What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity can be defined as the measure of how much biological variability an ecosystem contains and is an important indicator of how healthy our ecosystems are. If an ecosystem is healthy it will have a high biological diversity, while disturbed or stressed ecosystems often have a low biological diversity.

The term itself can be described in a number of different ways; as a measure of the number of species in a certain area, including also the number of individuals of each species, as genetic diversity and as ecosystem diversity.

The concept of total biological diversity includes genetic biodiversity, species richness and ecosystem diversity.

All the genetic information of contained in a living organism is called its genome. It is composed of genes, and in principle a gene, or sometimes several genes code for a certain trait in the individual organism. On the molecular level genes are composed of DNA. Genes are organized in chromosomes. Genes for a certain trait may come in several varieties. This is called genetic variation or genetic diversity and this is important for the survival of the species, as we will see further on.

When organisms breed with each other their offspring will have a new combination of both parents' genes. In case of environmental changes, a species can adapt because of such genetic variation. When numbers of individuals in a species are diminishing, genetic diversity will drop, resulting in fewer chances for the species to adapt.

Genetic diversity is the combination of different genes found within a population of a single species, and the pattern of variation found within different populations of the same species.

Species diversity is the variety and abundance of different types of organisms inhabiting a certain area. A ten square mile area of woodland contains more different species than does a similar sized area in a salt marsh.

Ecosystem diversity encompasses the variety of habitats that occur within a region, or the mosaic of patches found within a landscape. A familiar example is the variety of habitats and environmental parameters that comprise the Washington Slagbaai Park in Bonaire, which contains coral reefs, beaches, mangroves, lagoons, mudflats, fresh water springs, saliƱas, scrublands, and woodlands, each with their own characteristics.