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BIOLOGY REVISION

BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT


BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity is the variety or number of different species in an area. This area can be
any size from a sea shore to the whole of Europe. Biodiversity is a good thing as it
encourages a stable environment.
If there is an environment with low biodiversity then if the population of one species
is affected the ripple effects on other species would be great. For example, in a field
of one crop, eaten by one type of insect, eaten by one type of bird. If insecticide is
used most of the insects will die and so the birds have no food and go elsewhere.
The remaining insects now rapidly reproduce and destroy the crops until the birds
return as they now have enough food. In an environment with more biodiversity with
a complex food web if the population of one organism is changed then there is not
much effect on the others as food is gathered from more than one source.

QUADRATS
To measure the population of plants or slow-moving animals you find the population
in a sample of a set area. The population of the whole environment is calculated by
multiplying the sample population by the number of times it would fit into the total
area. This method is often done using a quadrat. To make it as accurate as possible
the sample area must be typical of the whole area, randomly chosen, bigger areas
should be used as they are less likely to be unusual than small areas, the method
must not affect results (e.g. humans may scare away some animals) and it should be
repeated with a mean calculated. To find the distribution of species you can take a
transect which is a series of samples in a line that often lies along some sort of
changing conditions.

CAPTURE-RECAPTURE
Measuring the population of animals is much harder as they move around and so
you could count the same animal more than once. To ensure this does not happen
you can use the capture-recapture technique. First, you capture a sample of the
species, count them, mark them then release them. Some time later take another
sample, count how many you have and then the number of them that are marked.
You can estimate the total population by multiplying the number of your first sample
and the total number of your second sample and then dividing it by the number
marked in the second sample. To make method accurate sufficient time must elapse
between the two samples for the organisms to disperse, there can be no large scale
movement in or out of the area by any organisms between the samples, the marking
technique cannot affect the results (e.g. bright colours can be easily seen by
predators or the collector).

MAINTAINING BIODIVERSITY
To be able to maintain biodiversity we must first measure it at regular intervals to
detect any changes. Then, mathematical models cannot predict what will happen to
the population in the future thus highlighting any problems.

After this there are various ways in which biodiversity can be maintained:
Breeding and release programmes
Conservation of habitats
Creation of declined habitats (planting, landscaping etc.)
Control of invasive species
Legislation to protect habitats or individual species
Control of factors threatening a species of their habitat (e.g. pollution)

ALIEN SPECIES
Introducing an alien species to an environment can cause problems. For example,
the alien species may have no predators in an environment and so the population
goes out of control, it may compete with existing species thus causing them to die
out, it may prey on existing species thus causing them to die out or it may carry a
disease to which it is immune but other species arent.
An alien species may be used as a biological control agent where they alien species
reduces the number of an unwanted species, often by preying on it. This, however,
can go wrong as the alien species may begin to eat other native species that it was
not introduced to eat. Although this happened in the past, nowadays scientists know
the possible problems and so detailed research and extensive trials are used before
alien species are introduced.