Biodiversity - Definitions

What is biodiversity?

The word biodiversity was recently coined in 1985 by WG Rosen in a symposium. But this concept became really popular in politics and society at the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro where, for the first time, degradation of nature was recognized at a global level.
Yet biodiversity is a very old research subject. Naturalists have been studying the diversity of fauna, flora and ecosystems for centuries.
The concept of biodiversity is defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity as: "the variability among living beings from all sources including, inter alia, aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species and of ecosystems" (Article 2).

The three organisational levels of biodiversity

The concept of biodiversity refers to all the components and variations of the living world and scientists to distinguish three levels of organisation:

  • ecological diversity (ecosystems);
  • specific diversity (species);
  • genetic diversity (genes).

Today, the components of biodiversity (inventories of ecosystems, flora and fauna) is is still the subject of research, however, it is its functioning that is more and more studied. A milestone was reached in the understanding of the system, when passing from its description to the study of its functioning.

Finally, scientists are trying more and more to situate biodiversity in a broader environmental perspective, and biodiversity is integrated within the issues of the society. First there was a consideration of the role of humans, either in terms of direct dependence (for biological resources, food resources) or in terms of indirect dependency on ecosystem services provided by biodiversity (interference with the climate, well-being issued from nature).