A View on the Biodiversity and the Variety of Life

The earth is a large ecosystem or also called a global ecosystem. This global ecosystem receives a name much more technical and scientific, when divided into parts for study and is called biosphere. The biosphere is a group of living things that interact with each other and with other elements in the environment such as water, air, minerals, heat and others. This biosphere has several sub levels that could be called ecosystems. Each of the ecosystems are composed of other smaller. Then there are sub community and individual levels. Each of the levels and sub levels interact with each other (Odum & Ottenwaelder 1972; Vernadsky et al. 1997)Measuring an individual, does not reflect the reality of the health of an ecosystem, it is necessary to consider a more comprehensive measurement and for them you need to look a little more depth what is the meaning of biodiversity and biodiversity loss, as well as this represents the impact on humans and the environment.


The concept of Biodiversity or biological diversity is the variety of life. This recent concept evels of biological organisation. It embraces the diversity of species of plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms that live in a space, their genetic variability, the ecosystems which are part of these species and landscapes or regions where ecosystems are located. It also includes ecological and evolutionary processes that occur at the level of genes, species and ecosystems (Wilson 1988). Ecosystem is a group of organisms called community interactions between them and with the physical environment in which they live at a certain time. However, delimit or identify an ecosystem in reality is much more difficult. The boundary between an aquatic ecosystem is easy to define in front of a terrestrial ecosystem but is very difficult to define an ecosystem of a forest of Eucalyptus viminalis than a Eucalyptus tricarpa and can often be mixed or belong to other larger ecosystems (Odum & Ottenwaelder 1972). A species is a group of individuals who come from common ancestors and are able to interbreed and result in fertile offspring. The latter is important: the donkey and horse crossing leads to a hybrid animal called the mule, which is sterile so the donkey and the horse are two races of the same species, but two different species. If we chose two breeds of dogs, when crossed would get another dog, fertile (Barberá 1994). Gen is a strand of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a structure that was established as a functional unit in charge of the transfer of hereditary traits. A gene is a series of nucleotides that stores information required for synthesising to a macromolecule having a specific cellular role. The set of genes belonging to the same species is defined as genome (Klug et al. 2006).

Factors influencing biodiversity

The evolutionary process is responsible for this diversity and is moulding it still continues. However, man also is representing a very important role in the direction taken by this variety of biological forms, especially in recent years. It is expected that this role will be even more intense in the coming years thanks to the development of biotechnology techniques and advances on the knowledge of DNA, evolutionary processes and legacy. The man will have a wide dominion and control over life forms from the most intimate area: genes (Radman, Taddei & Matic 2000).

Another factor that changed in a big way to biodiversity is everyday human activity. Thousands of hectares of forests, rainforests and other ecosystems are destroyed by man every year for various reasons and for different purposes (logging, plantations, pastures, urbanization, grazing), causing the extinction of countless species. Pollution and combustion are significantly altering the natural balance of the planet causing drastic climate changes at alarming rates. Many agencies will not be able to meet these conditions and fail to adapt, with destination their permanent disappearance of the Earth (Halffter 2005).

Ancient attempts to list the species

The fascination of man by describing species and biodiversity dates from ancient times. One of the first written which describes the species of plants, animals and insects is the encyclopedia 'Naturalis Historia', written by the Roman 'Pliny the Elder', before the year 77 of our era. Work that was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Titus.

In the 18th century, several attempts were made to create a descriptive compilation of animal and plant species. One of the most recognised books is 'Systema Naturae', written by Carl Linnaeus in 1770 last edition, which 12,000 species are described, being one of the most popular books of his time in the Netherlands (Lemaitre 2002) Nowadays, mankind has been described about 1.75 million species, about 70% are insects and assumes that all of the species could be between 10 and 100 million. Higher plants are one of the best known groups and known 270,000 of the estimated 300,000 there. Groups fungi are little known, of which less of 10%, just 72,000 have been described the estimated one million, arachnids with 75,000 of the 750,000 estimated species and insects with 751,000 of the 8 million species are believed to exist (Potting & Bakkes 2004).

Loss of biodiversity

The Biodiversity loss is the disappearance of a species, variety, race or any other category taxonomic life, either by natural causes or by human action. If a species disappears from a community is possible recover it through immigration. But if it disappears completely from the face of the earth, is lost forever. A method to prevent loss of biodiversity is through advanced

technologies, retaining the DNA of the species or variety and from this, replicate.

Causes of loss of biodiversity could be:

  • Removal of living to over-exploit natural resources (fishing, hunting, intensive agriculture, overgrazing and more).
  • The elimination of natural habitats of certain species for urban or road construction.
  • The destruction of the resources to make objects such as paper, tools, building materials.
  • Contamination of habitats and food resources of living with fertilizers, pesticides, toxic waste emissions and altering their reproductive processes.
  • The introduction of species into new habitats, causing an imbalance between species.
  • Climate change.
  • Reforestation with fast-growing mono-cultives
  • All these ways presented above are no-natural. However a natural way exist and is called 'Extinction of species' and could be a small scale or a big scale (Halffter 1999)
  • Extinction and loss of biodiversity

The extinction of a species is a loss of biodiversity but not necessarily the loss of biodiversity means the extinction of a species. The loss of biodiversity can occur in localised areas or ecosystems, it can happen to species or individuals and can also occur at the level of genes.

