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Measurement of biodiversity

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Title: Measurement of biodiversity  
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Subject: Biodiversity
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Measurement of biodiversity

Polar bears on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, near the north pole.

Conservation biologists have designed a variety of objective means to measure sustainability.

As a consequence, biologists argue that this measure is likely to be associated with the variety of genes. Since it cannot always be said which genes are more likely to prove beneficial, the best choice for conservation is to assure the persistence of as many genes as possible. For ecologists, this latter approach is sometimes considered too restrictive, as it prohibits ecological succession.

Taxonomic Diversity

Biodiversity is usually plotted as taxonomic richness of a geographic area, with some reference to a temporal scale. Whittaker[1] described three common metrics used to measure species-level biodiversity, encompassing attention to species richness or species evenness:

Recently, another new index has been invented called the Mean Species Abundance Index (MSA); this index calculates the trend in population size of a cross section of the species. It does this in line with the CBD 2010 indicator for species abundance.[2]

Other Measures of Diversity

Alternatively, other types of diversity may be plotted against a temporal timescale:

A few studies have attempted to quantitatively clarify the relationship between different types of diversity. For example, Sarda Sahney a researcher at the University of Bristol has found a close link between vertebrate taxonomic and ecological diversity.[3]

Other authors tried to organize the measurements of biodiversity in the following way:[4]

  • traditional diversity measures
  • phylogenetic diversity measures, include information on phylogenetic relationships among species
    • phylogenetic diversity (PD) index; Faith (1992)
    • topology based measures
      • taxonomic distinctiveness; Vane-Wright et al. (1991)
      • taxonomic diversity; Warwick & Clarke (1995)
      • taxonomic distinctness; Clarke & Warwick (1998)
  • functional diversity measures, include information on functional traits among species
    • categoric measures
      • functional group richness (FGR); e.g., Tilman et al. (1997)
    • continuous measures
      • with only one functional trait; e.g., Mason et al. (2003)
      • multivariate measures, with many functional traits
        • functional attribute diversity (FAD); Walker et al. (1999)
        • convex hull volume; Cornwell et al. (2006)
        • functional diversity (FD); Petchey & Gaston (2002)


Diversity may be measured at different scales. These are three indices used by ecologists:

  • Alpha diversity refers to diversity within a particular area, community or ecosystem, and is measured by counting the number of taxa within the ecosystem (usually species)[5]
  • Beta diversity is species diversity between ecosystems; this involves comparing the number of taxa that are unique to each of the ecosystems.
  • Gamma diversity is a measurement of the overall diversity for different ecosystems within a region.

See also


  1. ^ Whittaker, R.H., Evolution and measurement of species diversity, Taxon, 21, 213–251 (1972)
  2. ^ MSA Index (page 4)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Cianciaruso, M.V., Silva, I.A. & Batalha, M.A. Diversidades filogenética e funcional: novas abordagens para a Ecologia de comunidades. Biota Neotrop. 9(3): [1].
  5. ^
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