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8 main values of biodiversity – explained.

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Some of the major values of biodiversity are as follows: 1. Environmental Value 2. Social Value 3. Ecosystem Services 4. Economic Value 5. Consumptive use value 6. Productive Use Value 7. Ethical and Moral Value 8. Aesthetic Value.

Biodiversity is the most precious gift of nature mankind is blessed with. As all the organisms in an ecosystem are interlinked and interdependent, the value of biodiversity in the life of all the organisms including humans is enormous.

The role of biodiversity in providing ecosystem services is twofold.

Firstly, biodiversity is directly used as a source for food, fibre, fuel and other extractable resources. Secondly, biodiversity plays an important role in ecosystem processes providing the regulating, cultural and supporting services.

For example, vegetation cover protects the soil from erosion by binding soil particles and minimizing the effects of water runoff. Likewise, cultivation of crops is to a large extent dependent on the availability of pollinating insects.

Biodiversity has a fundamental value to humans because we are so dependent on it for our cultural, economic, and environmental well-being. Elements of biodiversity can contribute to cultural identity, and many ecosystem characteristics are frequently incorporated into cultural traditions.

Other facts of human well-being, such as health and economic and political security, can influence the value of biodiversity. Many arguments to increase efforts to conserve diversity often emphasize the value of the “un-mined riches” that has yet to be discovered.

These include potential sources of new foods, medicines, and energy which can further fuel economic activity, as well as a healthier population. Biodiversity has proven to hold enormous value when adapted for use in health, agricultural, or industrial applications.

In the field of medicine alone, approximately 50% of current prescription medicines are derived from or modelled on natural substances. The health and diversity of ecosystems can have a significant effect on the overall stability of nearby communities.

Values of Biodiversity

1. Environmental Value:

The environmental value of biodiversity can be found by examining each ecosystem process and identifying the ecosystem services that result. For instance, in wetlands the vegetation captures water- carried sediment and the soil organisms break down a range of nutrients and pollutants washed into the area.

These processes provide the ecosystem service of purifying water. Wetlands also act as spawning and nursery grounds for some fish and provide a refuge for animals in times of drought. Some ecosystem services are easy to overlook until the underlying process is impaired.

For instance, dry-land salinity has emerged as a problem following sustained clearance of deep rooted perennial plants over wide areas. Water tables have raised carrying dissolved salts which then concentrate in the soil. Forests regulate the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by releasing oxygen as a by-product during photosynthesis, and control rainfall and soil erosion.

2. Social Value:

The social value of biodiversity includes aesthetic, recreational, cultural and spiritual values. To this can be added health benefits resulting from recreational and other activities. While traditional societies which had a small population and required less resources had preserved their biodiversity as a life supporting resource, modern man has rapidly depleted it even to the extent of leading to the irrecoverable loss due to extinction of several species.

Thus apart from the local use or sale of products of biodiversity there is the social aspect in which more and more resources are used by affluent societies. The biodiversity has to a great extent been preserved by traditional societies that valued it as a resource and appreciated that its depletion would be a great loss to their society.

There can be marked differences in landscape and biodiversity preferences according to age, socioeconomic factors and cultural influences. The lifestyle of the ancient people was closely interwoven with their surroundings.

The life of the indigenous people in many parts of the world still revolves around the forests and environment, even in these modern times, many of them still live in the forests and meet their daily requirements from their surroundings.

The biodiversity in different parts of the world has been largely preserved by the traditional societies. Since the indigenous people always protect the forests for their own benefit. In ancient times, especially in India, the environment in totally i.e., flora, fauna, etc., were held in high esteem.

Trees like Peepal, Banyan and Tulsi are still worshipped. Ladies offering water to Tulsi daily is considered good and there are festivals when ladies tie sacred threads around Peepal and Banyan trees and pray for the welfare of their families.

3. Ecosystem Services:

These services also support human needs and activities such as intensely managed production ecosystems.

Ecosystem service includes:

a. The production of oxygen by land based plants and marine algae;

b. The maintenance of fresh water quality by vegetation slowing run off, trapping sediment and removing nutrients and by soil organisms breaking down pollutants;

c. The production and maintenance of fertile soil as a result of many interacting processes;

d. The provision of foods such as fish, pastures for cattle and sheep, timber, fire wood and harvested wildlife such as kangaroos and native cut flowers;

e. The provision of native species and genes used in industry research and development, for instance, in traditional breeding and biotechnology applications in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, mariculture, pharmacy, chemicals production and bioremediation;

f. Pollination of agricultural crops, forest trees and native flowering plants by native insects, birds and other creatures;

g. Pest control in agricultural land by beneficial native predators;

h. Flood mitigation by vegetation slowing run off and trapping sediment;

i. Breakdown of pollutants by micro-organisms in soil and aquatic ecosystems and sequestration of heavy metals in marine and fresh water sediments;

j. Greenhouse gas reduction by, for instance, sequestering atmospheric carbon in wood and marine calcium carbonate deposits;

k. Maintenance of habitats for native plants and animals; and

l. Maintenance of habitats that are attractive to humans for recreation, tourism and cultural activities and that has spiritual importance.

4. Economic Value:

The economic potential of biodiversity is immense in terms of food, fodder, medicinal, ethical and social values. Biodiversity forms the major resource for different industries, which govern the world economy.

The salient features regarding the economical potential of biodiversity are given below:

1. The major fuel sources of the world including wood and fossil fuels have their origin due to biodiversity.

2. It is the source of food for all animals and humans.

3. Many important chemicals have their origin from the diverse flora and fauna, used in various industries.

4. Diverse group of animals are used for medical research during the testing of new drugs.

5. Consumptive use value:

This is related to natural products that are used directly for food, fodder, timber, fuel wood etc. Humans use at least 40,000 species of plants and animals on a daily basis. Many people around the world still depend on wild species for most of their needs like food, shelter and clothing. The tribal people are completely dependent on the forests for their daily needs.

6. Productive Use Value:

This is assigned to products that are commercially harvested and marketed. Almost all the present date agricultural crops have originated from wild varieties. The biotechnologists continuously use the wild species of plants for developing new, better yielding and disease resistant varieties. Biodiversity represents the original stock from which new varieties are being developed.

7. Ethical and Moral Value:

It is based on the principle of ‘live and let others live’. Ethical values related to biodiversity conservation are based on the importance of protecting all forms of life. All forms of life have the right to exist on earth. Man is only a small part of the Earth’s great family of species.

Don’t plants and animals have an equal right to live and exist on our planet which is like an inhabited spaceship? Morality and ethics teach us to preserve all forms of life and not to harm any organism unnecessarily.

Some people take pleasure in the hunting of animals. People also sometimes degrade and pollute the environment by their unethical actions. Through proper education and awareness, the people’s conscience against such practices must be raised.

8. Aesthetic Value:

The beauty of our planet is because of biodiversity, which otherwise would have resembled other barren planets dotted around the universe. Biological diversity adds to the quality of life and provides some of the most beautiful aspects of our existence. Biodiversity is responsible for the beauty of a landscape.

People go far off places to enjoy the natural surroundings and wildlife. This type of tourism is referred to as eco-tourism, which has now become a major source of income in many countries. In many societies, the diversity of flora and fauna has become a part of the traditions and culture of the region and has added to the aesthetic values of the place.

Related Articles:

  • 3 Major Components of Biodiversity | Biodiversity
  • 6 Main Threats to Biodiversity – Explained!


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National Research Council (US) Committee on Noneconomic and Economic Value of Biodiversity. Perspectives on Biodiversity: Valuing Its Role in an Everchanging World. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999.

Cover of Perspectives on Biodiversity

Perspectives on Biodiversity: Valuing Its Role in an Everchanging World.

  • Hardcopy Version at National Academies Press

3 The Values of Biodiversity

The individual components of biodiversity—genes, species, and ecosystems—provide society with a wide array of goods and services. Genes, species, and ecosystems of direct, indirect, or potential use to humanity are often referred to as "biological resources" (McNeely and others 1990; Reid and Miller 1989; Wood 1997). Examples that we use directly include the genes that plant breeders use to develop new crop varieties; the species that we use for various foods, medicines, and industrial products; and the ecosystems that provide services, such as water purification and flood control. The components of biodiversity are interconnected. For example, genetic diversity provides the basis of continuing adaptation to changing conditions, and continued crop productivity rests on the diversity in crop species and on the variety of soil invertebrates and microorganisms that maintain soil fertility. Similarly, a change in the composition and abundance of the species that make up an ecosystem can alter the services that can be obtained from the system. In this chapter, we review the types of goods and services that mankind obtains directly and indirectly from biodiversity and its components.

Biodiversity contributes to our knowledge in ways that are both informative and transformative. Knowledge about the components of biodiversity is valuable in stimulating technological innovation and in learning about human biology and ecology. Experiencing and increasing our knowledge about biodiversity transform our values and beliefs. There is a fairly large literature characterizing nonextractive ecosystem services with direct benefit to society, such as water pollution and purification, flood control, pollination, and pest control. In addition, such services in biophysical and economic terms characterize the institutional mechanisms needed to generate incentives for their preservation (Daily 1997; Missouri Botanical Garden forthcoming). In this chapter, we review the types of social and cultural values associated with knowledge of biodiversity. We use those values in chapter 4 to discuss how they can contribute to decisions on management of biodiversity.

  • Biological Values

The components of biodiversity are the source of all our food and many of our medicines, fibers, fuels, and industrial products. The direct uses of the components of biodiversity contribute substantially to the economy. In 1989, US agriculture, forestry, and fisheries contributed $113 billion 1 to the US gross domestic product (GDP), equal to the contribution of the chemical and petroleum industries combined (DOC 1993). The full contribution of biodiversity-related industries to the economy is higher still, in that it includes shares of such sectors as recreation (see Everglades and Boulder, Colo., case studies in this chapter and Lake Washington case study in chapter 6), hunting (see Quabbin Reservoir case study in chapter 6 ), tourism (see Costa Rica case study in chapter 2 ), and pharmaceuticals.