The most famous example of biodiversity loss of an entire ecosystem is Manhattan Island, where the entire island has become a city and his Central Park was built and created by man, nothing on that island is natural. Prior to European settlement, animals and plants are described in detail. That ecosystem is lost forever (Sanderson & Brown 2007).

At the species level, one of the most important cases of loss of biodiversity is the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), who was caught because he was a threat to sheep of the English established on the island of Tasmania. It was hunted mercilessly by ranchers to exterminate. As the decree to protect the Thylacine in 1936, was too late. Not seen one since 1933. In this case we have photos and videos of last living animal on earth (Jones & Stoddart 1998).

There are many species that are endangered. Human behavior and the need to more resources has pushed many animals to areas reduced, leaving their habitats and decreasing its number. But the problem goes beyond just losing people, the problem is the loss of biodiversity in general. The problem has taken a great importance that even the United Nations has devoted special attention to this event (Año Internacional de la Diversidad Biológica 2010).


All goods and services enjoyed by human societies depend entirely on transformations of materials and energy that can only be obtained from nature. Ecosystems and their maintenance are the basis of our livelihood and economic and social development of our welfare depends.

For this, ecosystem services can define as the processes by which ecosystems and species maintain and fulfill human life, or more simply, as the benefits that people receive from ecosystems.

All people of the world are completely dependent on the Earth's ecosystems and the services they provide us, but in the last century human activities such as land use changes, alteration of biogeochemical cycles, destruction and fragmentation of habitats and introduction of exotic species have had significant impacts on the structure, composition and function of natural ecosystems. By this alteration, all the planet's ecosystems have been altered to a greater or lesser extent, and in a more rapid and extensive than any other period of time with which to compare (Daily 1997)

Ecosystems are usually exploited primarily for one or more services, typically at the cost of another. Thus, many ecosystem services have been degraded as a result of actions taken to increase the supply of other services, such as food. For example, the intensification of agriculture can meet local demands for food production, but may also involve the destruction of forests for farmland replace. This represents a reduction of wood supply, reduced biodiversity and pollution of the waters of the rivers that affect fisheries and water quality (Costanza et al. 1997).

In general, considers three categories of services: provisioning, regulating and cultural (Hein et al. 2006).

Supply services are the products obtained directly from biotic and soil structure of ecosystems, such as food, wood, water, minerals, oil, gold, copper and more.

Regulating services are the benefits obtained indirectly from the functioning of ecosystems, such as water purification, control of soil erosion, climate control and more.

Finally, cultural services are intangible or non-material benefits people obtain through aesthetic experiences, tourism or spiritual enrichment.


Putting a price on goods that ecosystems provide to us is probably a good tool for the conservation of nature. The monetary value of environmental services makes having more evidence and a lot more people notice their importance in the environment. Many local efforts, national and international are doing this, even the UN has an ongoing project for several years for this purpose called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) (Kumar 2010).

However, to put a price on ecosystem services runs the risk of allowing its commercialisation, or what is the same, opening the possibility to purchase and sale of services. But how do you put a price on clean air, water purity or climate regulation, is it possible to measure the value of these services in Australian dollars, American dollars or Euro? These are just some of the more obvious environmental services, but soil fertility, carbon sequestration or even fertilisation of fruit and vegetable by insects how do you measure that?. It is impossible to imagine being charged for clean air provided by the National Park Toowoomba (Kosoy & Corbera 2010)

There have been various efforts to put a price on some environmental services that have resulted more in a kind of environmental malpractice taxes, corporate taxes for polluting, ca green investment incentives, but these have had one very limited impact. One of the great examples is the current Carbon Price, in which is given a value to each ton of coal that is released into the atmosphere (Carbon Tax | The Facts about the Carbon Tax 2011). This vision helps reduce pollution emissions, but also gives green light to companies that decide to continue polluting, the only consideration will be the money.


It is very difficult to take accurate measurements on biological diversity and species richness. There are several limitations to take a measure actual species: 1) what constitutes a species is not well defined, 2) there is great variability among species and ecosystem functioning, 3) there is variability between species, even within the same genus, 4) there is a high variation in a large percentage of communities (Blackwell E 2011; Lobo 2000)

Only species count does not take into account the variable that exists within an ecosystem. Therefore, it is necessary to track each species, which are more valuable data for evaluation. These data include: measures of genetic and ecological variability, the role it plays in the ecosystem processes and distribution, its function trophic and functional traits.

However, the above attributes are poorly studied and too little known. Among the most important points that are lost: variation, abundance and distribution.

Variation is the number of different types or breeds that are in the same space and at the same time. This variation offers a clearer vision of the richness of species in a particular place.

Abundance is the number of individuals of any type. This factor is important when it comes to providing services such as food and fibre

The observed distribution is where the amount and variation of biodiversity. In many case studies the distribution and quantity are closely related (Lobo 2000).


