A Simple Guide on How to Measure Biodiversity

The science of conservation biology is in an exciting period, and you can see this if you notice the interest that people have in biodiversity. Dramatic changes in conservation priorities in the last one-decade points to the fact that the field is under constant development. The crucial variations are helping to determine the future of biodiversity and humanity.

What is Biodiversity?

This term ‘biodiversity’ refers to the variety of different life forms within a particular ecosystem. You can measure this at different levels. At the largest scale, you can consider different species on the entire earth. On the other hand, you can study it on a much smaller scale, such as within a pond ecosystem or neighborhood park.

 If you consider the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), for example, you will notice that it is gathering and studying lots of research data about Australian plants, animals, microorganism, and more with the view to make it easy to analyze biodiversity data at the local level. You can find the information they have distributed in the countless database, specimen catalogs, and websites and use them to make important decisions on conservation. ALA is using some of the advanced methods to measure biodiversity so as to mitigate the risks of inaccuracy.

How is Biodiversity Measured?

There are plenty of ways to measure biodiversity. Read on to find the most important ones in each of the two levels.

  • Genetics Level

When appropriate, researchers count the frequency at which different genetic patterns occur by mapping the genes and chromosomes of different life forms. Certain biological factors determine the color, height, and behavior of different animals. When a scientist considers these variations by counting the genetic patterns, they are able to measure biodiversity accurately. 

Alternatively, they evaluate the physical appearances. This method of mapping works in reverse as the first one. In this case, experts do not focus on the genes and chromosomes of different animals and plants. Instead, they study the variations in physical appearances and then attribute the outcome to the most probable genetics causes.

Remember, most scientists consider measuring biodiversity at the genetic level the most reliable method. These measurements are efficient for examining managed populations or agricultural crops. As such, you can use them when you want to practice selective breeding or plants crops with particular characteristics.

  • Ecosystem Level

You can also measure biodiversity at the ecosystem level if you want to evaluate the health of the entire ecosystem. The results are used to compare the health of two or more ecosystems.

Researchers often pick sample plots and count all the species in these places. They rely on a number of factors, including the size of the ecosystem and the physical characteristics of the targeted life forms to determine the desired sample size. Alternatively, they only measure keystone species.

What are Spatial Scales of Measuring Biodiversity?

When measuring biodiversity at the genetic level, Alpha-diversity is required. This common method incorporates the estimates of ‘richness.’ This involves counting the number of different species using a number of indices.

One of them is The Simpson Index, which considers the number of the species as well as their relative abundance to the entire population of the ecosystem. The other option is The Shannon Index, which always factors in the order of species within a sample plot. You can use any of them to establish the pattern of the distribution of different species.

At the ecosystem level, beta-diversity is used to describe changes in biodiversity. It helps to show the variations in the richness of different species within an ecosystem. Gamma-diversity is another way researchers use to measure biodiversity. In particular, they rely on it to find the total biodiversity.

The Bottom Line

Whether you want to measure diversity on the genetics or ecosystem level, the entire process may appear too involving. However, it is worth it. These numbers are important for determining the right strategies to protect and preserve an ecosystem. When you are able to quantify what you want to conserve, you will be able to plan and manage the entire process well. As such, if you want to measure biodiversity, use the right methods, and express the results at the different scales correctly to be able to achieve your conservation goals.

What are the Best Benefits of Biodiversity to Humans?

There are about 13 million different species of animals, microorganisms, and plants on the earth, but scientists have identified only close to 1.75 million of them. Through biodiversity, researchers have been identifying and evaluating their contribution to the entire ecosystem. Today, no one can deny that biodiversity can determine the future of the world. The different species play a crucial role in ensuring that the natural cycles in the world run as required.

The data that scientists have already mined are helping to solve the global environmental problems and many other issues. As such, they make the earth habitable to human beings in many ways. Here are the chief benefits of biodiversity to all people.

Food Accessibility

How can life be if we lack the capacity to produce high-quality food that meets our dietary needs? You can tell that the earth can be inhabitable to humans. This is where biodiversity comes into our rescue. Genetic food diversity helps us to develop the right diet. Different species have varied nutritional values. Through agricultural diversity, it is also possible to discover secrets and improve food security. Thus, biodiversity helps humans to develop resistance and resilience to all manners of food-related stress.

Medical Research

In the present century, scientists rely on biodiversity to get the necessary resources for medical research. When they study wildlife anatomy, biochemistry, and other related courses, these experts get insights into issues such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and osteoporosis. In this way, doctors can use it to develop the most efficient medicines to cure many diseases.

Cultural Significance

The ecosystem grants us the cultural services that we need to lead productive lives. For example, we depend on biodiversity to get inspiration, aesthetics, traditional wisdom, recreation, and education. Besides, it enables humans to able to develop the kind of relations that need to form with nature to be healthy.