The economies of most developing countries depend more heavily on natural resources, so biodiversity-related sectors contribute larger shares of their GDPs. For example, the sum of the agriculture, forestry, and forest-industry products in Costa Rica in 1987 accounted for 19% of the nation's GDP (TSC/WRI 1991), whereas these sectors accounted for only 2% of the US GDP (DOC 1993). The relatively small direct economic contribution of biological resources in the two countries illustrates the difficulty of "valuing" biodiversity. The small fraction of the value of these ecological systems that is accounted for in US economic ledgers contrasts starkly with the fact that our survival depends on functioning ecological systems. At the same time, our limited ability to value ecological parallels our limited appreciation of our dependence on these systems. The imperfections of our knowledge are seen in the $200 million Biosphere 2 trial—in the unsuccessful attempt to house eight people for 2 years in an ecologically closed system. Cohen and Tilman (1996) concluded that "no one yet knows how to engineer systems that provide humans with the life-supporting services that natural ecosystems produce for free."

Biodiversity in Domesticated Systems

Humans rely on a relatively small fraction of species diversity for food. Only about 150 species of plants have entered world commerce, and 103 species account for 90% of the supply of food plants by weight, calories, protein, and fat for most of the world's countries (Prescott-Allen and Prescott-Allen 1990). Just three crops—wheat, rice, and maize—account for roughly 60% of the calories and 56% of the protein consumed directly from plants (Wilkes 1985). Relatively few species that have not already been used as foods are likely to enter our food supply, but many species now consumed only locally are likely to be introduced into larger markets and grown in different regions. For example, the kiwi fruit was introduced into the United States as recently as 1961; within 20 years, US sales had grown to some $22 million per year (Myers 1997).

Although relatively few species are consumed for food, their productivity in both traditional and modern agricultural systems depends on genetic diversity within the species and interactions with other species found in the agroecosystem. Claims that such biodiversity "archives" can serve as substitutes for biodiversity in natural habitats are more fanciful than factual. Genetic diversity provides the raw material for plant breeding, which is responsible for much of the increases in productivity in modern agricultural systems. In the United States from 1930 to 1980, plant breeders' use of genetic diversity accounted for at least the doubling in yields of rice, barley, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and sugarcane; a threefold increase in tomato yields; and a fourfold increase in yields of maize, sorghum, and potato. An estimated $1 billion has been added to the value of US agricultural output each year by this widened genetic base (OTA 1987). Breeders rely on access to a wide range of traditional cultivars and wild relatives of crops as sources of genetic material that is used to enhance productivity or quality. Different landraces can contain genes that confer resistance to specific diseases or pests, make crops more responsive to inputs such as water or fertilizers, or confer hardiness enabling the crop to be grown in more extreme weather or soil conditions.

Much of the genetic diversity available for crop breeding is now stored in a network of national and international genebanks administered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, and various national agricultural research programs, such as the US Department of Agriculture's National Seed Storage Laboratory in Fort Collins, Colorado. The value of these genebanks for agricultural improvement is substantial. For example, in a presentation to this committee, 2 Evenson and Gollin estimated the present net value of adding 1,000 cataloged accessions of rice landraces to the International Rice Research Institute's genebank at $325 million (on the basis of empirical estimates that these accessions would generate 5.8 additional new varieties, which would generate an annual $145 million income stream with a delay of 10 years). As important as they are in agriculture, genebanks, and other in situ collections (cyropreserved and in zoos) are viable only for a very narrow array of species.

The important contribution of genebanks to agricultural productivity has been recognized by government since the 18th century. It led to the rise of botanical gardens and expeditions in search of new plant varieties, including the fabled voyage of the HMS Bounty (Fowler 1994), and is growing substantially as traditional landraces continue to be replaced by modern varieties.

Genetic engineering has greatly increased the supply of genetic material available for introduction into crop varieties. Genes from any species of plant, animal, or microorganism can now be moved into a particular plant. For example, genes from the winter flounder have been transferred into the tobacco genome to increase its frost resistance, and genes from the microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis have been transferred into corn, wheat, and rice to give them resistance to insect pests. Genetic engineering is not without considerable risks, and its ultimate success will depend on genetic variability in natural populations. It is clear that the rapid increase in uses of genetic engineering will continue as knowledge and applications of new techniques increase.

Not only are specific genes valuable in modern agricultural systems, but the maintenance of genetic diversity is also valuable in traditional agricultural systems. The greater the genetic uniformity of a crop, the greater the risk of catastrophic losses to disease or unusual weather. In 1970, for example, the US corn harvest was reduced by 15%—for a net economic cost of $1 billion—when a leaf fungus spread quickly through a relatively uniform crop (Tatum 1971). Since then, breeders have taken greater precautions to ensure that a heterogeneous array of genetic strains are present in fields, but problems due to reduced diversity still recur. The loss of a large portion of the Soviet Union's wheat crop to cold weather in 1972 and the citrus canker outbreak in Florida in 1984 both stemmed from reductions in genetic diversity (Reid and Miller 1989).

Humans also use a relatively small number of livestock species for food and transportation: only about 50 species have been domesticated. Here, too, genetic diversity is the raw material for maintaining and increasing the productivity of species.

Biodiversity in Wild Systems

Humans still harvest considerable quantities of food, fuel, and fiber from nondomesticated ecosystems. For example, gross revenue from the world marine fisheries in 1989 amounted to $69 billion (WRI 1994). Fish contribute only 5% of the protein consumed worldwide, but the proportion can be much higher locally. In Japan, the Philippines, the Seychelles, and Ghana, for example, fish account for more than 20% of protein intake (PAI 1995). In some developing countries and among some population segments in developed countries, terrestrial wildlife also continues to be an important subsistence resource. In some areas of Botswana, for example, over 50 species of wild animals provide as much as 40% of the protein in the diet; and in Nigeria, game accounts for about 20% of the animal protein consumed by people in rural areas (McNeely and others 1990).

Increased diversity of livestock can sometimes improve productivity. In Africa, for example, "game ranching"—in which wild species of antelope replace domesticated livestock on particular ranches—can result in higher yields of meat than could be obtained from domesticated animals (WRI 1987). Naturally diverse ungulates can use grassland resources more efficiently than domesticated varieties in these situations.

In rural Alaska, more than 90% of the people harvest and use wild animals for both food and clothing. The cash value of wild food constitutes 49% of residents' mean income (ADFG 1994). The marine mammals of the northern Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas are among the most diverse in the world; many of the species are used for subsistence purposes by Alaskan Natives, and many have important symbolic roles in cultural identity (NRC 1994).

Most of the world's timber production still comes from nondomesticated systems, although a growing share is now harvested on plantations. In tropical forests, for example, the area of plantations increased from 18 million hectares in 1980 to 40 million in 1990. Although statistics on the world value of internal and externally traded timber products are not available, the world value of forest-product exports alone in 1993 was to $100 billion (FAOSTAT 1995).

Recreational uses of biodiversity—fishing, hunting, and various nonconsumptive uses, such as bird-watching—also contribute to the economy (see Everglades and Boulder, Colo., case studies in this chapter and Lake Washington case study in chapter 6 ). In the United States alone, such activities involved about 77 million persons over the age of 16 in 1996 and resulted in expenditures of $101.2 billion (DOI/DOC 1997). Wildlife watchers made up the largest group (62.9 million participants in 1996); their expenditures included $16.7 billion for equipment, $9.4 billion for travel, and $3.1 billion in other expenses. Of a total of 39.7 million sportspersons, 35.2 million were adult anglers and 14.0 million were hunters; this group spent $72 billion in 1996, including $37.8 billion for fishing, $20.6 billion for hunting, and $13.5 billion in unspecified expenses (DOI/DOC 1997).

One of the most rapidly growing values of biodiversity in wild ecosystems is related to tourism. Worldwide receipts from international tourism in 1990 totaled $250 billion (WCMC 1992), and domestic tourism is believed to be as much as 10 times higher. How much of the tourist trade is attracted specifically by biodiversity is difficult to tell. Of the $55 billion in tourism revenues accruing to developing countries in 1988, an estimated 4–22% was due to "nature tourism" (Lindberg 1991). More than half of the visitors in Costa Rica, for example, state that the national parks are their "principal reason" for traveling to the country (see the case study on Costa Rica in chapter 2 ). Costa Rica's protected areas are estimated to account for $87 million annually in tourism revenues.

As in domesticated agroecosystems, the diversity of genes and species undergirds the continued productivity of these components of biodiversity in nondomesticated ecosystems. The genetic diversity in a species provides the basis for the species to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Reduced genetic diversity increases the probability of species extinction or of substantial reductions in the population of a species due to changing environmental conditions (such as, a change in climate or the introduction of a new disease). For example, wild exotic trout in the western United States can be destroyed by whirling disease, which is caused by the microorganism Myxobolus cerebralis ; the only way to restore infected populations is to find genetically resistant populations (Hoffman 1990).

The productivity of an ecosystem can be high both in systems with large numbers of species, such as tropical forests, and in systems with relatively small numbers of species, such as wetlands.

The extirpation of the California sea otter from much of its range in the 1800s resulted in substantial changes in near-shore ecosystems (Estes and Palmisano 1974). Recovery of otter populations to their original densities affects other ecosystem components of commercial or recreational value: giant kelp, sea urchins, abalone, and surf clams. The sea otter is a primary predator (top of the food chain) of mollusks and urchins, which graze on stands of algae that are primary producers (of calories consumed) in coastal regions extending from California through the Aleutian Islands. As a consequence of the extirpation of sea otters, grazing urchins became common and reduced the biomass of primary producers.

Just like the loss of specific species, the manipulation of the food chain structure can alter the productivity of direct value to humans. For example, in areas where intense gillnet fisheries have seriously depleted Nile perch stocks, many African cichlids have recovered in Lake Victoria (Kaufman 1992). Equivalently, the introduction of the Nile perch into Lake Victoria led to the extinction of many species of the native cichlid fish and substantially reduced the total harvest of this important food source (Johnson and others 1996).

