5.6 Chapter Resources


Biodiversity exists at multiple levels of organization, and is measured in different ways depending on the goals of those taking the measurements. These include numbers of species, genetic diversity, chemical diversity, and ecosystem diversity. Humans use many compounds that were first discovered or derived from living organisms as medicines: secondary plant compounds, animal toxins, and antibiotics produced by bacteria and fungi. Ecosystems provide ecosystem services that support human agriculture: pollination, nutrient cycling, pest control, and soil development and maintenance. Loss of biodiversity threatens these ecosystem services and risks making food production more expensive or impossible. The core threats to biodiversity are human population growth and unsustainable resource use. Climate change is predicted to be a significant cause of extinction in the coming century. Exotic species have been the cause of a number of extinctions and are especially damaging to islands and lakes. International treaties such as CITES regulate the transportation of endangered species across international borders. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act protects listed species but is hampered by procedural difficulties and a focus on individual species. The Migratory Bird Act is an agreement between Canada and the United States to protect migratory birds. Presently, 11 percent of Earth’s land surface is protected in some way. Habitat restoration has the potential to restore ecosystems to previous biodiversity levels before species become extinct. Examples of restoration include reintroduction of keystone species and removal of dams on rivers.

Review Questions

  • Describe two types of compounds from living things that are used as medications.
  • Describe the mechanisms by which human population growth and resource use causes increased extinction rates.
  • What extinction threats a frog living on a mountainside in Costa Rica might face?
  • Describe two considerations in conservation preserve design.
  • What happens to an ecosystem when a keystone species is removed?


OpenStax College. (2013). Concepts of biology. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/contents/b3c1e1d2-839c-42b0-a314-e119a8aafbdd@8.10. OpenStax CNX. Available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0). Modified from Original.


Essentials of Environmental Science by Kamala Doršner is licensed under CC BY 4.0