Biodiversity, or biological diversity, can be defined as the variability between living beings of all origins, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part. This variability appears only as a result of nature itself, without suffering human intervention. Thus, it can vary according to the different ecological regions. It therefore refers to the variety of life on planet Earth, including the genetic variety within populations and species, the variety of species of flora, fauna, microscopic fungi and microorganisms.
One can understand, from the term “conservation”, the maintenance of the resources that constitute the earth, as well as the living beings that compose it, among them, man. It differs from preservation (which excludes the human factor so that the aforementioned maintenance is possible), considering that man, the main responsible for the degradation of the environment, is part of it.
In ecology, conservation refers to studies aimed at the conservation of fauna and flora in an environment, which may be about different groups or directed to individual species involving their niche and habitat. It is based on some assumptions, including that biological diversity and evolution are positive, and that biological diversity has value in itself. Biological diversity, even without anthropic action, does not remain unchanged over time, it changes and adapts according to the variations of the environment that compose it. However, human actions can aggravate some environmental problems, such as alteration and loss of habitats, predatory exploitation of resources, introduction of exotic species in different ecosystems, increase of environmental pathogens and toxins and climate change.
This area of study has as its main objectives to understand the effects of these anthropic actions on the ecosystem, in addition to also playing a very important role in the reintroduction of endangered species . An ecologically conserved environment provides a much greater diversity of resources to be consumed, thus, the search for a balanced ecosystem is advantageous for all beings that benefit from it directly or indirectly.
Biodiversity refers to both the number of different biological categories and the relative abundance (equitability) of these categories. And it includes variability at the local level, biological complementarity between habitats and variability between landscapes. It thus includes the totality of living, or biological, and genetic resources, and their components. The human species depends on biodiversity for its survival.
Conservation biology seeks to integrate conservation policies with the theories that come from several scientific fields that provide a foundation for conservation biology, namely, ecology, demography, population biology, genetics, taxonomy and also sciences in other fields, such as economics, geography, anthropology, sociology and others. This union occurs in order to establish effective methods to solve some of the problems that conservation biology needs to solve. An example of the importance of this interdisciplinarity is the implementation of conservation units, which encompasses many factors besides ecological ones, such as the factor socio-cultural status of residents of the regions that are implemented as such units.
The term was coined by Thomas Lovejoy, but there is no consensual definition of biodiversity. One definition is: “measure of the relative diversity between organisms present in different ecosystems”. This definition includes diversity within species, between species and comparative diversity between ecosystems.
Another, more challenging, definition is “the totality of genes, species and ecosystems in a region”. This definition unifies the three traditional levels of diversity among living beings:
- genetic diversity – diversity of genes in a species.
- species diversity – diversity between species.
- ecosystem diversity – diversity at a higher level of organization, including all levels of variation from genetic.