Conservation biologists have many different levels at which they quantify biodiversity. What are the benefits (and costs) of using different levels?
Biologists often define diversity at four levels:
- Genetic Diversity: This is the diversity of individuals within a species, and it is defined by the number and frequency of allele combinations in the total genetic information present in a species.
- Species Diversity: This is the number and relative frequency of species in a community or ecosystem. It determines the variety of species in an area, which can come to have an impact on the productivity of that region.
- Taxonomy Diversity: Similar to species diversity, taxonomy simply observes the number and frequency of specific lineages within a community or ecosystem. Lineages have the capacity to be either extremely rich or extremely poor, and this measurement is important in understanding the impact of these conditions.
- Ecosystem Diversity: Because ecosystems don’t necessarily have definite boundaries and consist of both biotic and abiotic factors, it becomes harder to define diversity. This measurement is extremely essential, however, in observing the impacts of different community diversity in a region, and the impact of the physical environment on these characteristics.
Using different levels to define biodiversity is necessary to understanding the variations of organisms on a holistic and in-depth level. The different levels of diversity come to define the process of natural selection, productivity, conservation efforts and even global cycles of energy and nutrients. Diversity is beneficial, but the level at which it is most important becomes debatable on a case-to-case basis.