Native plants and animals
What is biodiversity?
Biodiversity means the variety of life, including how that life is organised and associated ecological processes. The variety of life includes plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and micro-organisms. Life is organised at a number of different levels:
- genes that shape the form and function of each individual organism
- species which are groups of interbreeding populations
- ecosystems which are a dynamic complex of species and their environment
- landscapes that are a mosaic of connected ecosystems.
Fundamental to the adaptation and maintenance of biodiversity are ecological processes. These include interactions between organisms (such as competition, predation, parasitism and mutualism) and between organisms and their environment (such as photosynthesis, respiration and biogeochemical cycling). Through time, these ecological processes contribute to natural selection, which shapes each species’ genetic diversity and drives evolution.
Why is biodiversity important?
Biodiversity and the associated ecological processes underpin the health of our environment and its ability to support human needs. This includes basic requirements such as the production of oxygen, creation of soil, cycling and purification of water, and breakdown of wastes. It regulates our climate, underpins the production of our food and provides the basis for many popular recreational pursuits.