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Some facts about Biodiversity:

Biodiversity refers to the variety living things (plants, animals,
fungi, bacteria, ect.) found in an ecosystem and the variation in their
genetic makeup. Biodiversity can be used to measure the health of
an ecosystem. Healthy ecosystems have greater variety and
variation in life than unhealthy ones.
The rainforest has the highest biodiversity(Science Learners
Although an estimated 5 to 30 million species live on Earth, only
1.9 million species have been described, the process in which
scientists identify specimens they have collected(
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).
Tropical regions contain 50-90% of Earth's plant and animal
species(World Resources Institute).
Madagascar is considered a biodiversity hot spot 98% of its land
mammals, 92% of its reptiles, 68% of its plants, and 41% of its
breeding bird species exist nowhere else on Earth(
Atlas of Population and the Environment).
15,589 species are currently threatened with extinction 1 in 4
mammals and 1 in 8 birds. This number is increasing as habitats are
continually diminished and degraded(
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).
Oceans cover about 70% of the entire Earths surface (
Defenders of Wildlife).


A good way to remember the causes of species decline is through

the acronym HIPPO:
H Habitat Loss: This occurs when a particular area is converted
from usable to unusable habitat. Industrial activities, agriculture,
aquaculture, mining, deforestation, and water extraction are all
central causes of habitat loss. This includes deforestation for wood
for cooking food, such as we saw in the Module 2 discussion of
biogas generators. Habitat fragmentation, the loss of large units of
habitat, is also a serious threat to biodiversity. The picture below
shows an example of habitat fragmentation in the Amazon
I Invasion of introduced species: When an animal, plant, or
microbe moves into a new area, it can affect the resident species in
several different ways. New species can parasitize or predate upon
residents, hybridize with them, compete with them for food, bring
unfamiliar diseases, modify habitats, or disrupt important
P Pollution: The discharge of toxic synthetic chemicals and heavy
metals into the environment has a huge impact on species
abundance, and can lead to extinctions. Its important to remember
that substances that are natural can become pollution when they
are too abundant in a certain area. For example, nitrogen and
phosphorous are important nutrients for plant growth, but when they
concentrate in water systems after being applied as agricultural

P Population increase: In the year 1800, there were

fewer than 1 billion people on earth, and today there are
about 6.8 billion. Even without the vast increases in per capita
resource use that have occurred during this period, the
pressures on biodiversity would have increased during this
time period simply based on population growth. While the
impacts that each human has on biodiversity varies widely
depending on the types and amounts of resources that he or
she uses (as in the I=PAT equation), overall, increasing
populations have lead to increasing threats to biodiversity.
O Overcollection/overharvesting of resources: This
includes targeted hunting, gathering or fishing for a particular
species as well as incidental harvesting such as by-catch in
ocean fisheries. The megafauna extinction example earlier
was an example of overharvesting causing biodiversity loss.
Other reasons:


When organisms eat, they take in matter as well as

energy into their bodies. For example, when you eat chicken,
the flesh of the chicken containing nutrients and other enters
your body. You use the nutrients and energy to build muscles
and other parts of your body to perform various activities.
The food pyramid is designed to make healthy eating
easier. Healthy eating is about getting the correct amount of
nutrients protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals
you need to maintain good health. Foods that contain the
same type of nutrients are grouped together on each of the
shelves of the Food Pyramid. This gives you a choice of
different foods from which to choose a healthy diet. Following
the Food Pyramid as a guide will help you get the right
balance of nutritious foods within your calorie range. Studies
show that we take in too many calories from foods and drinks
high in fat, sugar and salt, on the top shelf of the Food
Pyramid. They provide very little of the essential vitamins and
minerals your body needs. Limiting these is essential for
healthy eating.

Pyramid of Biomass

Pyramid of


Every organism needs to obtain energy in order to live. For

example, plants get energy from the sun, some animals eat
plants, and some animals eat other animals.
A food chain is the sequence of who eats whom in a biological
community (an ecosystem) to obtain nutrition. A food chain
starts with the primary energy source, usually the sun or
boiling-hot deep sea vents. The next link in the chain is an
organism that make its own food from the primary energy
source -- an example is photosynthetic plants that make their
own food from sunlight (using a process
calledphotosynthesis) and chemosynthetic bacteria that
make their food energy from chemicals in hydrothermal vents.
These are calledautotrophsorprimary producers.
Next come organisms that eat the autotrophs; these organisms
are calledherbivoresorprimary consumers-- an example is
a rabbit that eats grass.
The next link in the chain is animals that eat herbivores - these
are calledsecondary consumers-- an example is a snake
that eat rabbits.
In turn, these animals are eaten by larger predators -- an
example is an owl that eats snakes. In turn, these animals are
eaten by larger predators -- an example is an owl that eats
The tertiary consumers are are eaten byquaternary

The arrows in a food chain show the flow ofenergy, from the sun or
hydrothermal vent to a top predator. As the energy flows from organism
to organism, energy is lost at each step. A network of manyfood
chainsis called afood web.
Trophic Levels:
The trophic level of an organism is the position it holds in a food chain.
Primary producers(organisms that make their own food from sunlight
and/or chemical energy from deep sea vents) are the base of every
food chain - these organisms are calledautotrophs.
Primary consumersare animals that eat primary producers; they are
also calledherbivores(plant-eaters).
Secondary consumerseat primary consumers. They
arecarnivores(meat-eaters) andomnivores(animals that eat both
animals and plants).
Tertiary consumerseat secondary consumers.
Quaternary consumerseat tertiary consumers.
Food chains "end" with top predators, animals that have little or no
natural enemies.
When any organism dies, it is eventually eaten bydetrivores(like
vultures, worms and crabs) and broken down bydecomposers(mostly
bacteria and fungi), and the exchange of energy continues.Some
organisms' position in the food chain can vary as their diet differs. For
example, when a bear eats berries, the bear is functioning as a primary
consumer. When a bear eats a plant-eating rodent, the bear is
functioning as a secondary consumer. When the bear eats salmon, the
bear is functioning as a tertiary consumer (this is because salmon is a

Food Web

Afood webis a graphical description of feeding relationships among

species in anecological community, that is, of who eats whom (Fig. 1).
It is also a means of showing howenergyand materials (e.g.,carbon)
flow through a community ofspeciesas a result of these feeding
relationships. Typically, species are connected by lines or arrows called
"links", and the species are sometimes referred to as "nodes" in food
web diagrams.
The pioneering animal ecologistCharles Elton(1927) introduced the
concept of the food web (which he called food cycle) to general
ecological science. As he described it: "Theherbivoresare usually
preyed upon by carnivores, which get theenergyof thesunlightat
third-hand, and these again may be preyed upon by other carnivores,
and so on, until we reach an animal which has no enemies, and which
forms, as it were, a terminus on this food cycle. There are, in fact,
chains of animals linked together by food, and all dependent in the long
run upon plants. We refer to these as 'food-chains', and to all the food
chains in a community as the 'food-cycle.'"
A food web differs from a food chain in that the latter shows only a
portion of the food web involving a simple, linear series of species
(e.g.,predator,herbivore,plant) connected by feeding links. A food web
aims to depict a more complete picture of the feeding relationships, and
can be considered a bundle of many interconnected food chains
occurring within the community. All species occupying the same
position within a food chain comprise a trophic level within the food
web. For instance, all of the plants in the foodweb comprise the first or
"primary producer" tropic level, allherbivorescomprise the second or