Biodiversity in the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industry

Wild species of plants and animals have long been the source of important pharmaceutical products. Natural products play a central role in traditional healthcare systems. The World Health Organization estimates that some 80% of people in developing countries obtain their primary health care in the form of traditional medicines (Farnsworth 1988). Systems of ayurvedic medicine (traditional Hindu medical practices) in India and the traditional systems of Chinese herbal medicine, for example, reach hundreds of millions of people. Total sales of herbal medicines in Europe, Asia, and North America were estimated at $8.4 billion in 1993 (Laird and Wynberg 1996). That total is not large on a global scale, but sales of herbal medicines can often be an important source of income for local communities and business.

Natural products also continue to play a central role in the pharmacopeia of industrialized nations. Of the highest-selling 150 prescription drugs sold in the United States in 1993, 18% of the 150 consisted of essentially unaltered natural products, and natural products provided essential information used to synthesize an additional 39% (Grifo and others 1997). In total, 57% owed their existence either directly or indirectly to natural products.

Natural products were once the only source of pharmaceuticals, but by the 1960s synthetic chemistry had advanced to the point where the pharmaceutical industry's interest in natural products for drug development had declined greatly and it declined further with the introduction of "rational drug design". Several technological advances led to a resurgence of interest in research in natural products in the 1980s. The development of modern techniques involving computers, robotics, and highly sensitive instrumentation for the extraction, fractionation, and chemical identification of natural products has dramatically increased the efficiency and decreased the cost of screening for natural products. Before the 1980s, a laboratory using test-tube and in vivo assays could screen 100–1,000 samples per week. Now, a laboratory using in vitro mechanism-based assays and robotics can screen 10,000 samples per week. Where the screening of 10,000 plant extracts would have cost $6 million a decade ago, it can now be accomplished for $150,000 (Reid and others 1995). In the next decade, throughput could grow by a factor of 10–100.

As the new technologies became available in the 1980s, many companies established natural-products research divisions. Of 27 companies interviewed in 1991, two-thirds had established their natural-products programs within the preceding 6 years (Reid and others 1993). In most large pharmaceutical companies, natural-products research accounts for 10% or less of overall research. But some smaller companies now focus exclusively on natural products. For example, Shaman Pharmaceuticals bases all its drug-discovery research on natural products used in traditional healing systems, and it currently has two drugs in clinical trials.

How long the interest in natural-products drug discovery will last is impossible to know. New techniques of combinatorial chemistry and other advances in drug design might reduce interest in natural-products research. Even so, many chemists feel that current synthetic chemistry is still unable to match, the complexity of many of the natural compounds that have proved effective as drugs. For example, paclitaxel, known as Taxol, a compound from the Pacific yew tree (which is not considered economically important for timber or other commercial purposes), is being used in treatment for ovarian and breast cancer. The compound was discovered in the 1960s but could not be synthesized until the 1990s; and even now, the process is so time-consuming and expensive that natural precursors are used in the production of the drug.

Drugs developed from natural products often generate large profits for drug companies, but the actual value of biodiversity as a ''raw material'' for drug development is much smaller (Simpson and others 1996). On the average, some $235 million and 12 years of work are required to produce a single marketable product in the drug industry. Moreover, less than 1 in 10,000 chemicals is likely to result in a potential new drug and only 1 in 4 of those candidates will make it to the pharmacy. On the basis of typical royalties paid for raw materials, the likelihood of discovering a new drug, the length of patent protection, and the discount rate, the present net value of an arrangement whereby a nation contributes 1,000 extracts for screening by industry would be only about $50,000. Moreover, there would be a 97.5% chance that no product at all would be produced. The likelihood that any particular plant or animal will yield a new drug is extremely small, but endangered species in the United States have yielded new drugs. We can to some degree aggregate the plants and animals that are most likely to lead to new drugs. These are likely to have considerable value as prospects (Rausser and Small in press).


Until recently, pharmaceutical, agricultural, and industrial uses of biodiversity relied on largely different methods of research and development. Today, with the help of the new biotechnologies, individual samples of plants or microorganisms can be maintained in culture and screened for potential use in any of those industries. Companies are screening the properties of organisms to develop new antifouling compounds for ships, new glues, and to isolate new genes and proteins for use in industry. A thermophilic bacterium collected from Yellowstone hot springs provided the heat-stable enzyme Taq polymerase, which makes it possible, in a process known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to amplify specific DNA target sequences derived from minute quantities of DNA. PCR has provided the basis of medical diagnoses, forensic analyses, and basic research that were impossible just 10 years ago. The current world market for Taq polymerase, is $80–85 million per year (Rabinow 1996). Biodiversity is the essential "raw material" of the biotechnology industry, but the process of examining biodiversity for new applications in that industry has only begun.

Biodiversity and Bioremediation

It has become clear in recent years that the fundamental role of microorganisms in global processes can be exploited in maintaining and restoring environmental productivity and quality. Indeed, microorganisms are already playing important roles, both in the prevention of pollution (for example, through waste processing and environmental monitoring) and in environmental restoration (for example, through bioremediation of spilled oil). Modern biotechnology is providing tools that will enhance the environmental roles of microorganisms, and this trend should accelerate as the appropriate basic and applied sciences mature (Colwell 1995; Zilinskas and others 1995). A variety of probes and diagnostics for monitoring food and environmental quality have been developed (Dooley 1994), and there is much discussion of the development of genetically engineered organisms for speeding the clean up of wastes, spills, and contaminated sediments. Furthermore, marine biotechnology is being pursued avidly and on a larger scale in Japan (Yamaguchi 1996), where one major goal is to find ways to lower global atmospheric CO 2 concentrations. Without doubt, the prediction of climate change will be much improved by a better understanding of global cycles, and the tools of marine biotechnology will be heavily involved in this endeavor.

The fundamental premise here is that chronic pollution reduces system species diversity and diminishes ecosystem function. Thus, restoring perceived environmental quality and productivity cannot easily be separated from basic biodiversity issues.

Ecosystem Services

A substantial risk of undesirable and unexpected changes in ecosystem services is posed when the abundance of any species in an ecosystem is changed greatly. Our ability to predict which species are important for particular services is limited by the absence of detailed experimental studies of the ecosystem in question. Nonetheless, the available data indicate that a higher level of species diversity in an ecosystem tends to increase the likelihood that particular ecosystem services will be maintained in the face of changing ecological or climatic conditions (below, "Species Diversity and Ecosystem Services").

Both wild and human-modified ecosystems provide humankind with a variety of services that we often take for granted (see box 3-1 ). The services include the provision of clean water, regulation of water flows, modification of local and regional climate and rainfall, maintenance of soil fertility, flood control, pest control, and the protection of coastal zones from storm damage. All those are "products" of ecosystems and thus a product of biodiversity. The characteristics and maintenance of these ecosystem services are linked to the diversity of species in the systems and ultimately to the genetic diversity within those species. However, the nature of this relationship between ecosystem services and biodiversity at the lower levels of species and genetic diversity is complex and only partially understood.

Types of Ecosystem Services Linked to Biodiversity. Atmospheric—Climatic Gaseous composition of the atmosphere

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Humankind derives considerable benefits not only from the products of biodiversity but also from services of ecological systems, such as water purification, erosion control, and pollination. The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services is complex and will be discussed in greater detail later, but in general, most ecosystem services are degraded or diminished if the biodiversity of an ecosystem is substantially diminished. Because most ecosystem services are provided freely by natural systems, we typically become aware of their value and importance only when they are lost or diminished.

Historically, ecosystem services were not generally scarce and management decisions were rarely based on their low marginal value. That is decreasingly true, particularly with regard to drinking-water quality, flood control, pollination, soil fertility, and carbon sequestration. This trend is prompting interest in developing institutional frameworks through which to restore and safeguard these services in the United States and internationally.

The cost of the loss of various ecosystem services can be high. The US National Marine Fisheries Service estimated that the destruction of US coastal estuaries in 1954–1978 costs the nation over $200 million per year in revenues lost from commercial and sport fisheries (McNeely and others 1990). Hodgson and Dixon (1988) calculated the cost of the potential loss of the service that the forested watershed of Bacuit Bay in the Philippines provides in preventing siltation of the coastal coral ecosystem. The forest prevents siltation: if it were cut, siltation would increase, thereby reducing tourism and fisheries revenues. In a scenario in which logging is banned in the basin, the net present value of a 10-year sum of gross revenues from all three sources would be $42 million. In a scenario of continued logging, the net present value would be only $25 million. One recent and controversial set of global estimates of the value of ecosystem services is discussed in chapter 5 .

The value of various ecosystem services can also be seen in the costs that must be incurred to replace them. For example, natural soil ecosystems help to maintain high crop productivity, and the productivity that is lost if soil is degraded through erosion or through changes in species composition can sometimes be restored through the introduction of relatively expensive fertilizers or irrigation. Forested watersheds slow siltation of downstream reservoirs used for hydropower; a forest is altered and sedimentation increases, the hydroelectric power generating capacity lost could be replaced through the construction of new dams. Wetlands play important roles as "buffers", absorbing much stream runoff and preventing floods; if wetlands are filled, their flood-control role could be assumed by new flood-control dams. The US Army Corps of Engineers estimated that retaining a wetlands complex outside Boston, Massachusetts, realized an annual cost savings of $17 million in flood protection (McNeely and others 1990).

The conversion of one type of habitat to another—such as a conversion of natural forest to agriculture or of agricultural land to suburban development—can dramatically affect a wide variety of ecosystem services. Historically, the impacts of such conversions on ecosystem services have not received attention from policy-makers and managers, for two main reasons. First, the relationship between an ecosystem and a service is typically poorly understood. The conversion of a park to a parking lot will obviously change patterns of water runoff, but other effects of habitat conversions are difficult to predict. For example, the replacement of native vegetation in the western Australian wheatbelt with annual crops and pastures reduced rates of transpiration, increased runoff, and consequently raised the water table, creating waterlogged soil. Salts that had accumulated deep in the soil salinized the soil surface. The saline wet conditions altered ecosystem services by reducing farmland productivity and reducing the supply of freshwater. Restoring such degraded ecosystems can take decades and be accomplished at high cost. In addition, the changes threatened the remaining fragments of native communities and salinized the region's freshwater lakes. Careful research could probably have predicted many of those effects, but such research is rarely undertaken before a land-use change (Heywood 1995).

