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What is Biodiversity?

What-is-biodiversity

The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it. Biodiversity includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered, but every living thing — even organisms we still know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertebrates. Biodiversity is important everywhere; species and habitats in your area as well as those in distant lands all play a role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Why is Biodiversity Important?

We need biodiversity to satisfy basic needs like food, drinking water, fuel, shelter, and medicine. Much of the world's population still uses plants and animals as a primary source of medicine, and in the United States alone, about 57% of the 150 most prescribed drugs have their origins in biodiversity. Ecosystems provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests. Many flowering plants depend on animals for pollination, and 30% of human crops depend on the free services of pollinators.

Threats To Biodiversity

Over the last century, humans have come to dominate the planet. Ecosystems are being rapidly altered, and the planet is undergoing a massive loss of biodiversity.

While the Earth has always experienced changes and extinctions, the current changes are occurring at an unprecendented rate. Still more sobering, most threats to biodiversity are caused by human activity.

The good new is that it is within our power to change our actions to help ensure the survivial of species and natural systems — and ultimately, ourselves. Learn more about what you can do today.

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
Phone: 212-769-5100

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except on Thanksgiving and Christmas
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