Introduction to Conservation Biology and Biodiversity

Explain why conservation biology and biodiversity are important

In the 1980s, biologists working in Lake Victoria in Africa discovered one of the most extraordinary products of evolution on the planet. Located in the Great Rift Valley, Lake Victoria is a large lake about 68,900 km2 in area (larger than Lake Huron, the second largest of North America’s Great Lakes). Biologists were studying species of a family of fish called cichlids. They found that as they sampled for fish in different locations of the lake, they never stopped finding new species, and they identified nearly 500 evolved types of cichlids. But while studying these variations, they quickly discovered that the invasive Nile Perch was destroying the lake’s cichlid population, bringing hundreds of cichlid species to extinction with devastating rapidity.

 Satellite image shows a large blue lake surrounded by green land.

Figure 1. Lake Victoria in Africa, shown in this satellite image, was the site of one of the most extraordinary evolutionary findings on the planet, as well as a casualty of devastating biodiversity loss. (credit: modification of work by Rishabh Tatiraju, using NASA World Wind software)

What You’ll Learn to Do

  • Describe biodiversity and the different ways it may be assessed
  • Identify historical and potential causes of high extinction rates
  • Identify biodiversity components that support human life
  • Identify significant threats to biodiversity
  • Describe current biodiversity estimates
  • Identify modern methods for preserving biodiversity

Learning Activities

The learning activities for this section include the following:

  • Biodiversity
  • Mass Extinctions
  • The Importance of Biodiversity to Human Life
  • Threats to Biodiversity
  • Current Biodiversity
  • Preserving Biodiversity
  • Self Check: Conservation Biology and Biodiversity