Second, ecosystem services are often public goods. Individual landowners who cut their forests bear little if any of the cost associated with the reduction of water quality experienced by downstream water-users. Similarly, the flood control service that is lost when landowners fill their wetlands might have little direct effect on those landowners, but the private economic benefits of land conversion to agriculture will be important (see the following case study on the Everglades). Such losses are described in economic terms as "externalities"; the changes in the environment occur as a result of economic activity, such as land development or cutting forests for lumber, but the losses are external to the market transactions.

Case Study: The Everglades

This case study shows the complexity of valuing ecological resources and developing achievable scenarios for ecological and economic sustainability in a watershed system, particularly one in which human activities that change the quality or flow of water in one area affect the biological uniqueness, aesthetic value, and local economy of other areas.

The Everglades are part of the largest wetland ecosystem in the lower 48 states. Historically, water from the Kissimmee River flowed southward into Lake Okeechobee and during wet years overflowed the southern rim of the lake, spreading across the Everglades in a broad "river of grass" that slowly flowed southward to the Florida Bay estuary. The large spatial scale of the system, the highly variable seasonal and interannual patterns of water storage and sheet flow across the landscape, and the very low concentrations of nutrients in the surface waters led to a unique assemblage of wading birds, large vertebrates, and fish and plant communities in a mosaic of habitats over the region (Davis and Ogden 1994).

Since the early 1990s, the environment of Southern Florida has undergone extensive habitat degradation associated with hydrological alterations by humans. Initially, these were to drain land for agriculture and human settlements; later alterations were to protect against flooding. The resulting Central and Southern Florida Project (the C&SF Project) of the US Army Corps of Engineers is one of the most massive engineered hydrological systems in the world. The human population of Southern Florida is now 4.5 million and growing at a rate of almost 1 million per decade, mostly concentrated along the lower eastern coast.

The Everglades has been compartmentalized for a variety of land uses: agriculture in the north, where the largest accumulations of organic soils once existed; water conservation areas in the central portions; and the Everglades National Park in the south. The Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) covers about 27% of the historical system, the water conservation areas 33%, the park 21%, urban areas about 12%, and various nondeveloped areas about 7% (Gunderson and Loftus 1993). About half the original Everglades remains in some semblance of its natural state in the water-conservation areas and the park (Gunderson and others 1995).

The construction of canals, levees, and pumping stations has changed the hydrology of the entire system, leaving it vulnerable to a variety of influences. There have been population declines in native species; for example, during the last decade, populations of wading birds averaged less than 10% of their historical highs. Populations of a dozen animal species and 14 plant species have been so reduced that they are now endangered or threatened. Nonnative and nuisance species, such as Melaleuca quinquinervia (a tree introduced from Australia in the early 1990s to help drain the Everglades) and the Brazilian pepper tree ( Schinus terebinthifolius ), have invaded extensive areas, outcompeting native plants. In the converted agricultural areas, soil subsidence and water-level declines so great that they are measured in feet (Alexander and Cook 1973) have increased the susceptibility of the Everglades to drought and fires. Agriculture has introduced excessive nutrients into the system, and the decreased overland flow of freshwater has resulted in salt-water intrusion into the Everglades National Park and along areas of urban development to the east. If the present ecosystem continues to degrade, ecological sustainability cannot be achieved without fundamental changes (Davis and Ogden 1994).

Over the last several decades, state and federal programs have been created to address water-conservation problems in the Everglades. Crises resulting from a failure of existing policies have led to major reconfigurations and new institutions, structures, and policies (Gunderson and others 1995). Even among the agencies and institutions that were concerned primarily with the ecological functioning of the Everglades, there were conflicts over specific management objectives, owing in part to differences in the legal mandates governing the different management agencies. Conflicts were also generated by a lack of critical data needed to evaluate the likely effects of potential manipulations of the hydrological regimes of today's Everglades and by legal and other constraints on the options considered and evaluated by the agencies.

The agencies recognized that single-purpose interventions were unlikely to succeed and that restoration activities needed to be evaluated in a system-wide context. There was also common recognition that it was impossible to recreate precisely the original ecological conditions, because the drainage system had been altered in irreversible or very difficult-to-reverse ways. At issue were maintenance of the integrity of the watershed and water quality, preservation of biodiversity in a region of great interest, conservation of endangered species as required by law, and the sustainability of natural resources in a setting of rapid economic and population growth. Two current examples illustrate the complexity of the process.

The US Army Corps of Engineers recently completed a reconnaissance report for the C&SF Project (COE 1994). This represented the first phase of the corps's effort to examine ways to modify the C&SF Project to restore the Everglades and Florida Bay ecosystems while providing for other water-related needs of the area. Restoration objectives included increasing the total spatial extent of wetlands, increasing habitat heterogeneity, restoring hydrologic structure and function, restoring water quality, improving availability of water, and reducing flood damage on tribal lands. Recognized constraints included protection of threatened and endangered species, minimizing loss of services provided by the C&SF Project, and minimizing regional and local social and economic disruption. The reconnaissance study was the first step in development of a restoration plan. It set the stage for feasibility studies to develop further the most promising alternatives and recommend a plan for authorization by Congress.

The second example is a 4-year US Man and the Biosphere (US MAB) study on ecosystem management for sustainability of southern Florida ecological and associated societal systems (Harwell and others in press). This project places water-management and biodiversity issues into an ecosystem-management framework that presumes that the last century's fragmented and compartmentalized approach to management must evolve to one that explicitly recognizes the mutual interdependence of society and the environment. Such an approach will require integration of theory and knowledge from the natural sciences with analyses of societal and ecological costs and benefits of ecosystem restoration.

The US MAB project defined ecological sustainability goals for each component of the landscape with a focus on core areas of maximal ecological goals and buffer areas to support the attainment of those goals, established plausible management scenarios, and examined how the scenarios were related to the desired goals for sustainability of the regional ecological and societal systems (Harwell and Long 1995).

Three management scenarios were examined. The report concluded that only one was ecologically sustainable. It involves using portions of the EAA for dynamic water storage while it remains entirely or partly under private ownership; the EAA consists of 280,000 hectares, used primarily for sugar production, with total annual economic activity of about $1.2 billion (Bottcher and Izuno 1994). A National Audubon Society report on the endangered species in the Everglades made a similar recommendation (National Audubon Society 1992). Although this scenario was considered sufficient to achieve the ecological goals for the core areas it was concluded that complete acquisition of the EAA would have too high an economic and social cost (Bottcher and Izuno 1994). However, on the other hand, the sustainability of the sugar industry in the EAA itself is at risk because of extensive soil degradation, possible changes in the subsidies that support sugar prices, political efforts to tax the sugar industry exclusively for funds to restore the Everglades, and economic pressure to acquire EAA lands for residential development. Thus, it was seen that putting part of the EAA in a buffer to support ecological systems might counteract some of the risks to sustainability of the agricultural system.

The US MAB report suggested possible uses for the EAA that would allow for sugar production to continue and for the water-management needs to be met, thereby linking the sustainability of the ecological system with the societal sustainability of the local community. The analysis concluded that sugar is probably the most desirable form of agriculture for the EAA, in that its nutrient demands and nutrient exports to the Everglades are considerably lower than those of vegetable crops. Sugar agriculture was seen as much preferable to the alternative of housing developments or urbanization. The study concluded that the environment of southern Florida has more than enough water, except in severe drought years, to support all expected urban, agricultural, and ecological needs but that currently the greatest fraction of the freshwater is lost directly to the sea through the engineered system of drainage canals. The critical issue, then, is not competition for resources, but the storage and wise management of this renewable resource.

Risk Management of Ecosystem Diversity and Services

From the standpoint of resource management and policy-making, the link between species diversity and ecosystem services can best be characterized in a risk-management framework. For any given service, a number of changes in the relative abundance of species in an ecosystem could often be made with relatively little impact on the service in question. But addition or removal of particular species could profoundly alter one or more services. Moreover, the presence of a diversity of species—and the genetic diversity in those species—will aid in the persistence of a particular service in the face of changing ecological and climatic conditions. We rarely have sufficient ecological knowledge of a system to allow an accurate assessment of how a change in species diversity is likely to affect one or more services, although we often can identify at least some of the species whose depletion or addition is likely to matter. Management decisions involving potential impacts of changes in species populations on ecosystem services thus typically confront the problem of analyzing and managing risk in the face of scientific uncertainty.

No two species are identical, so, in a general sense no species in any ecosystem is "redundant". Nevertheless, for any particular ecosystem service, some species could be added or removed from the ecosystem or be replaced with other, nonnative species with little detectable influence on that service. In such cases, one species functionally compensates for another (Menge and others 1994). A clear example is the service that different plant species provide in slowing soil erosion and thereby maintaining clean water and soil productivity. A natural forest is often extremely effective at minimizing soil loss from an ecosystem. However, knowledge of the plant species in a particular forest ecosystem is necessary before one decides what plant species might be removed without changing the efficiency of erosion control.

Although the species in an ecosystem might perform similar functions, there is insufficient knowledge to predict when removing a species from an ecosystem will have an impact. Species in each ecosystem interact—are linked—and removing them might have serious effect; a change that has little effect on one ecosystem service might affect other services profoundly. Species whose low relative abundance would not suggest their large impact on populations of other species in a community are referred to as "keystone" species (Paine 1969; Power and others 1996). The chestnut blight largely eliminated the once-dominant chestnut from eastern deciduous forests (the species is still present, but now grows only in a bushy form), but its loss seems to have had relatively little influence on patterns of water runoff or sedimentation in the region because diverse species of hardwoods growing in similar habitats with similar canopy coverage and similar patterns of evapotranspiration were present in the system. However, if a keystone species were removed or added in this example, it could profoundly affect one or more services. The loss of a keystone species is likely to influence many of the functional processes in an ecosystem, as in the sea otter example earlier in this chapter.

