- Biodiversity conservation,
- Ecosystem management
Biodiversity is the extraordinary variety of life on Earth – from genes and species to ecosystems and the valuable functions they perform. E.O. Wilson, the noted biologist and author who coined the term “biodiversity,” explains it as “the very stuff of life.” Species and the ecosystems in which they live are indelibly linked. Conversion or loss of ecosystems inevitably impairs the species that depend on them. As well, changes in the life cycle of one species could impact the life cycles of many other species (including humans), alter ecosystems and ecosystem functions, and contribute to local, regional and, ultimately, global changes. Life as we know it will not be the same if our rich biodiversity heritage is dramatically altered. And the signs indicate that this is precisely what is happening. Biodiversity is threatened, and not because of catastrophic events such as the asteroid crash that scientists believe caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The current threat to biodiversity, and thus to the tapestry of life, stems primarily from expanding human populations and increased human consumption of natural resources. Fortunately, together we can take steps to protect our rich biodiversity. The Smithsonian Institution’s Program on Monitoring and Assessment of Biodiversity, under the Conservation and Research Center of the National Zoological Park, and the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology worked together to prepare this booklet. It explains what biodiversity is, why it is so important, why it is threatened, and what can be done to conserve this valuable resource. Read on to learn more about what we can all do to help.