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Measuring Biodiversity

Silk moth (Rothschildia orizaba).


Michael Branstetter Michael Branstetter

See the associated lesson plan at


nature.ca/education/cls/lp/lpmb_e.cfm
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What Is Biodiversity?

The term biodiversity comes from


the words biological and diversity.

It refers to the variety of life, and


includes all living things (plants,
animals and micro-organisms) and
their unique characteristics.

Snail.
Michael Branstetter Michael Branstetter

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What Is Biodiversity?

It can mean the variety of habitats, living communities and ecological


processes in an ecosystem.

It can mean the diversity of genetic characteristics within a species.

It can mean the variety of species in a given area.

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Why Is Biodiversity Important?

Ecosystems depend on the combined contributions of the individual


organisms within them. The loss of any species can prevent that
ecosystem from operating the way it should.

An ecosystem with a high level of biodiversity is more resistant to


environmental change.

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What Is Biodiversity?

What does biodiversity mean to you?

Lets draw a mind map!

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Biodiversity Index

A biodiversity index is a way of measuring biodiversity.

Scientists use different biodiversity indices to measure diversity,


and no single one will always be appropriate for the question being
posed.

In fact, for some conservation questions, more than one measure


may have to be used.

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Biodiversity Index

Species Richness
The total number of species in
an area (add them up!)

Species abundance
number of individual organisms
of species

Species Evenness
How evenly the species are
represented in the area.
E.g., Do most of the individuals
belong to one species?

Weevil (Rhodobaenus sp.).


Michael Branstetter Michael Branstetter

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Species Richness

The most common type of biodiversity index is species richness, which refers to
the number of species in a particular place. This measure is commonly used
because most people have an idea what species means.

It is also commonly used because species keep their genes more or less to
themselves, and to that extent have their own unique history.

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Simpsons Index

Many diversity indices have been


developed that combine different
measures of biodiversity. One is
called the Simpsons Index.

The Simpsons Index includes


BOTH species richness and species
evenness in a single number.
Ocean sunfish (Mola mola).
iStockphoto.com/Todd Winner

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How to Calculate
Simpsons Index

D is the Simpsons Index

n is the total number of organisms


of a particular species

N is the total number of organisms


of all species

means add up!

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D =

n(n - 1)
N(N - 1)

Lets Try an Example


n

You have studied a specific site,


and have counted the individuals of
five different species.
n is the total number of organisms
of a particular species.

Species A

12

Species B

Species C

Species D

Species E

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Simpsons Index
n

D=

n-1

n(n - 1)

n(n - 1)

Species A

12

11

132

N(N - 1)

Species B

Species C

42

Species D

12

Species E

72

n(n - 1) = 264

n(n - 1)

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264

Simpsons Index
D =

n(n - 1)
N(N - 1)

264
N(N - 1)

N = total number of all individuals = 35

N - 1 = 34

N(N - 1) = 1190
D

264
1190

= 0.22184

This area would score 0.22184 on the Simpsons Index. The scale
ranges from 01, with 1 representing the lowest biodiversity. Therefore,
the score for this area indicates a high level of biodiversity.

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Biodiversity at Sites in Honduras


The following calculations are based on sampling conducted in Honduras
by Canadian Museum of Nature research scientist Bob Anderson.
Site

N(N - 1)

Species
Richness

2996

7 120 892

1 600 002

0.2247

61

El Pital 2050 m

233

54 056

6856

0.1268

22

El Pital 2650 m

5411

29 273 510

12 873 694

0.4398

46

Cerro Puca

311

96 410

19 126

0.1984

27

Santa Barbara

839

703 082

55 514

0.0789

44

Cerro Montecristo

n(n - 1)

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Biodiversity and Conservation

Which measurespecies richness


or species evenness is more
important to conservation?

Should we incorporate both?

Canadian Museum of Nature scientist Bob


Anderson identifying new species in the lab.
John Longino John Longino

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Biodiversity and Conservation

Why should we preserve


biodiversity?

What is conservation?

What does it take to conserve


areas?

How is conservation related to


biodiversity?

Pit viper (Cerrophidion godmani).


Jos Monzon Jos Monzon

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Biodiversity and Conservation

Some species are rare in nature, or


in some areas. How is this important
to conservation studies?

Is there a chance that scientists


might not even find the rare
species?

Are rare species more important to


conserve than common ones?

Canadian Museum of Nature scientist


Bob Anderson conducting a biodiversity
assessment.
Michael Branstetter Michael Branstetter

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