Few communities and virtually no regional ecosystems have been studied in sufficient detail to allow an accurate assessment of all the species that are likely to play keystone roles in relation to various ecosystem services. Often, some species can be identified as likely keystone species in the absence of careful study and experimentation, but ecological science can help little in predicting which other species will play such roles. A virus, for example, could play a keystone role in a particular ecosystem. The rinderpest virus has gradually been eliminated from wild cattle near the Serengeti, and their populations have increased spectacularly over the last 20 years, as have predator populations (Dobson 1995; Dobson and Hudson 1986). The dramatic growth in the population of grazers, however, has reduced recruitment of trees in the area. Indeed, the ages of trees growing in several areas of East Africa suggest that recruitment of trees occurs only rarely and might be strongly influenced by the patterns of disease in the ungulate populations (Dobson and Crawley 1994). Box 3-2 presents some changes in species or populations of particular species that have had substantial effects on ecosystem services.

Effects of Changes in Species Diversity or Abundance on Ecosystem Services. The introduction of exotic species of Myrica faya with nitrogen fixing-symbionts into Hawaii dramatically increased productivity and nitrogen cycling and altered the species composition (more...)

A particular species might compensate functionally for another that is removed from an ecosystem, but a simplified ecosystem is less likely to maintain a particular ecosystem service than one with a greater diversity of species playing similar functional roles. A reduction in the diversity of species performing similar functions in an ecosystem reduces the likelihood that the related service can persist in the face of changing ecological or climatic conditions. Reduction in the population of a species due to the introduction of a pest or pathogen is less likely to disrupt a particular service if species that are unaffected by the pest or pathogen play similar functional roles. Similarly, climatic change is less likely to affect a particular service if a diversity of species perform similar functional roles. Each species is likely to be affected differently by a given change in climate, so the risk that all species involved in a particular service will be lost from a system is lessened.

Another way that diversity could affect ecosystem services is by increasing their stability. Again, the underlying idea is simple. In the face of year-to-year fluctuations or sustained directional changes in climate or soil fertility or other environmental conditions, productivity and nutrient cycling are more likely to be sustained at high rates if a number of species are present. Some species might be most effective under current conditions; while others might become more important unless conditions change. For example, in an 11-year field experiment based on 207 grassland plots, increased plant species diversity resulted in greater stability in the community and ecosystem process in experimental plots, especially in the face of a severe drought (Tilman 1996; Tilman and Downing 1994). Experimental studies also indicate, for example, that species diversity itself can influence some ecosystem services, particularly in species-poor systems. In their study of artificial tropical communities in which experimental plots contained 0, 1, and 100 species of plants, Ewel and colleagues found that the total number of species had a greater effect than species composition on a variety of biogeochemical processes (Ewel and others 1991). Artificial communities with different combinations of one to four species also differed dramatically in net primary productivity: productivity was higher with more species (Naeem and others 1994).

Those results are all consistent with the idea that one of the benefits of diversity is that it increases the likelihood that a species that is highly productive under any particular conditions will be present in the community (Hooper 1998; Hooper and Vitousek 1998). Where highly productive species have been identified in advance and conditions are managed so as to be suitable (as in agricultural monocultures), very high rates of productivity can be attained without much onsite diversity. For example, American farmers produce on average about 7 tons of corn per hectare, but when challenged, as in National Corngrowers' Association competitions, farmers have tripled those yields, producing 21 tons per hectare. Annual yields of biomass up to 550 tons/ha are theoretically possible for algal cultures; yields half as great have been achieved (Waggoner 1994).

  • Social and Cultural Values

Many people develop a deep aesthetic appreciation for biodiversity and its components. This appreciation has several dimensions, including an appreciation of how biodiversity reveals the complex and intertwined history of life on Earth and a resonance with important personal experiences and familiar or special landscapes. Interest in nature is manifest in many hobby activities, including bird-watching and butterfly-watching; keeping reptiles, tropical fish, and other ''exotic'' species as pets; raising orchids or cacti; participating in native-plant societies; viewing nature photographs and reading nature writing; and watching nature televisions shows. Kiester (1997) has suggested that such experiences provide the basis for a connoisseur's appreciation of biodiversity. By cultivating a connoisseur's perspective, we might develop a better understanding of the aesthetic value of biodiversity just as art critics and scholars help us to appreciate art.


Biodiversity holds the potential for applied knowledge through the discovery of how different species have adapted to their varied environments (Wilson 1992). That is, biodiversity holds potential insights for solutions to biological problems, both current and future. We might discover bacteria that inhabit hot springs and have evolved enzymes that function at unusually high temperatures, as in the case of PCR described earlier. We might discover novel predator defense mechanisms of plants and develop previously unimagined alternatives to pesticides for our foods. Or from indigenous peoples we learn about poison-dart frogs; study of the toxins of poison dart frogs is providing insight into fundamental neural mechanisms. Such new insights and tools came not from our imaginations but from observations of other peoples and other species. Even with the dazzling power of modern molecular biology, is it reasonable to expect that we can imagine all the new solutions that can be devised? The diversity of life supplies us not only with new tools and techniques, but also with the inspiration to imagine innovations. "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (Shakespeare, Hamlet, act I, scene V).

Biodiversity holds the potential for us to understand ourselves better. We have developed profound insights about our own culture and society through the study of other peoples. Likewise, we can learn about our physiology through the study of other species. Many of our insights about ourselves could only have come through the study of other species. For example, our knowledge of our development and reproduction rests on the study of many diverse species beyond the common laboratory species, such as bacteria, nematodes, rats, mice, and monkeys. It had long been presumed that testosterone is necessary for mating behavior in males—except possibly in humans—because it was the case for all animals that had been studied. However, the discovery that this was not the case in the red-sided garter snake showed that the correlation between testosterone and behavior in vertebrates was not, after all, axiomatic (Joy and Crews 1988). The zebra fish has recently proved to be an especially useful model for understanding the molecular genetics of neural development (Brown 1997). Even plants reveal important cues to our physiology. Research on the circadian clock of the mustard plant ( Arabidopsis ) has led to techniques for studying circadian clocks in animals in more detail and with greater precision than ever before possible (Kay 1996). Considerable advances in understanding of the human nervous system have come from studying nonhuman vertebrates and invertebrates. For example, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has provided insights into nervous disorders and diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.

Biodiversity has often served as an early-warning system that has foretold threats to human health before sufficient data had been collected to detect effects directly. Rachel Carson's (1962) Silent Spring , for example, established a strong case against the use of pesticides primarily on the basis of threats to wildlife populations. The same pesticides have since been found to present serious public-health risks. Similarly, declines in populations of the common seal in the Wadden Sea and reproductive failure in the Beluga whale in the St. Lawrence River in Canada might stem from the ingestion of PCB-contaminated fish—if so, caution should be used to ensure the safety of marine food supplies for human consumption (Chivian 1997).

Wildlife studies have shown evidence of effects of various chlorinated organic compounds on the immune systems of animals (reviewed in Repetto and Baliga 1995) and on their reproductive physiology (Colborn and others 1993).

The evidence is much less conclusive that these compounds have an effect on human physiology, but the accumulation of evidence from wildlife studies points to the need for more-detailed research on possible effects on humans.

Much of the study of biodiversity might have no immediate applied value, but it is valuable nonetheless. It is impossible to predict how new knowledge will be used. Knowledge about various forms of life has, as seen in the above examples, had direct effects on improving human health and has led to revolutions in science, such as our understanding of molecular genetics. Few people in Darwin's time would have imagined how his fascination with animal variation would transform the study of biology and so profoundly alter our notions. Bacterial genetics was an obscure field of research in the 1950s, but it led directly to what we now call molecular biology. Even the small cadre of bacterial geneticists could not have known how their research would revolutionize biology and medicine.


Biodiversity can transform our values in the sense that experiences with and knowledge of biodiversity provide opportunities for self-knowledge—knowledge of our own values, attitudes, and beliefs and our place within life as a whole. Although we often regard our natural environment as either a means or a hindrance to such ends as satisfying our physical needs and accumulating material goods, our interactions with our environment also develop our sense of aesthetic pleasure, our curiosity, and our sense of where we fit in the broader scheme of things. A biologically diverse environment offers broad opportunities for developing new ways of appreciating one's place, the scope of one's enjoyments, and oneself (Kellert and Wilson 1993; Norton 1986; Wilson 1984).

Sometimes, the contributions of biodiversity are indirect: knowledge expands experience, as evident in a comment made by a recent graduate of an adult literacy program in Washington, DC: "You know, I never even cared about the trees in my neighborhood until I read about how they grow." Children who are exposed to activities and direct experiences with wildlife gain more than knowledge about wildlife. Their attitudes change (Hair and Pomerantz 1987). They become more concerned about wildlife in general; that is, about wildlife in other parts of the world. There is a small but growing literature on how experience with wildlife—and especially with wilderness and outdoor recreation—influences values, beliefs, and attitudes (Finger 1994; Hendee and Pitstick 1993; Kaplan and Talbot 1983; Orams 1996; Rossman and Ulehla 1977; Shearl 1988; Shin 1993).

One's conception of self is related to nature in highly symbolic ways. Few Americans wish to live in the kind of society that poisons the Bald Eagle, our symbol of national strength and pride. The grandeur of the symbol is enhanced by the opportunity to watch the Bald Eagle in flight. Conversely, the symbolic power of the eagle would inevitably be diminished if there were no eagles living in the wild.

People are motivated by more than the satisfaction of their physical needs; they are moved by the possibility of expanding their horizons—both their own experience and also knowledge "for its own sake". The experience of biodiversity provides such opportunities. The examples cited above suggest that diverse environments contribute to a self-knowledge that, although it can take a multitude of forms and is difficult to catalog, is nonetheless irreducibly valuable in its own right.

To superkill a species is to shut down a story of millennia and leave no future possibilities [Holmes Rolston III, quoted in Natural History 1996, p 75].

Many people develop a deep aesthetic appreciation for biodiversity and its components. This appreciation has several dimensions, including an appreciation of how biodiversity reveals the complex and intertwined history of life on Earth and a resonance with important personal experiences and familiar or special landscapes.

