What does biodiversity mean?

The term biodiversity or biological diversity is not always uniformly used. In a sense the word biodiversity represents the basis of all life on our planet. The earth's biosphere consists of a functional structure of diverse ecosystems, composed by complex partnerships. Each organism from this partnership has individual genetic information. Biodiversity covers the diversity of life on all these levels, the diversity within species (genetic level), between species (species diversity level) and the variability of habitats (ecosystems level).In nature protection and in a broader public, biodiversity is frequently reduced simply to the "diversity of species." Thus the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is often designated as the "Species Protection Convention". This simplification of the complex term "biodiversity" is unjust, since it considers only the level of species diversity.

Biodiversity in its complexity is difficult to define and explore because of its holistic approach and that it covers quasi all life on earth. Therefore only individual sectors of biodiversity can be represented and investigated, which again have their own definitions (e.g. a -, ß-, ?- diversity).World-wide is biological diversity on all levels severely endangered. Through numerous factors such as changes of land use and habitat destruction are whole ecosystems (e.g. rainforests or coral reefs) and many species (e.g. Pandas) severely threatened. In order to work against this trend, it was decided at the Conference of the United Nations for Environment and Sustainable Development (UNCED) in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro to have a Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Over 193 Contracting Parties, including Germany, joined this international nature protection agreement at the end of 2011.

Origins of the term"Biodiversity"

The term "biodiversity" is quite a recent term, that was coined in the USA during the "National Forum on Biodiversity," which took place in September 1986 under the patronage of the National Academy of Science and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Originally the term was derived from "biological diversity". The word BIODIVERSITY originates from the Greek word BIOS = LIFE and Latin word DIVERSITAS = VARIETY or DIFFERENCE. The whole word BIO DIVERSITY generally therefore means: VARIETY OF LIFE. Biodiversity should serve as a keyword, which connects impartial scientific realisations and conceptions of moral values, in order to clarify the decrease of biological diversity as central problem of mankind. The contributions from the "Forum on Biodiversity" are found in the book "Biodiversity" written by E.O. WILSON (1988).

Biodiversity in the meantime has attained enormous popularity and significantly stepped into the focus of public interest. During the Earth Summit of Rio 1992, where 150 states signed the Convention on Biological Diversity (United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD), the term "biodiversity" gained political meaning.