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What is Biodiversity

by Melina Laverty Eleanor Sterling Ian Harrison James Gibbs Robert Ahlfinger

This collection provides an overview of what is meant by the term 'biodiversity,' and how we measure it. The collection reviews the different levels of biodiversity, or the 'biodiversity hierarchy' including: genetic and phenotypic diversity; population diversity; species diversity; community diversity; ecosystem diversity; landscape diversity; and historical and ecological biogeographic diversity. Brief definitions of populations, species, communities, and ecosystems are provided, with some introductory discussion of different types of 'species concepts.' The collection defines the terms 'species richness' and 'species evenness' as methods for measuring species diversity, and it discusses the use of species richness as a surrogate for describing overall global biodiversity. The collection reviews the distribution of biodiversity in space, explaining the definitions of alpha, beta and gamma diversity for measuring diversity within and between ecosystems. The environmental factors that affect these patterns of spatial diversity are briefly discussed. The collection also includes a brief review of the different ways by which assessments of spatial diversity are used for conservation planning and management (e.g., based on ecoregions, or biodiversity hotspots and coldspots). The collection concludes with a brief discussion of diversity over geological time.

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