Biodiversity is the name given to the variety of life forms that develop in a natural environment. All plants, animals, microorganisms, as well as the genetic material of each one of them, are included in the definition. The species that inhabit the region are important as well as the ecological function that each one fulfills, which in some way allows the existence of all the others.
The most important value of biodiversity is in the fact that it is a process initiated by a variety of species for a large number of years, the time necessary to achieve something like the balance of the biosphere.
The survival of species is ensured by the biological system in which they are found, and on this level man is only one more species: the use and benefit of biodiversity have contributed in many ways to the development of human culture.
Biological systems tend to have their own dynamics, to the extent that species fulfill functions but also become extinct so that a naturally extinct species causes a disturbance in the ecosystem that can be replaced by another species.
However, different actions carried out by man tend to modify biological diversity from different angles: changes in climatic conditions, persecution, and overexploitation of species, destruction and fragmentation of habitats, the introduction of invasive species and intensive agriculture are harmful to some of the species on Earth.
Importance of biodiversity
When the loss of diversity is caused by human manipulation of natural systems, this recomposition is not automatic and the entire ecological system can be jeopardized.
That is why there are permanent campaigns aimed at promoting the care of biodiversity and the preservation of ecosystems. For this, a series of actions are recommended:
- Integrate economic development with the preservation of the environment.
- Related to the latter, abandon production techniques that degrade living resources or soil.
- Dimension the importance of each component of biological diversity, in addition to the system in general.
- Take care of native forests, from individual behaviors but also with public policies.
- Map and monitor the environments, as well as their populations of flora and fauna.
- Avoid the introduction of exotic species unless they are especially beneficial.
Indicators and examples
Different indicators are used to measure biodiversity: the Simpson index is one of the most frequent. According to these indicators, a classification has been generated that contains seventeen countries called megadiverse, which together host more than 70% of the planet’s biodiversity.
Below is the list, including some elements of the biodiversity of each one:
- United States: The country’s vast space is home to 432 species of mammals, 311 reptiles, 256 amphibians, 800 birds, 1,154 fish, and more than 100,000 insects.
- India: The fauna includes cows, buffalo, goats, lions, leopards, and Asian elephants. There are 25 wetlands in the country and it has endemic species such as the Nilgiri monkey, the Beddome toad, the Bengal tiger, and the Asian lion.
- Malaysia: There are around 210 species of mammals in the country, 620 species of birds, 250 species of reptiles (150 of them are snakes), 600 species of coral and 1,200 species of fish.
- South Africa: With the world’s third biodiversity, it includes 20,000 different plant types and 10% of the world’s known species of birds and fish.
- Mexico: It has 37 ‘wild areas’ of the planet, with a great diversity of birds and fish (875 species, 580 seabirds, and 35 marine mammals ).
- Australia: With 8% of its protected area, the country has kangaroos and koala as endemic species, but it also includes platypus, possum, and Tasmanian devils. There is a wide variety of trees, usually eucalyptus and acacia.
- Colombia: It is the richest country in birds with 1870 species, in addition to including more than 700 species of frogs, 456 species of mammals, and more than 55000 species of plants (a third of them only inhabit that country).
- China: It has more than 30,000 advanced plants, and 6,347 vertebrates, representing between 10% of plants and 14% of animals in the world.
- Peru: There are some 25,000 species, of which 30% are endemic. There are some 182 species of Andean domesticated plants.
- Ecuador: There are between 22,000 and 25,000 plant species, with a high rate of endemics. In addition, there are a large number of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.
- Madagascar: Includes 32 species of primates unique in the world, 28 species of bats, 198 species of birds and 257 species of reptiles.
- Brazil: It is the country with the highest biodiversity in the world, with the largest number of mammals and more than 3,000 freshwater fish, 517 species of amphibians, 3,150 types of butterflies, 1,622 types of birds and 468 types of reptiles.
- Democratics Republic of the Congo: Large mammals such as elephants, lions, leopards, chimpanzees or giraffes stand out.
- Indonesia: In the so-called ‘Forests of Paradise’ there are a large number of species, including 500 mammals and 1600 birds.
- Venezuela: There are some 15,500 species of plants, as well as a large number of animals, including 1,200 species of fish.
- Philippines: Characterized by a large number of reptiles and amphibians.
- Papua New Guinea: About 4,642 vertebrate species live in the jungle of New Guinea.