodiversity by way of assessing the magnitude of differences
between species. In the taxonomic system similar species are grouped
together in general, similar genera in families, families in orders and
so on till in the level of kingdom. This process is a genuine attempt to
find relationships between organisms. The higher taxa have thousands
of species. Species that are very different from one another contributes
more to overall biodiversity.

(c) Ecological diversity:

This is the number of species in a community of organisms.
Maintaining both types of diversity is fundamental to the functioning
of ecosystems and hence to human welfare. India is one of the 12
centres of diversity and origin of several cultivated plants in the world.
It is estimated that 15,000 species of plants occur in India. The
flowering plants comprise 15,000 species of which several hundred
(5000-7500) species are endemic to India. The region is also rich in
fauna, containing about 65,000 species of animals.

Among these, more than 50,000 species of insects, 4,000 of molluscs.

6,500 of other invertebrates, 2,000 offish, 140 of amphibians, 420 of
reptiles, 1,200 of birds and 340 of mammals are recorded from India.
This richness in biological diversity is due to immense variety of
climatic and altitudinal conditions coupled with varied ecological

These vary from the humid tropical Western Ghats to the hot desert of
Rajasthan, from the cold desert of Ladakh and the icy mountains of
Himalayas to the warm coasts of peninsular India including coastal
region of Orissa. Gandhamardan Hills of Sambalpur is rich in
biodiversity. The Indian tradition teaches us that all forms of life,
human, animal and plants are so closely linked that disturbance in one
gives rise to imbalance in the other. Our old scriptures tell lot about
these things.

Bio-geographical Classification of India:

Biogeography or biological geography is related to ecology and
ecosystem of a region. Its studies include variation of flora and fauna
over the earth surface. It also encompasses study of biosphere and its
interaction with human population. Biogeography studies consider
phytogeography (forest), zoogeography (animals, insects), pedology
(soil) hydrology (water), oceanography (ocean).

The following is the Bio geographic zones of India and the

types of vegetation found:
Many of the endangered and endemic species need human
intervention for survival. Indian Government through various projects
is trying to check this process of endangering of species.

A recent UN-supported study compiled by over 550 researchers re-emphasized a dire

finding about the state of life on Earth: Species of plants and animals across the globe
are disappearing at alarming rates. If not halted, this loss could amount to a sixth mass
global extinction in our lifetime. As envisioned by Sustainable Development Goal 15:
Life on Land, we must preserve biodiversity and use ecosystems sustainably to ensure
the survival of our own species.

We talked to UN Foundation Senior Fellow, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, who is credited with
being the first to use the term “biological diversity” to learn more about why it matters –
and is essential to sustainable development. Lovejoy is a tropical and conservation
biologist, who has conducted research in the Brazilian Amazon since 1965.

Photo Credit: George Mason University

What is biodiversity?
Thomas Lovejoy: Biodiversity is the collective term for the full variety of life on earth.
Many think of it as the total number of species, but it is actually more complex than that.
It’s about the genetic diversity within species, the diversity of habitats, and the large
biological units known as biomes, such as the coniferous forest biome.

How does biodiversity impact sustainable development?

TL: Without biological diversity, there is no other life on Earth, including our own. Even
though we are often oblivious to it, this diversity of life is what provides clean water,
oxygen, and all other things that end up being part of our diet, as well as clothing and
shelter. It provides a lot of psychological benefits too, which are not much appreciated.

What are the biggest threats to biodiversity?

TL:The biggest threats are habitat destruction and fragmentation, direct harvest, various
forms of pollution, and climate change. Biological diversity encompasses all
environmental factors, so there are things that are direct threats, like habitat
fragmentation. There are also indirect things like the distortion of the nitrogen cycle and
the proliferation of dead zones in estuaries and coastal waters around the world.
Basically, you can’t solve the biodiversity problem if you don’t solve all those problems
as well.

How fast are we seeing species disappear? Which regions are suffering the most

TL:The current rate that is often used, which is 1,000 times the normal rate of
extinction, I think actually understates it. We are in the early stages of an exponential
curve of loss. By increasing human population and imperfections in the development
process, we could lose a substantial amount of life on Earth.

Everyone thinks first and foremost like I do about the Amazon, but that’s not the only
tropical forest. There’s no question about it: Tropical forests everywhere are being
seriously hammered, particularly in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. Another
region that may seem surprising is grasslands around the world because they are
attractive to people for raising domestic animals. The great irony, of course, is the huge
amount of degraded land in the world – that’s why there is a UN desertification
convention. We can’t end up with a happy outcome unless we spend a lot of time
restoring that degraded land to productivity – and when you do that, you increase
biological diversity.

How can we protect biodiversity?

TL:First, I think there needs to be a major shift in perception from thinking of nature as
something with a fence around it in the middle of an expansive, human-dominated
landscape as opposed to thinking about embedding our aspirations in nature. It means
restoring vegetation along watercourses and putting natural connections back into the
landscape, so when species begin to move and respond to climate change, there is
actually a way for them to do it.
How can protecting biodiversity also help mitigate climate change?

TL:Ecosystem restoration is so important in terms of reducing the carbon load in the

atmosphere, which causes global climate change. We now know that the amount of
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from destroyed and degraded ecosystems (over the
last ~8,000 years) is bigger than we ever knew before. It’s about 450 – 500 gigatons of
carbon, which is more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel
combustion so far.

But research shows that restored ecosystems could provide up to one-third of the
climate mitigation needed by sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. So really, the
important shift here is to stop thinking of the planet as a physical system but as a linked
biological and physical system.

SDG 15 (Life on Land) will be reviewed at this year’s High-Level Political Forum
(HLPF) in 2018. Here, participating countries will present Voluntary National
Reviews (VNRs) of progress on this goal and others.

What are some examples of effective policies for SDG 15 you know of?

TL:I am certain that Costa Rica and Botswana serve as outstanding examples. Costa
Rica prides itself on being the “Green Republic.” 28% of the country’s territory is
protected by national parks. There has also been a lot of reforestation in Costa Rica, in
part because of an explicit decision to have an ecosystem services law to tax gasoline
and use the revenue to benefit reforestation. As a result, Costa Rica is the first tropical
country to have stopped and reversed deforestation: over half of its land is covered by
forest, compared to 26% in 1983.

Botswana has recognized that its wilderness and wild animals are an incredible source
of economic benefit, so it outlawed the hunting of lions and other trophy hunting. The
country has a thriving ecotourism industry. When you think about ecotourism, it’s not
just about the people who drive the Volkswagen bus; it is everything that feeds into
supporting the tourism industry. And when it’s done right, the revenue reinforces the
economic well-being of the people in the region.
What has the international community done to protect biodiversity on a global
scale? What are the challenges moving forward?

TL:The Convention on Biological Diversity, which was signed by 150 governments at

the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, sets targets to halt the loss of biodiversity. Over the last 25
years, we’ve seen the amount of increased protected area in the world grow

The current set of targets, the Aichi targets, are pretty ambitious. Looking ahead, the big
challenge is the 2020 Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in
China, which will set the next set of targets for the next decade. There may be a
reluctance to have ambitious targets because it’s not entirely clear how well we will do
on the current ones, but you never know.

When I started working in the Amazon, which is as big as the 48 contiguous United
States, there was just one national park in Venezuela. Today, more than half of the
Amazon is under some form of protection.
Photo Credit: Global Environment Facility