In addition to moral, ethical, and religious values, there also are deeply intellectual reasons for conservation of biodiversity; chapter 4 reviews these in detail. The Copernican revolution was an intellectual breakthrough that changed our view of ourselves. The self-awareness that comes from knowledge of biodiversity is only beginning to be realized. Biodiversity ultimately arises from the fact that there has been one evolutionary history of life on Earth, with vertical (through time) inheritance. It follows that the species present today have unique histories. There are many definitions of organic evolution, but two that are especially relevant in this connection are "descent with modification" (Darwin) and "accumulated history" (Salthe). Species contain the histories of their lineages. It is the concept of lineage that is central to the imagery of evolution, and the vast panoply of life through time has become part of our culture. Equally central is the notion of relationship: some pairs of lineages are more closely related than others, in the sense that they have a more recent common ancestor. There are now well worked-out methods for assessing degree of phylogenetic relationship and for reconstructing the history of life on Earth. These developments have made it possible to express values in new ways.

Sense of Place

Long-branch taxa frequently have played special cultural roles or have been recognized as having intrinsic value (Dworkin 1994). The Ginkgo tree was saved from extinction in Buddhist monasteries because of a concern that is moral and cultural in origin. It now has a "sense of place" value in many parts of the world. Surprisingly, this is a case in which other values also come into play, in that Ginkgo extracts now constitute one of the most widely used medicines in Europe, prescribed by German medical doctors to over 10 million patients annually.

Many writers have noted that biodiversity, especially the habitats of native and indigenous species, helps to root not only plants but also people by giving them a sense of place. As noted in chapter 2 , it is a characteristic association of species that usually leads us to categorize a place. Indeed, some have suggested that the conservation of landscapes is the best remedy we might have to counter the transience, or rootlessness, that has become one of the most salient characteristics of American society. For example, Wallace Stegner (1962) wrote about American rootlessness and restlessness especially in the American West. He understood the lure of freedom in the absence of obligation. But that rootlessness, Stegner wrote, has often been a curse.

Our migratoriness has hindered us from becoming a people of communities and traditions, especially in the West. It has robbed us of the gods who make places holy. It has cut off individuals and families and communities from memory and the continuum of time.

Gary Snyder (1996) and Carolyn Merchant (1992) have suggested that our ethics and by implication the value we place on biodiversity, must be grounded in an understanding of local habitats and the functioning of ecosystems. This work, especially Leopold's notion of a "land ethic" has inspired work in both environmental philosophy and social psychology; the latter has indicated that concern with the intrinsic value of biodiversity is widespread in the United States (Karp 1996; Stern and others 1993, 1998).

A sense of place is founded on relationships—for example, with nature, with the past, with future generations, and with those with whom one shares responsibility for maintaining the essential character of one's surroundings (Gussow 1972). To belong to or in a landscape, one must feel connected to its past, both natural and human. One is then aware of the moral obligation to cultivate the landscape in ways that maintain its identifying characteristics so that future generations can recognize it as one does now. The work of protecting native flora and fauna establishes a continuity with the future through a consistency with the past. Thus, we maintain a connection with a landscape through time (Cronon 1991; Worster 1985).

The effort that we make to protect the habitats of native species entrenches a relationship between people and places. One sees one's own activities and those of one's community as rooted in a particular place; one's experiences, in other words, depend on where one is (Gallagher 1993; Light and Smith 1998).

The protection of biodiversity is often the catalyst that turns generic locations into distinct places. The difference is that a place is a location that we have filled with meaning and thus have claimed with our feelings. History, natural or human, insofar as we claim it as our own, must be imbedded in places that we cherish in shared memory and whose symbols we maintain and respect. Native and indigenous species are living parts of our community history (Baily 1915). (See the case study below on Boulder, Colo., open space.)

Space is the symbol of freedom in the western world; it is a frontier to conquer; it is the potential, not the actual. It is an ever-receding horizon. Place, in contrast, involves commitment and responsibility, actuality rather than potential. It is not the realm of conquest, but the sphere of concern and conservation. The reintroduction and protection of native species, in contrast, follows Virgil's counsel:

It is well to be informed about the winds, About the variations of the sky, The native traits and habits of the place, What each locale permits and what denies.

Much of what many people deplore about the human subversion of nature—and fear about the destruction of the environment—has to do with the loss of places that they keep in shared memory and cherish with collective loyalty. Many fears stem from the loss of the particular—the specific characteristics of places that make them ours—and so from the loss of the security one has when one is able to rely on the lore and the love of places and communities that one knows well.

The beauty and majesty of nature have always affected human beings: we take pleasure in perceiving nature's beauty, and we feel wonder and awe at its enormous scale (the starry skies) and its dynamic power (a hurricane). The aesthetic categories of the beautiful and the sublime, which became prominent in the writings of 18th-century philosophers, apply to our understanding of the value of biodiversity today. Plants and animals in their intricate and functional design are beautiful; we perceive that beauty with pleasure. We garden; we cut flowers for our homes; we keep birds, fish, and many other animals in our homes; we frequent zoos; and so on. Ecotourism is based largely on people's enjoyment of natural beauty. Artists celebrate that beauty in paintings and sculptures drawn from nature. Indeed, nature is the primary object of representation in art and a constant theme of poetry.

The record of evolution stretches the limits of our understanding and imagination. Those who study this record—paleontologists, zoologists, ecologists, botanists, and many others—discover in every kind of plant and animal a story worth telling, a complex tale of adaptation that exemplifies evolutionary processes. About 99% of the species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct, and the ones that exist today are the latest descendants and deeply reward study for the historical record that they contain. No less than the artifacts of great civilizations gone by, rare species descended from organisms that lived eons ago possess a historical value and authenticity that demand attention and appreciation. When we take pleasure in the qualities of these organisms—when we enjoy simply knowing and perceiving them with no further use or application in mind—we are engaged in the experience of the aesthetic.

Case Study: Boulder, Colo., Open Space

The city of Boulder, Colo., lies at the intersection of the eastern face of the Rocky Mountains and the western edge of the Great Plains in an area of high diversity of mountain and prairie species. The citizens of Boulder, an affluent educated community, have long valued and protected its natural setting, most recently by establishing the so-called blue line, a contour at the city's western edge above which no development is to be extended, and by approving an increase in the city sales tax of 0.4% to buy and protect land adjacent to the city as open space. Boulder now has the highest per capita acreage of municipally owned natural area of cities in the United States.

The purposes of open space, as codified in a charter amendment approved by voters in 1986, are preserving and restoring natural areas and their biota, preserving land for passive recreational use, retaining traditional agricultural land uses, limiting urban sprawl, and preserving aesthetic values (City of Boulder Open Space Department 1995). Loss of natural areas to urban sprawl is proceeding rapidly throughout most of the region around Boulder, and there have been attempts to curtail the open-space program, initiated primarily by the real-estate, development, and general business communities in the Boulder Valley. However, care has been taken to get city council and general public support and involvement during all phases of land purchase and policy implementation.

Public-opinion polls conducted in 1994 and 1995 indicate that although conservation of biodiversity is a factor in public support for open space, the primary purpose in the minds of most people is to keep urban and suburban sprawl at bay (Miller 1994; Miller and Caldwell 1995). It is clear that, to the great majority of Boulder's population, the value of open space as natural viewscape exceeds the value of the same land for possible commercial and residential development.

In recent years, the Open Space Department has begun shifting its emphasis from the purchase of new land to the development of management plans that will ensure its ecological integrity into the future. Of particular concern is the increasing use of open space for outdoor recreation (Zaslowsky 1995). Two issues illustrate the growing conflicts between the value of Boulder open space as a biodiversity reserve and its value as a template for outdoor recreation. The first involves closing a trail to protect the high biodiversity of habitats and replacing it with a nearby trail. The second involves an attempt to implement leash laws in some areas where dog owners traditionally had been permitted to walk their pets off-leash. In both cases, the managers in the Open Space Department recommended restricting, but not prohibiting, recreation uses. Neither the users nor those who favored protection were satisfied.

Those examples suggest three general lessons about the challenges that managers of suburban open spaces can expect to face. First, it is more difficult to impose restrictions on the use of open space after its establishment than at the time of its establishment. Second, hard data on the consequences of recreation on the biodiversity of open space will be helpful in resolving conflicts. Third, the ecological integrity of suburban open spaces will persist only if citizen users can be educated as to the consequences of their collective impacts. It is a daunting educational challenge. Public participation has long been an integral part of the planning process regarding Boulder open space. The relative success of the program is attributable largely to deliberate efforts to integrate public opinion and participation into the decision-making process.

Ethics and Religion

Very often, people value biodiversity for ethical and religious reasons. These reasons are often part of a comprehensive ethical or cosmological world view that, on the one hand, is anchored in a self-conception or identity and, on the other hand, is supported by an interpretative tradition and the communities that share it. Such values—and the worldly points of reference that support them—are held not in the form of needs or preferences, but rather as judgments that attach to identity. One does not "choose" these values; they are the deeply held values that form our identity.

In this chapter, we have discussed how the many dimensions of biodiversity and its components contribute to decisions on management of biodiversity. The goods and services, present and potential, that humans derive directly or indirectly from biodiversity can be viewed from different social and cultural perspectives. The case study examples of the Everglades and Boulder illustrate why a broadened understanding is necessary for management considerations. In the next chapter, we see that information on the many philosophical and systematic approaches to valuing biodiversity can favor particular outcomes in management decisions. Knowledge of these value systems can broaden a manager's ability to resolve conflicts and to understand differences among parties involved in management decisions.

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This measure and measures that follow in the chapter are very general indications of monetary values associated with various aspects of biodiversity. They are calculated in different ways and have different bases for calculation. Care should be taken in comparison.

Presentation to the full committee at its October 1995 workshop, "Issues in the Valuation of Biodiversity," by Robert Evenson, Yale University.

  • Cite this Page National Research Council (US) Committee on Noneconomic and Economic Value of Biodiversity. Perspectives on Biodiversity: Valuing Its Role in an Everchanging World. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999. 3, The Values of Biodiversity.
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The King of Dinosaurs

What Is the Value of Biodiversity?

