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Michigan dnr > wildlife viewing guide > ecology: biodiversity

Biodiversity: The Spice of Life

Yellow Lady's SlipperBrook troutIn its basic form, biodiversity refers to the variety of native plants, animals, and other living organisms that inhabit the earth. Some people like to think of biodiversity as another word for nature.

The variety of life on earth is incredible. There may be as many as 30 million total species, yet scientists have discovered fewer than 2 million so far. Individual animals within any one of these species may have different sizes, colors, and behaviors. Karner blue butterflyA wide diversity of species share an environment and interact with each other in an ecosystem. Finally, the landscape of each continent on earth is a patchwork quilt of unique ecosystems that run together and overlap. Gray tree frogAll of these factors contribute to the earthís biodiversity—the variety of life.


Why is Conserving Biodiversity Important?

"The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts."* Anyone who has taken something apart and then tried to reassemble it knows this tTrumpeter swano be true. If a part is lost, the machine will not work very well—if it works at all. And as mechanisms become more complex, the individual parts generally become more and more critical.

River otterIf this is true for machines—if a missing cog or belt can render a carís engine useless—how much more might a missing organism affect the health of an ecosystem whose complexity is overwhelming?

Massasauga rattlesnakeConservation of the earthís biodiversity must be a primary concern for all people, for when biodiversity is destroyed—at any of its levels—"tune-ups" and "replacement parts" are not available.

*Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, (Oxford University Press, 1966).



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