No feature of Earth is more complex, dynamic, and varied than the layer of living organisms that occupy its surfaces and its seas, and no feature is experiencing more dramatic change at the hands of humans than this extraordinary, singularly unique feature of Earth.This layer of living organisms—the biosphere—through the collective metabolic activities of its innumerable plants, animals, and microbes physically and chemically unites the atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere into one environmental system within which millions of species, including humans, have thrived.The virtual omnipresence of life on Earth is seldom appreciated because most organisms are small ( Documenting spatial patterns in biodiversity is difficult because taxonomic, functional, trophic, genetic, and other dimensions of biodiversity have been relatively poorly quantified.
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Without healthy soil there is a limit to plant development and diversity, which in turn limits the ability of animals to populate an area. Science Daily recently summarized a study focusing on soil biodiversity and its influence on grassland structure and performance.
This study (led by Yale) determined that plant diversity and performance is especially influenced by soil organic content.
“The results reflect the long-term ecological impacts of land use changes, such as the conversion of forests to agricultural land, researchers say.” Understanding the connections between soil biodiversity and landscape structure is of increasing importance as our population grows and agriculture intensifies.
If we continue to apply toxic chemicals to our crops, we might discourage soil biodiversity and eventually condemn these landscapes to a barren state.
Some environmental indicators, such as global mean temperature and atmospheric CO concentrations, are becoming widely accepted as measures of anthropogenic effects on global climate.
Ecological indicators are founded on much the same principles and therefore carry with them similar pros and cons ( Biodiversity is essentially everywhere, ubiquitous on Earth’s surface and in every drop of its bodies of water.
(See ) Ecological indicators are scientific constructs that use quantitative data to measure aspects of biodiversity, ecosystem condition, services, or drivers of change, but no single ecological indicator captures all the dimensions of biodiversity () Ecological indicators form a critical component of monitoring, assessment, and decision-making and are designed to communicate information quickly and easily to policy-makers.
In a similar manner, economic indicators such as GDP are highly influential and well understood by decision-makers.
When thinking about biodiversity, most people begin with the plants and animals that they can visually identify.
While these macroorganisms certainly help to define the biodiversity of an area, they make up only a fraction of a given ecosystem.