Biodiversity is the general term used to describe the variety in the living world. It reflects on both the variety and complexity of life. Biodiversity can be considered at different levels and can be applied to a small local habitat or to the Earth itself.

It is possible to measure biodiversity by use of an index of diversity, also called species diversity. This is a calculation which refers to the number of different species and the number of individuals of each species within any one community.

Two communities may have the same number of species but the proportions of the community made up of each species may differ. This may be due to external factors such as impact of agriculture, impact of deforestation or overfishing.

Because biodiversity reflects how well an ecosystem functions, maintaining biodiversity is important. The higher the species diversity index the more stable an ecosystem usually is. Actions to maintain biodiversity can be seen at local, national and global levels.

Biodiversity is often a topic used in A level biology to introduce ecology, providing ample opportunities to undertake practical investigations, compile results which can be analysed using species diversity index and subsequently interpreted to compare particular habitats. Often in A level biology exams, questions ask students to compare habitats and comment on how each habitat may be affected by climate change, or the impact on the habitats from farming, deforestation etc.

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