Glossary
Biodiversity, Food and Farming for a Healthy Planet








What is Biodiversity?

Biodiversity is the short way of saying biological diversity, which includes all the various forms of life on Earth. It is sometimes referred to as the web of life. Although biodiversity is very complex, the web of life is often divided into three parts:
  1. genes
  2. species
  3. ecosystem

1. Genes

Genes are special codes or instructions found in all cells. These codes give organisms different characteristics that determine the way we look and behave. Genes determine if you will have brown or blue eyes, or big or small or smelly feet. Genetic diversity is at the individual level and makes everyone unique.
Did you know that in the Amazon rain forest, a single tree can provide a home for up to 2,000 species of birds, insects, fungi, epiphytes and microorganisms?

2. Species

A species is a group of organisms that can reproduce. Although we may not think of it, we see different species as we go about our daily life, such as humans, dogs and cats. Species diversity is the most obvious type of biodiversity. Our planet, Earth, supports millions of species, many of which are not yet identified! At present, there are over 375,000 known species of plants that produce flowers and 15,000 known species of mammals and birds. There are thousands of small organisms or microorganisms that scientists have yet to identify.

Within a species, there is genetic diversity. So groups of organisms that share a common ancestor and have the same characteristics are identified as a breed for animals and as a variety for plants.

3. Ecosystems

Simply put, an ecosystem is the nature in which species live. Ecology is the study of species in their natural environment. There are many kinds of ecosystems on Earth. Some are very familiar to us such as forest, mountain or marine ecosystems. Others are less known but still very important in terms of biodiversity.