Bioindicators is a plant species, fungus or animal or group of species that gives us information about certain ecological characteristics such as physical-chemical, micro-climatic, biological and functional environment, or the impact of certain practices on environment. They are primarily used for environmental assessment monitoring the state of the environment or restored areas.

Furthermore, a bioindicator is an organisms or biological systems sensitive to variations in environmental quality, such as water or air. Thus as an alteration in their environment, some living beings develop a certain response, changing its vital functions or chemical or genetic composition and can to store the agent that caused any change (De la Lanza Espino, Pulido & Pérez 2000).

Bioindicators allow to deduce some characteristic of the medium in which they are. Usually used as indicators of habitat quality, such as presence detectors, concentration or effect of pollu classic example of bioindicator was the canary in the mine, when the canary died, it was understood that it had increased the concentration of toxic gases (Figuerola & Green 2003).

Bioindicators have several ways of expression, it can be simply by their presence or absence. Another way is by using the abundance malformations or indicator. Besides all this, some living beings are able to accumulate the pollutant, they are called bio-accumulators. The biggest advantage of bioindicators is that they continually are in their habitat, so if at some point, no matter how short, some event occurs that may affect the environment, biological indicators detect it (Salinas, Zubillaga & Eizaguirre 1996).

Another advantage is that the bioindicators are living organisms. That means that your answers will indicate directly if any damage is occurring on living beings. Measuring only physicochemical values, these effects can only be assumed. Bioindicators are very useful to assess the quality of the soil, air or water, reliable and economical way (Gadzalla-Kopciuch et al. 2004).

Requirements to be a bioindicator

According to Sarandon (2002), the principal requirements to be a bioindicator are:

  • Easy sampling and identification
  • Tolerant to environmental variations and relatively tolerant to pollution.
  • Easy storage and conservation.
  • Good net bioaccumulation.
  • Abundant, accessible, and sedentary or mobility.
  • Available all year.
  • Zero or low body regulation capacity.
  • Easy to use laboratory and field.

The humans can be a bioindicator as well. According to studies in the Amazon, women living in communities near oil wells are 2.5 times higher than in women who live far from the wells. Also in the case of men, there is a high chance of dying of cancer, especially stomach cancer, liver and skin. The presence of heavy metals in their blood and body samples can show contamination of the areas near the extraction wells (Sebastián 2000).


The way of life of humans affected the surrounding environment structures change ecosystem functions and changing the natural biodiversity of each area. Changing these structures produces a decrease of autochthonous organisms and favour the multiplication of others. Thus, new features and new species have different behaviours that alter the ecosystem. Many of these species can be vectors of diseases affecting humans

White-footed mice in their environment coexist with other creatures called opossums (American Marsupials). The two animals are attacked by the black-legged tick, which spreads Lyme disease with their bites. Illness can also attack humans (Font Utset 1995)

This parasite, in turn, make contact with the bacteria by feeding on its host. The difference is that the 'opossum' know clean and get rid of them, while the mice do not. For this reason a few ticks are founded in marsupials, but those which fed are less likely to come into contact with the bacteria. By contrast, mice white feet are a faster way to the spread of parasites as ticks are more likely to infect them with bacteria. That is the 'opossum' help control the infection, because they attract parasites but kill or keep them free of infection. Mice, however, only serve to spread. "As biodiversity is lost, the guest with a strong absorption effect 'opssum' disappears, while the guest 'mouse' with a powerful amplifying effect remains (Acha & Szyfres 2001: Monsalve. Mattar & Gonzalez 2009).


Biodiversity includes all living things, their environment and their interrelation. For this reason it is almost impossible to have a detailed file of each of the species and their role in the environment. If attention is directed from the highest level (human) to the lowest level (micro), could find a multitude of connections and relationships between each of the individuals.

The current measurement methods of biodiversity not consider interrelation values and variability among species. Without these values is almost impossible to make a connection between each individual and its ecosystem, resulting in the loss of information about the reality of biodiversity in an environment. The health of the environment whether it is marine or air catchment depends heavily on the biodiversity of species possessing each environment. The variability of genes, species and cosystems help to maintain a balance on a planetary level. But the man has been involved in all levels of biodiversity causing an imbalance that can not measure the consequences

The disappearance of biodiversity affects all other organisms in a way that is not yet known. Have been investigated only those changes that affect humans, their economy and their health as is the case of illness from biodiversity loss (zoonoses).


The earth is a living organisation, separated by spaces called different ecosystems. These ecosystems have individuals who interact with each other and with the environment. The number of individuals and their distribution by the planet is called biodiversity. These beings influence and are influenced by others, the human is who has modified and changed many ecosystems, not realising the disaster that could could turn out to be the loss of a large part of biodiversity. The man depends on relationships with other living beings and the environment, also get benefits from environmental services. But the current lifestyle and economic system that handles human attempts to monetise everything within the biosphere without realising that there are many elements that have no monetary value because their are vital.

The current methods of monitoring the health of an ecosystem, not taking into account relations with all other individuals and the environment, losing valuable information about the actual condition of biodiversity and the role of each individual in the environment. For this reason it is very necessary to analyse the biodiversity for to know the actual condition of the health of an ecosystem.