Participating in outdoor activities has the potential to help people make the right relations with nature much ease. As such, biodiversity has the potential to have a direct impact on the psychological and psychological health of human beings across the world.

Building Blocks for Life

Biodiversity provides the building blocks for human life in a variety of ways. Nature is responsible for essential activities such as cycling of nutrients, pollination, and photosynthesis. Both plants and animals depend on this biodiversity. Humans depend on plants and animals for food and other essential purposes. Without these supporting services, the ecosystem cannot exist. 

Commercial Functions

Nature provides all the necessary materials that we need to trade with each other. For example, we get fuels and paper from wood. Some of these products come from nonrenewable sources, which rely on the carbon cycle. The environment also produces natural fibers that humans use to make a variety of items that ultimately find themselves in the marketplace.

Other essential things that the environment produces are food, clothing, and shelter. In this regard, biodiversity provides all our basic needs. Also, it makes it possible for people to take part in active selling and buying of the products to be able to lead their lives in the best ways possible.

 Disaster Risks

Biodiversity offers a natural buffer against many natural disasters. For example, trees and other plants help to prevent drought, landslides, and soil erosion. If human beings allow the habitats of different species to be depleted, it may have a direct and indirect impact on the ability of people to avoid disasters or hide under some of them. Besides, they may lack the support for the relief and recovery efforts. As such, biodiversity reduces the possibility of people die due to disaster, and it also offers humans refugee when such events occur.

The Bottom Line

Biodiversity guarantees humans the right to lead healthy lives. This means they are able to lead lives that are free from diseases. Additionally, nature allows people to be in a state of cultural, social, physical, emotional, and economic stability. Given the contribution of diversity to the success of human beings, it is the real foundation for holistic health. In this regard, the positive relationship between biodiversity and the ability of people to lead productive lives makes it necessary for all individuals to support efforts to invest in more research.  

The CReATIVE-B roadmap

A landscape of research infrastructures for biodiversity and ecosystem science – has been released. The CReATIVE-B project supports the interaction between the LifeWatch ESFRI Research Infrastructure with Research Infrastructures (RI) on biodiversity and ecosystems research in other parts of the world. The project is to be a catalyst for worldwide collaboration in this field by supporting and initiating coordination activities of these RIs, with the objective to serve the goals of GEOSS.  The project is addressing two main audiences engaged in biodiversity and ecosystem research: the scientific research communities and their related RIs as well as the international policy bodies and international organizations
The CReATIVE-B road map provides guidance and recommendations for interoperability on the technological and governance levels between RIs and the scientific communities using the RIs for biodiversity infrastructures and ecosystem research.

CReATIVE-B Final Event – Brussels 26th september 2014

During this event, a roadmap of global data infrastructures supporting biodiversity and ecosystem research will be presented. In the last two decades quite a number of activities emerged to manage, share and deploy the fast growing data volumes from observations, collections, sensors and other data sources in biodiversity and ecosystem research. This data “gravity” pushed new applications and services, resulting in the development and establishment of large-scale research infrastructures. Following an initiative of the European LifeWatch research infrastructure, a number of large-scale data research infrastructures with a global outreach in this scientific area teamed together in the project Creative-B (Coordination of Research e-Infrastructures Activities Toward an International Virtual Environment for Biodiversity). The collaboration resulted in drafting a global Roadmap focusing on common priorities and infrastructure engagement, enhancing infrastructure interoperability, and the legal and governance implications. Specific issues are addressing challenges to sustain data availability and services, user interaction and value delivery, cooperation for infrastructure interoperability as well as legal interoperability, and finally education and training. This Roadmap shows how global interaction is promoting complementary development while fostering synergy for supporting frontier research and addressing global and societal challenges. The event in Brussels will also highlight some implications for other stakeholders such as funding and governmental bodies.

Coordination of Research e-Infrastructures Activities

ESFRI initiatives with a need to work on a global scale will have to collaborate with international comparable partners.

The CReATIVE-B project will seek to support the interaction between the LifeWatch ESFRI Research Infrastructure with Research Infrastructures (RI) on biodiversity and ecosystems research in other parts of the world.

The immediate objective is to define a road map for interoperability on the technological level, on the governance level and on the interrelation with the scientific communities using the RIs.

The project will therefore be a catalyst for worldwide collaboration in this field by supporting and initiating coordination activities of these RIs. The greater objective of this collaboration is to serve the goals of GEOSS. At the same time, the international outreach of LifeWatch can lead to further international collaboration on interoperability of these infrastructures to even better serve research communities worldwide.

In order to do so, CReATIVE-B will initiate with the international ‘sister’ infrastructures to have a second edition of the e-Biosphere conference, to be organized in 2013, and contribute to this conference.

In achieving the goals of this coordination and support action, CReATIVE-B will further support the European Commission flagship, vision 2020.