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1. The number and variety of species found within a specified geographic region.
2. The variability among living organisms on the earth, including the variability within and between species and within and between ecosystems.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
biodiversityThe existence of complex flora and fauna in an ecosystem; the genetic diversity of natural organisms. Biodiversity increases the overall productivity of a plot of land, and maximises its resistance to disturbances—e.g., drought. In prairie ecosystems stressed by drought, recovery to a normal state of productivity was more rapid in experimental plots of vegetation with the greatest biodiversity, a finding that supports the need to maintain biodiversity.
Loss of biodiversity—i.e., a reduction in the number of species, subspecies and strains—will be disastrous for the planet's ecosystem. An example would be growing a crop food, e.g., corn or rice, from only one highly productive, rapid-growing, spoil-resistant strain—while seemingly having all the desirable features, if the strain became susceptible to a particular pathogen, all those dependent on the crop could face famine.
Marine biodiversity may be in a state of ecological crisis due to coastal development—e.g., destruction of estuaries, motorised marine vessels, ocean dumping, oil spills, overfishing with trawling of the ocean floor and subsequent disruption of bottom communities and coral reefs, overwhaling, pollutant runoffs, and toxic tides due to eutrophication.
Segen's Medical Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All rights reserved.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005