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the value of biodiversity worksheet answers



Worksheets Class 12 Biology Biodiversity and Conservation

Students should refer to Worksheets Class 12 Biology Biodiversity and Conservation Chapter 15 provided below with important questions and answers. These important questions with solutions for Chapter 15 Biodiversity and Conservation have been prepared by expert teachers for Class 12 Biology based on the expected pattern of questions in the class 12 exams. We have provided Worksheets for Class 12 Biology for all chapters on our website. You should carefully learn all the important examinations questions provided below as they will help you to get better marks in your class tests and exams.

Biodiversity and Conservation Worksheets Class 12 Biology

Question. Term “biodiversity” was popularised by- (a) Edward Wilson (b) Humboldt (c) Tilman (d) Paul Ehrlich

Question. According to IUCN (2004), how many plant and animal species have been described so far – (a) <1.5 billion (b) >1.5 million (c) 7.1 million (d) 7.1 billion

Question. When large habitats are broken up in to small fragments due to human activities, which of the following get badly affected – (a) Mammals and birds requiring large territories (b) Animals with migratory habitats (c) Animals with large bodysize (d) Both (a) and (b)

Question. Which method is thought to be best for estimation of mirobial biodiversity – (a) Bio statistical method (b) Bio chemical or molecular method (c) Paleobotanical method (d) Culture method

Question. What is the contribution of India in global species diversity – (a) 2.4 % (b) 12 % (c) 8.1 % (d) 7.1 %

Question. Which of the following is not the reason of great biodiversity in tropics ? (a) Undisturbed climate for millions of years (b) Less seasonal variations (c) More nutritive soil (d) More solar energy

Question. Find out the wrong match – (a) Bioshpere reserves – 14 (b) National parks – 85 (c) Wild life sanctuaries – 448 (d) Indian Biodiversity hot spot – 3

Question. ‘Sacred groves is also one of the important mean of Biodiversity conservation. In respect of this find out the odd one – (a) Khasi and Jaintia – Meghalaya (b) Aravalli hills – Rajasthan (c) Sarguja, Chanda and Bastar – Mizoram (d) Western Ghat – Maharashtra

Question. When we conserve and protect the whole ecosystem, its biodiversity at all levels is called – (a) In situ conservation (b) Ex -situ conservation (c) On site conservation (d) Both (a) and (c)

Question. Which statement is incorrect – (a) There is increase in biodiversity from pole to equator (b) There is increase in biodiversity from low altitude to high altitude (c) There is directly proportional relationship between area & biodiversity (d) Tropics has less seasonal, relatively more constant and predictable environment.

Question. In equation log S = log C + Z log A, what is Z – (a) Species richness (b) Area (c) Regression coefficient (d) Y-intercept

Question. For frugivorous birds and mammals in tropical forest of different continents, the slope(Z) is found to be :- (a) 0.1 – 0.2 (b) 0.6 – 1.2 (c) 1.15 (d) 11.5

Question. Select the wrong match for extinction of species as per the IUCN red list 2004 – (a) Vertibrates – 338 (b) Invertebrates – 359 (c) Plants – 87 (d) Prokaryotes – 2001

Question. According to ecologists warn that if the present trends continue. Nearly half of the species on earth might be wiped out within how many years – (a) 100 (b) 1000 (c) 50 (d) 500

Question. In general, the loss of biodiversity in a region may not lead to – (a) Decline in plant production (b) Lowered resistance to environmental perturbations (c) Constant pest and disease cycles (d) Increased variability in certain ecosystem processes such as plant productivity

Question. Find out the right one – (a) India has 7.1% species diversity (b) India is one of the 22 mega diversity countries of world (c) According to Robert May’s global estimate only 22% of the total species have been recorded so for (d) According to Robert May’s estimation, more than 3,00,000 plant species yet to be discovered in India

Read the following passage and answer the questions from 46 to 50 given below. Biosphere reserves are multipurpose protected areas which are meant for preserving genetic diversity in representative ecosystems of various natural biomes and unique biological communities by protecting wild populations, traditional life style of tribals and domesticated plant/animal genetic resources. Each biosphere reserve has three zones-core, buffer and transition zone.

Question. Refer to the given figure representing different zones of a biosphere reserve and select the correct option regarding it.   

the value of biodiversity worksheet answers

(a) A-Limited human activity is allowed such as for research and education. (b) B-An active co-operation occurs between reserve management and local people for activities like cropping, settlements, etc. (c) C-No human activity is allowed. (d) None of these Answer : D

Question. Biosphere reserves differ from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries because in the former (a) human beings are not allowed to enter (b) people are an integral part of the system (c) plants are paid greater attention than the animals (d) living organisms are brought from all over the world and preserved for posterity. Answer : B

Question. MAB Programme means (a) Man and biosphere programme (b) Man and biodiversity conservation programme (c) Manually aided biosphere conservation programme (d) none of these. Answer : A

Question. Refer to the given diagrammatic representation of a biosphere reserve.   

the value of biodiversity worksheet answers

Select the incorrect statement regarding X, Y and Z. (i) X is devoted to strict protection of wildlife and no human activity is allowed in this zone. (ii) In Y, only limited human activity (compatible with conservation) is allowed. (iii) In X, commercial exploitation of natural resources is allowed. (iv) Tourism is allowed in Y zone only. (v) Zone Y helps to maintain the lifestyle of the tribal people living in the area. (a) (iii), (iv) and (v) only (b) (ii), (iii) and (v) only (c) (i), (iii) and (iv) only (d) (ii), (iii) and (iv) only Answer : A

Question. Which of the following is similar to biosphere reserve in terms of conservation? (a) Gene banks (b) Offsite collection (c) Orchards (d) Hotspots Answer : D

Question. Biosphere reserves differ from national parks and wildlife sanctuaries because in the former (a) human beings are not allowed to enter (b) people are an integral part of the system (c) plants are paid greater attention than the animals (d) living organisms are brought from all over the world and preserved for posterity. Answer : B

Assertion & Reasoning Based MCQs

For question numbers 51-58, two statements are given-one labelled Assertion and the other labelled Reason. Select the correct answer to these questions from the codes (a), (b), (c) and (d) as given below. (a) Both assertion and reason are true and reason is the correct explanation of assertion. (b) Both assertion and reason are true but reason is not the correct explanation of assertion. (c) Assertion is true but reason is false. (d) Assertion is false but reason is true. (iv) Tourism is allowed in Y zone only.  (v) Zone Y helps to maintain the lifestyle of the tribal people living in the area. (a) (iii), (iv) and (v) only (b) (ii), (iii) and (v) only (c) (i), (iii) and (iv) only (d) (ii), (iii) and (iv) only

Question. Assertion : Species diversity decreases as we ascend towards high mountains. Reason : Due to drop in temperature, no seasonal variability occurs in high mountains. Answer : A

Question. Assertion : Alpha diversity refers to species diversity present in a given community or habitat. Reason : Alpha diversity is expressed by species richness and species evenness in a community or habitat. Answer : B

Question. Assertion : Many endemic species are seen to flourish in sacred forests. Reason : Sacred forests are undisturbed forest patches and biodiversity rich areas. Answer : A

Question. Assertion : The rate of extinction of organisms have increased in recent years. Reason : Human activities like deforestation, industrialisation, etc., have destroyed the natural habitat of plants and animals. Answer : A

Very Short Answer Type Questions

Question. Who proposed Rivet popper hypothesis? Answer :  The Rivet popper hypothesis was proposed by Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich.

Question. About 200 species of cichlid fish became extinct when a particular fish was introduced in lake Victoria of Africa. Name the invasive fish Answer :  Nile perch

Question. Name any three sites of sacred groves. Answer :  (i) Khasi and Jaintia hills in Meghalaya. (ii) Aravall Hills of Rajasthan (iii) Sarguja, Chanda and Bastar areas of Madhya Pradesh

Question. Sometimes introduction of an exotic species upsets native species of the ecosystem. Substantiate the statement with two examples from India. Answer :  Exotic species often become invasive and drive away the local species. Water hyacinth was introduced in Indian waters due to its aesthetic value. However, it has clogged water bodies resulting in death of several aquatic plants and animals. Eupatorium odoratum has reduced the population of Tectona grandis in North-East.

Question. India has more than 50,000 strains of rice. Mention the level of biodiversity it represents. Answer :  When species show high diversity at the genetic level over its distributional range then the biodiversity is at genetic diversity level. The 50,000 strains of rice differ at genetic level.

Short Answer Type Questions

Question. Differentiate between in situ and ex situ napproaches of conserving biodiversity. Answer :  Differences between in situ and ex situ conservation are: 

the value of biodiversity worksheet answers

Question. Name and describe any three causes of biodiversity losses. Answer :  29. The three major causes of biodiversity loss are : (i) Habitat loss and fragmentation – Over-population, urbanisation and industrialisation require additional land every year. It can come through destruction or fragmentation of natural habitats through filling wetlands, ploughing grasslands, cutting down trees, burning a forest and clearing some area of vegetation. Loss of habitat results in annihilation of species of endemic plants, microorganisms and forcing out of animals which in alien lands die out after some time. Migrating animals would go astray and get killed. (ii) Over-exploitation – Excessive exploitation of a species, whether a plant or an animal, reduces size of its population so, that it becomes vulnerable to extinction. Due to overexploitation by humans, Dodo, three subspecies of tiger and Steller’s sea cow have become extinct in the last 500 years. (iii) Alien species invasions – Non-native or alien species are often introduced by man for their economic and other uses. They often become invasive and drive away the local species. For example, water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) was introduced in Indian waters due to its aesthetic value but turned out to be a problematic species. It clogged water bodies including wetlands at many places resulting in death of several aquatic plants and animals. 

Question. What is beta diversity in an ecosystem? What is the significance of large genetic diversity in a population ? Answer :  Beta diversity is diversity which develops due to change in habitat or community along environmental gradients like altitude, latitude, moisture gradient, etc. Higher beta diversity indicates the presence of unique habitats or unique communities in the region. Genetic diversity enables a population to adapt to its environment and the changes occurring in the environment. Genetic diversity within a species is the basis of speciation or formation of new species.

