What is ecosystem diversity and why is it important?

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According to Wikipedia, “Ecosystem diversity deals with the variations in ecosystems within a geographical location and its overall impact on human existence and the environment.”

Diversity within an ecosystem is extremely important for human survival due to multiple factors:

Diversity within an ecosystem increases oxygen levels as a result of plant photosynthesis.

Diversity within a marine environment helps to clean the water as a result of plants absorbing carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen.

Diversity also helps to stimulate plant development, diversity, and growth (many plants boast medicinal and nutritional values).

Within an ecosystem, different species play different roles, such as:

– Photosynthesizers
– Pollinators
– Carnivores
– Decomposers
– Herbivores

A species can be defined as a group of organisms which can interbreed and form offspring (i.e. a class of individuals with common characteristics).

The more species (i.e. complexities) that an ecosystem has, the more resilient and responsive it is against potential disturbances. There are different types of species in an ecosystem, these are: Native Species, Nonnative Species, Indicator Species, Keystone Species, Foundation Species.

For more information on ecosystem species types, sustainablefootprint.org published an informative article here.

What are the types of ecosystem diversity?

Biodiversity can be categorized into three categories:

Genetic Diversity
Genetic diversity accounts for the genetic characteristics between species. Genetic diversity ensures the survival of species thanks to adaptational characteristics that provide species with both protection and reproduction capabilities. Extinction may occur when a given population is unable to adapt to ecosystem changes.

Species Diversity

Species diversity accounts for the variety and quantity of species within an ecosystem.
Although there are approximately 1.75 million documented species-types, it is widely accepted that the real number of species is significantly higher. Since so many environments and ecosystems remain largely under-studied, it’s difficult to estimate the amount of undiscovered species.

According to the National Ocean Service, “more than 80% of this vast, underwater realm (the oceans) remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.” Globally it is thought that circa 84% of all species are still unidentified.

Ecosystem Diversity

Ecosystem diversity accounts for the variation and diversity of habitats and biological communities (i.e. an interacting group of species in a common ecosystem). An ecosystem is essentially a biological community paired with a surrounding environment.

These three levels of diversity work together to create the complexity of life on Earth.

In order to analyze and monitor biodiversity within an ecosystem, scientists can observe various indicators in the form of:

– Regional/landscape levels
– Community/ecosystem levels •
– Species/population levels
– Socio-economic factors

According to the Global Environment Division, “Indicators can be quantitative or qualitative variables which can be measured or described and which, when observed periodically, demonstrate trends in biodiversity characteristics over time.”

bee pollinating

How can Biodiversity be measured?

Since biodiversity is so complex, measuring and attributing everything collectively is very challenging for scientists, not to mention the vast undiscovered aspects of ecosystems and species.

Various counting methods, surveying, and sampling techniques can be conducted in order to monitor and analzye organism diversity. Different technologies can be leveraged for this, ranging from DNA sampling to satellite analysis.

Fortunately there are numerous platforms that provide data for anyone interested in organism biodiversity. Reeflifesurvey.com provides reef-species data, for example.

For large-scale, detailed analysis of ecosystems and organisms, various approaches can be adopted. An example is the LPI (The Living Planet Index), an index that measures the biological diversity of population trends of various species types, including marine and land organisms.

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