What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity, which occurs in all environments on Earth - on land, in rivers and lakes, and in the seas and oceans - is recognised at three levels:
- genetic diversity - the variety of genetic information contained in individual organisms. At this level species may vary in their tolerance of heat or cold, or resistance to diseases, etc
- species diversity - the variety of species. At this level, we find the basic types of organisms that most people are familiar with, including wild and domesticated species of plants and animals and wild and laboratory-cultured species of microorganism
- ecosystem diversity - the variety of habitats, ecological communities and ecological processes. At the ecosystem level, we can identify aggregations of species within different environmental settings that constitute broad habitat types, ecological communities and ecosystems such as grasslands, woodlands, rivers and estuaries.
Why is it important to conserve biodiversity?
Australia's Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010-2030, released on 28 October 2010, defines biodiversity as the variety of all life.
According to the Strategy, "humans depend, directly and indirectly, on living systems for our health and well-being. No matter how technologically advanced we are, we rely on food, fibre, materials and energy from nature for our continuing existence."
Australia's biodiversity is under threat. In Australia, more than 1,700 species and ecological communities are known to be threatened with extinction because of a range of threats, including:
- habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation
- invasive species
- unsustainable use and management of natural resources
- changes to the aquatic environment and water flows
- changing fire regimes
- climate change.
Lost biodiversity can never be fully recovered, but through our conservation efforts we can help species to survive. The challenges for conserving biodiversity in South Australia are many. There are already many excellent examples of what needs to be done to firstly halt, and then reverse, the rates of species and ecological community decline.
Read more about threatened species and threatened ecological communities.