Whitfield Gibbons and Karen L. McGlothlin
The field of ecology is a subdiscipline of biology devoted to the investigation
of the species distribution and species abundance of organisms within
the environment and the relationship between those organisms and their
surroundings. To most scientists engaged in ecological research that is
directly applicable to environmental problems, the loss of biological
diversity, or biodiversity, is the single most pervasive theme driving
When one thinks about the term "biodiversity," it is easy to
restrict those thoughts to the total number of species of plants, animals,
fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms in the environment. This, however,
is an inaccurate representation of the entire picture that is biodiversity.
The term "biodiversity" was coined in a chapter written by marine
and forest conservation biologist Elliott Norse and included in a 1980
government report (Pimm 2001). The term has been commonly used to describe
a concept that includes diversity on three levels. The most inclusive
livel includes ecosystem, which are communities of living organisms and
the nonliving environment they inhabit. The second level includes species,
which are groups of interbreeding or potentially interbreeding organisms
found in ecosystems. Diversity can also be observed and quantified on
a third level: the molecular. Biodiversity at this level is described
in terms of genes, which are segments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA),
or the units of hereditary material passed from generation to generation.
At this level, biological diversity is represented by the numerous genetic
variations among members of even a single species (Wilson 2002). . .
J. W. and K. L. McGlothlin. 2003. A Changing Balance: An Ecological Perspective
on the Loss of Biodiversity. pp. 29-54 In: S. L. Spray and K. L.
McGlothlin (Eds.). Loss of Biodiversity: Exploring Environmental Challenges
- A Multidisciplinary Approach. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
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