Archive "Biodiversity"

What Is Biodiversity?

There are certain words that everyone uses but that are exceedingly difficult to define precisely. Biodiversity is one such word: The term is a contraction of biological diversity, which seems simple enough. Obviously, it means the variety of living organisms that inhabit our planet. Unfortunately, the apparently simple definition leads to difficulties. If it refers […]

Biodiversity hotspots


Today, global biodiversity—the variety of biological life on Earth—is rapidly decreasing. Two out of every five species on the planet that have been assessed by scientists face extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Figure 8.37). Our species, Homo sapiens, has ushered in a wave of extinctions unlike any that has been seen for millions of years. In the last […]

Key Challenges within Biodiversity Mapping

Despite important advances in biodiversity mapping, there remains a variety of critical debates surrounding biodiversity mapping approaches. A key issue is the challenge of collecting and combining appropriate data with which to make conservation decisions. A lack of appropriate data has led to questions over the validity of results, particularly in the contexts of developing countries and the biodiverse tropical regions […]

Terrestrial ecoregions of the world; the ecoregions are categorized within 14 biomes and eight biogeographic realms to facilitate representation analyses. Reprinted by permission, copyright American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Biodiversity Mapping: History

The mapping of species distributions has a long history in geography. As far back as the early 1800s, Alexander von Humboldt described the latitudinal and altitudinal distributions of vegetation zones, and others continued such practices until methods were eventually formalized within the subdiscipline of biogeography. In other disciplines, too, particularly biology, the notion that place matters in ecological processes and patterns […]

Biodiversity Mapping

The term 'biodiversity mapping' encompasses a variety of techniques used to represent and analyze patterns of biodiversity, and is almost always used within the framework of environmental conservation. Although maps of biodiversity can be useful simply as a way to represent complex environmental data in an easily interpretable form, usually biodiversity mapping involves further analysis and manipulation of the data in […]

The Geography of Biodiversity

Geography is critical to understanding biodiversity. First, biodiversity is unevenly distributed over the surface of the Earth. In general, species diversity increases toward the equator, with the world's most species rich habitats occurring in the belt of tropical moist forests that falls between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. Tropical moist forests are the most species rich terrestrial habitats, covering only 7% […]

The Biodiversity Crisis

Scientists, conservationists, and hunters have been concerned about species extinction, primarily vertebrate species, at the local and regional scales for decades. Toward the end of the nineteenth-century in North America and Europe, bird plumage on hats was a dominant middle class fashion statement. Exotic and colorful bird feathers were in great demand. As a consequence, many bird species were hunted […]


Biodiversity, a contraction of biological diversity, is a recently invented term whose origins are readily traceable. The invention of the term 'biodiversity' coincides with the emergence, in the 1980s, of two new scientific fields, genetic engineering and conservation biology. Technological advances in genetic engineering resulted in the commodification of genetic material as a natural resource, the raw material for a new […]