Biodiversity is a term that describes the amount of variety of organisms there are within any given area. It is the variability of the species that are found in an ecosystem and it is essential to maintaining sustainability of life on Earth.
The biodiversity of an environment is one of the greatest indicators if it is healthy or not. An environment that has a high diversity of species can provide many benefits to itself, including food, shelter, sustainability and adaptability.
Biodiversity is generally assessed by the amount of species found in a specific environment. Each of these species, in itself, are classified into their own kingdoms. Each of these kingdoms have their own unique characteristics and the variation of species from different kingdoms enhances the effect of biodiversity. Here is a list of five major kingdoms and some of their defining characteristics:
- Anatomical: All animals are made up of cells organized into tissues which are tasked with specific bodily functions. In most animals, these tissues form organs which, in turn, form organ systems.
- Biological: Animals are multi-cellular, eukaryotic and contain cells with organelles such as mitochondria, ribosomes, nuclei, and lysosomes.
- Physiological: Animals are heterotrophic. Heterotrophs are organisms that obtain energy by relying on other complex organisms.
- Anatomical: Plants, like most animals, have organs and organ systems. These organs and organ systems handle functions that the plant needs to do to survive.
- Biological: The majority of plants are multicellular, eukaryotic and contain chlorophyll.
- Physiological: All plants are autotrophic. Autotrophs are organisms that have the ability to produce their own food for energy. In the case of plants, nutritional substances are produced through photosynthesis in its chlorophyll.
- Anatomical: Organisms in kingdom Fungi have no built-in mechanisms for moving.
- Biological: Fungi are eukaryotic organisms that have cell walls similar to plants, but that are composed of chitin. Fungi can be either unicellular or multicellular.
- Physiological: Fungi generally acquire nutrients through the use of enzymes and absorption. The method used by fungi to breakdown food is known as extracellular digestion.
- Anatomical: Movement of organisms in Kingdom Protista is usually made possible by flagella or cilia.
- Biological: Protists are simple eukaryotic organisms. They can be either unicellular or multicellular.
- Physiological: Some protists are heterotrophic and rely on other organisms for food, while other protists are autotrophic and can produce their own food.
- Anatomical: Bacteria usually appear either spherical, rod-shaped, or spiral-shaped. They can move around using flagella or cilia.
- Biological: Organisms in Kingdom Eubacteria are small, simple, unicellular, prokaryotic organisms. They do not have membrane-bound organelles.
- Physiological: Bacteria can be either heterotrophic or autotrophic. Autotrophic bacteria produces its own food while heterotrophic bacteria needs to rely on other organisms for food.
Without biodiversity, the array of food available for all organisms becomes limited and, consequently, the ecosystem falls out of balance. Every time a species becomes endangered or extinct, it triggers chain reactions that affect all the organisms within a food web. To get a better understanding of how the removal of a species from a food web affects its sustainability and biodiversity, as well as how it directly and indirectly affects us, feel free to navigate to the Consequences of Limited Biodiversity section.