Saturday, April 25, 2009

Understanding Biodiversity

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to every form of life within an area or ecosystem. This includes the genetic variability within the populations and species; the different species of flora, fauna, and microorganisms; the variety of functions and ecological interactions carried out by the organisms in the ecosystems; and the various communities, habitats, and ecosystems formed by the organisms. Biodiversity is the fruit of the great laboratory, which is the planet Earth, with its more than 30 million different species resulting from 4 to 5 billion years of evolution.

The importance of preserving biodiversity is also referred to in sacred books, such as the Bible, which relates that Noah saved domestic and wild animals from the great flood. Biodiversity is one of the fundamental properties of nature responsible for the balance and stability of ecosystems. It is also of great economic value. This diversity is the basis of farming and food production, and it is essential for biotechnology. The ecological functions carried out by various organisms are still poorly understood, but biodiversity is thought to be responsible for the natural processes and products supplied by ecosystems. It accounts for the species that sustain other life forms and also modifies the biosphere, making it suitable and safe for life. Biological diversity possesses, besides an intrinsic worth, a value of ecological, genetic, social, economical, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational, and aesthetic importance.

A reduction in biological diversity is hazardous to sustainable development. Genetic erosion (the loss of species variability) and the extinction of species can influence us to develop strategies that contribute to the preservation of the remaining biodiversity on the planet, at a level that is already smaller than it was a century ago. The preservation of biodiversity is also essential for human well-being. However, recent studies have indicated that extinction rates are 1,000 times faster than those expected naturally, with 50,000 species extinguished every year. Currently, about 34,000 plant species and 5,200 animal species are at risk of becoming extinct.

Biotechnology can be understood as a technology that explores biological systems instead of individual living organisms. Therefore, the preservation of the biological systems with all of their diversity can be considered a priority as well as a challenge to mankind.

Microbes, such as bacteria, are the most diverse of all living organisms. Some estimates indicate that there exist more than 1 million different species of bacteria in the world. Recent reports suggest that an extremely large number of bacteria exist in the biosphere awaiting the development of appropriate techniques needed to grow them, so that they can be characterized.
This is one example of one key part of the greater picture of biodiversity. Plants, animals, and even fungi are also important aspects of the world's biodiversity. This idea of biodiversity is an important part of biotechnology, as useful traits and chemicals are becoming part of important new biotechnology applications. Biotechnology brings, simultaneously, promises of biodiversity preservation and also the fear of genetic erosion and biopiracy.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bio diversity

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