In this topic, from the Association for Science Education (ASE), students explore the importance of biodiversity to humankind. The topic is designed to allow classes in schools across the world to exchange information about the factors affecting biodiversity today.

Students focus in particular on the distributions, impacts and origins of non-native plants and animals in their own localities. Students also review local, national and international environmental conventions and legislation to protect biodiversity. This leads to them producing their own local action plan.

This topic covers the following aspects of biology:

• an understanding of the concept of biodiversity and why it has become an issue today

• the basic meanings of species, habitat and ecosystem; and basic carbon and water cycles

• observation and recording techniques for biodiversity in a given area, through basic habitat survey and organism identification techniques, and mapping skills using keys and scales.

The topic provides opportunities for students to make a survey of the plants and animals in a local area, study interesting plants and animals in that local area. They can also investigate changes within the local area over time through local records, interviews with older people and so on. In addition they can investigate the impact of non-native plants and animals on the local environment and study of the legislation to protect local biodiversity. After exchanging their findings and views with students in other countries, students compare and discuss the responses received from classes in other parts of the world.

There are still schools making active use of Science Across the World topics and exchanging ideas and information. For details visit the Science Across the World pages of the ASE web site. In most countries this topic is suitable for students aged 12-16. It is available in English and Dutch. The topics was included in the ASE Science Year CD called Can We? Should We?

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