by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation
The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity.
Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is defined as “the variability among living organisms from all sources, including ‘inter alia,’ terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecossytems, and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” There are three levels to biodiversity: genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity and together they form the web of life on Earth.
The biodiversity around us helps purify the air and water, provides shelter, food, fuel, and fiber, moderates floods, droughts, and temperature extremes, controls pests and disease, regenerates the soil, generates income from tourism, and so much more. The loss of biodiversity threatens all those things.
As you enjoy 2010, pay attention to the stories of biodiversity around you. What organisms and ecosystems are in your own backyard? In your town? In your state? What stories of biodiversity do you read about in the paper, hear about in the news? And remember to come back and visit our blog, we’ll highlight stories of biodiversity that reach from Fort Collins to across the globe throughout the year.
To get things started, take a look at some of the biodiversity discoveries that have made the news so far this year:
Think you would need to explore an entire continent to find over 30 new vertebrate species? Think again, all you need is the microhabitat of a small mountain in Ecuador. Visit the Daily Mail to learn about the new discoveries, including a gecko so small it can sit on a pencil eraser, a transparent frog, and a snake the sucks snails out of their shells.
The discovery of the first known breeding ground for one of the world’s rarest birds and the first recording of their song all happened by accident, and with the help of a museum! Visit Discovery News for the story of the Large-billed reed warbler and its breeding ground in Afghanistan.
And, finally, lemurs may have colonized Madagascar starting 50-60 million years ago on rafts. This move, along with being awesome, has lead to evolution of 99 lemur species, none of which are found naturally any place else. Science Blogs has the story of how researchers are simulating prehistoric ocean currents to test the theory.