Question. The following graph shows the species-area relationship. Answer the following question as directed. (a) Name the naturalist who studied the kind of relationship shown in the graph. Write the observation made by him. (b) Write the situation as discovered by the ecologists when the value of ‘Z’ (slope of the line) lies between (i) 0.1 and 0.2 (ii) 0.6 and 1.2 What does ‘Z’ stand for? (c) When would the slope of the line ‘b’ become steeper? 

the value of biodiversity worksheet answers

Answer :   (a) Alexander von Humboldt studied species-area relationship. He observed that within a region, the species richness increased with increasing area but upto a certain limit. (b) (i) Ecologists have discovered that the value of Z lies in the range of 0.1–0.2 regardless of taxonomic group or region, i.e., whether it is plants in Britain, birds in California or molluscs in New York, the slopes of the regression line are similar. (ii) When the species-area relationship is considered for a very large area like a whole continent, regression coefficient Z or slope of the line become steeper with Z values in the range of 0.6 –1.2. (c) Slope of line b, would become steeper when the value of Z ranges from 0.6 to 1.2 as for mammals of tropical forests of different continents, the slope is found to be 1.15.

Question. Where would you expect more species biodiversity– in tropics or in polar regions? Give reasons in support of your answer. Answer : Tropics have more species biodiversity than the polar regions because of favourable environmental conditions as compared to polar regions where harsh conditions are prevalent. The reasons behind the maximum biological diversity of tropical regions are: (i) Prolonged evolutionary time : Speciation is generally a function of time, unlike polar regions subjected to frequent glaciations in the past, tropical latitudes have remained relatively undisturbed for millions of years and thus, had a long evolutionary time for species diversification. (ii) High productivity : There is more solar energy available in the tropics, which contributes to higher productivity; this in turn might contribute indirectly to greater diversity.

Question. Giving two reasons explain why there is more species biodiversity in tropical latitudesthan in temperate ones. Answer :  The two reasons for more species biodiversity in tropical latitudes than in temperate ones are: (i) Temperate region was subjected to frequent glaciations in the past, while tropical latitudes have remained relatively undisturbed for millions of years and thus, had a long evolutionary time for species diversification. (ii) Tropical environments, unlike temperate ones, are less seasonal, relatively more constant and predictable. Such constant environments promote niche specialisation and lead to a greater species diversity.

Question. Why are sacred groves highly protected? Answer :  Sacred groves are forest patches around places of worship, held in high esteem by tribal communities. They are most undisturbed forest patches which are often surrounded by highly degraded landscapes. Not a single branch is allowed to be cut from these forests and as a result, many endemic species which are rare or have become extinct elsewhere can be seen to flourish here. E.g., Jaintia and Khasi hills in Meghalaya. 

Question. Since the origin of life on Earth, there were five episodes of mass extinction of species. (a) How is the ‘Sixth Extinction’, presently in progress, different from the previous episodes? (b) Who is mainly responsible for the ‘Sixth Extinction’? (c) List any four points that can help to overcome this disaster. Answer :  (a) Sixth extinction, i.e., the current species extinction is 100 – 1000 times faster than extinctions in pre-human times. (b) Human activities like settlements, hunting, overexploitation and habitat destruction are mainly responsible for ‘Sixth extinction’. (c) This disaster can be overcome by the following ways: (i) Planting large number of trees on road sides and where space is available. (ii) Avoid introduction of invasive alien species. (iii) Conserving biodiversity by maintaining national parks, zoos, etc. (iv) Deforestation and fragmentation of forested areas should be stopped.

Question. Justify with the help of an example where a deliberate attempt by humans has led to the extinction of a particular species. Answer :  Extinction of species due to human activities is known as anthropogenic extinction. Various human activities have led to extinction of particular species. The most common example is Nile perch, a large predator fish introduced in Lake Victoria for commercial purpose turned out to be a problematic species. It started feeding on the native fish cichlid fish, which results in extinction of ecologically unique assemblage of over 200 native species of small cichlid fish.

Question. “Stability of a community depends on its species richness.” Write how did David Tilman show this experimentally. Answer :  Communities with more species tend to be more stable than those with less species as it is able to resist occasional disturbance. This has been confirmed experimentally by David Tilman. He raised plots with different diversities in Minesota grassland and subjected them various stresses. He found that plots with more species showed less year to year variation in total biomass. He also showed that in his experiments, increased diversity contributed to higher productivity.

the value of biodiversity worksheet answers

The above graph show species-area relationship. Write the equation of the curve ‘a’ and explain. Answer :  The equation of curve ‘a’ is S = CAz where, S = Species richness C = Y – intercept A = Area Z = Slope of the line (regression coefficient). The graph on species- area relationship shows that within a region, species richness increases with increasing explorable area, but only upto a certain limit. The relation between species richness and area for a wide variety of taxa turns out to be rectangular hyperbola.

Question. What is alpha diversity in an ecosystem? Answer :  Alpha diversity is diversity present in organisms sharing the same community present in an area of more or less uniform habitat. Alpha diversity determines the stability of the community, as more diversity indicates better adjustment and interrelationships amongst the members of the community.

Long Answer Type Questions

Question. (a) Explain the species-area relationship using the graphical representation given below. 

the value of biodiversity worksheet answers

(b) Explain giving reasons why there is greater biodiversity in tropical regions of the Earth. Answer :  (a) Alexander von Humboldt studied species-area relationship. He observed that within a region, the species richness increased with increasing area but upto a certain limit. Ecologists have discovered that the value of Z lies in the range of 0.1–0.2 regardless of taxonomic group or region, i.e., whether it is plants in Britain, birds in California or molluscs in New York, the slopes of the regression line are similar. When the species-area relationship is considered for a very large area like a whole continent, regression coefficient Z or slope of the line become steeper with Z values in the range of 0.6 –1.2. Slope of line would become steeper when the value of Z ranges from 0.6 to 1.2 as for mammals of tropical forests of different continents, the slope is found to be 1.15. The equation of curve is S = CAz where, S = Species richness C = Y – intercept A = Area Z = Slope of the line (regression coefficient). The graph on species- area relationship shows that within a region, species richness increases with increasing explorable area, but only upto a certain limit. The relation between species richness and area for a wide variety of taxa turns out to be rectangular hyperbola. (b) Tropics have more species biodiversity than the polar regions because of favourable environmental conditions as compared to polar regions where harsh conditions are prevalent. The reasons behind the maximum biological diversity of tropical regions are: (i) Prolonged evolutionary time : Speciation is generally a function of time, unlike polar regions subjected to frequent glaciations in the past, tropical latitudes have remained relatively undisturbed for millions of years and thus, had a long evolutionary time for species diversification. (ii) High productivity : There is more solar energy available in the tropics, which contributes to higher productivity; this in turn might contribute indirectly to greater diversity. The two reasons for more species biodiversity in tropical latitudes than in temperate ones are: (i) Temperate region was subjected to frequent glaciations in the past, while tropical latitudes have remained relatively undisturbed for millions of years and thus, had a long evolutionary time for species diversification. (ii) Tropical environments, unlike temperate ones, are less seasonal, relatively more constant and predictable. Such constant environments promote niche specialisation and lead to a greater species diversity.

Question. Explain the narrowly utilitarian, broadly utilitarian and ethical arguments in favour of conservation of biodiversity. Answer :   There are a number of reasons to conserve biodiversity which can be grouped as: (a) Narrowly Utilitarian : Human derive a major part of their requirement from organisms. Their direct benefits are countless, like (i) Food : Pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk, egg, meat comes from plants and animals (ii) Fats and oils are obtained from plants and animals. (iii) Firewood as a source of energy for cooking and heating. (iv) Fibres, e.g., cotton, flax, silk, wool. (v) Industrial products like tannins, lubricant,dyes, resins, and perfumes. (vi) Drugs: Nearly 25% of drugs being used by us are directly coming from plants. (b) Broadly Utilitarian : Biodiversity is fundamental to ecosystem services of nature. For example (i) Oxygen: Through their photosynthetic activity plants are replenishing oxygen of the atmosphere. Amazon rain forest is estimated to contribute 20% of it. (ii) Pollination: Bees, bumble bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and bats are engaged in pollination of plants which is essential for formation of fruits and seeds. (iii) Climate regulation: Forest and oceanic systems regulate global climate. (iv) Aquifers: Plant cover is essential for retention of rain water, its percolation and storage in aquifers and reservoirs. (v) Flood and erosion control: Plant cover protects the soil from wind and water erosion. Run off of rain water is reduced so that flood water is rarely formed. (vi) Nutrient cycling : It is essential for continued availability of nutrients to plants without which there would be no photosynthetic activity. Ethical Human beings share the biosphere with over a million species of plants, animals and microbes. They have evolved just as we have evolved. Every living species has an intrinsic value though it may not have any direct economic value. It is therefore, our moral and ethical duty not to destroy them. Instead we should take care of their well being so as to pass the rich biological legacy to future generations.

Worksheets Class 12 Biology Biodiversity and Conservation

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The value of biodiversity: worksheet: google form: environmental science.

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The following product is a lesson worksheet/google form I use with my Comprehensive Science/Environmental Science class. I have a teacher google slides and a student version of the google slides to pair with this worksheet. This worksheet goes with lesson 2 of the notes. The google form has 19 questions.

The form is set so that each question is worth 1 point. The students will not be able to see the correct answers until the teacher decided to return the form to them.

The notes that pair with this assignment are called: Biodiversity Issues

This form is also available in a unit bundle with the other lesson forms, study guide, vocabulary quiz, test, and blooket review games.


Unit BUNDLE: Biodiversity Issues: Google Forms: Environmental Science


COURSE BUNDLE: Environmental Science: Comprehensive Science: Google Forms: Notes

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  • uses resources.
  • destroys habitats.
  • uses up land.
  • helps the environment.
  • sustainability.
  • loss of biodiversity.
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  • the study of biology in the jungles
  • the study of biology in a university
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  • temperate forest
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  • As the size of the region increases, biodiversity decreases.
  • As the size of the region increases, biodiversity also increases.
  • As the size of the region increases, biodiversity fluctuates, both increasing and decreasing.
  • As the size of the region increases, biodiversity disappears completely.
  • species, genetic, and ecosystem
  • mutation, disorder, regression
  • genes, cells, traits
  • water, land, mountains
  • productivity
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