Thursday, October 18, 2012

How do ecologists measure biodiversity?

Given the ongoing biodiversity loss that seems to be happening everywhere around the globe, it's really no wonder that ecologists try to measure biodiversity as they hope that this may lead to more success in conservation and help many species from going extinct.

Measuring biodiversity focuses on three main factors:

-          - the number of species in a given area (the richness of species).
-          - the relation between the species in an area (how close is relation between one species to another).
-          - different variations in biological and ecological characteristics across an area or the so called trait diversity (this mostly refers to ecosystem resilience against disturbance from non-native elements).

Why is important to measure biodiversity in as much areas as possible? The answer is quite simple – Measuring biodiversity gives researchers the knowledge so they can prioritize the areas that need the most protection, so these areas could be turned into national parks, reserves or some other forms of protected areas.

However, it is very difficult to quantify these three factors and decide which areas need protection the most. The current practice was all about protecting areas with the largest number of threatened species but the things aren’t that easy.

There are also several major environmental issues that need to be put into the biodiversity equation such as climate change, pollution, deforestation and ocean acidification. This makes measuring biodiversity extremely complex and often leads to inadequate conservation efforts.

From the current point of view, it is very difficult to recognize the methods that could lead to successful protection of threatened species. The interaction between so many different factors often leads to guesses and estimates, even despite the advanced scientific approach.

Science, however, still remains our only weapon against the biodiversity loss. New studies will hopefully help conservations to better protect threatened species across the globe.

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