National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity

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What does biodiversity mean?
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Home - Biodiversity - Concepts - What does biodiversity mean?

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of life. This recent concept includes different levels of biological organization. It considers the diversity of species of plants and animals that live in one place, their genetic variability, the ecosystems that these species form part of, and the landscapes or regions where the ecosystems are located. It also includes the ecological and evolutionary processes that occur at the level of genes, species, ecosystems and landscapes.

The concept was coined in 1985, at the National Forum on Biological Diversity of the United States. Edward O. Wilson (1929 - ), an entomologist from Harvard University and a prolific writer on conservation topics, in 1988 compiled a book on the proceedings of the forum and entitled “Biodiversity.”

Humankind has taken advantage of genetic variability and has “domesticated” different species by means of artificial selection; in doing so, we have created a multitude of races of corn, beans, pumpkins, hot peppers, horses, cows, sheep and many other species. The variety of domestic species, the processes used for their creation, and the oral traditions that maintain them are part of cultural biodiversity.

On each different level, from genes to landscape or region, we can recognize three attributes: composition; structure; and function.

Composition is the identity and variety of elements (including which species and how many). Structure is the physical organization or pattern of the system (including the relative abundance of species, ecosystems, the level of connectivity, etc.). Finally, function comprises the ecological and evolutionary processes (including predation, competition, parasitism, dispersal, pollination, symbiosis, nutrient cycles, natural disturbances, etc.)
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