DEFINING AND MEASURING BIODIVERSITY
Assignment Overview
As we continue to develop the relationship between economics and our natural world, we will focus on one concept that is studied regularly in ecology and has become very important in both economics and the sustainability of our planet: biodiversity.
In order to understand the significance of economic principles in the biodiversity of our world, you must first understand what biodiversity describes.
The following overview of biodiversity was adapted from In World Resources Institute, World Conservation Union, and United Nations Environment Programme, “Global Biodiversity Strategy,” 1992:
Biodiversity is the totality of genes, species, and ecosystems in a region. Biodiversity can be divided into three hierarchical categories—genes, species, and ecosystems—that describe quite different aspects of living systems that scientists measure in different ways.
Genetic diversity refers to the variation of genes within species. This covers distinct populations of the same species (such as the thousands of traditional rice varieties in India) or genetic variation within a population (high among Indian rhinos, and very low among cheetahs).
Species diversity refers to the variety of species within a region. Such diversity can be measured in many ways, and scientists have not settled on a single best method. The number of species in a region—its species “richness”—is one often-used measure, but a more precise measurement, “taxonomic diversity,” also considers the relationship of species to each other. For example, an island with two species of birds and one species of lizard has a greater taxonomic diversity than an island with three species of birds but no lizards.
Ecosystem diversity is harder to measure than species or genetic diversity because the “boundaries” of communities—associations of species—and ecosystems are elusive. Nevertheless, as long as a consistent set of criteria is used to define communities and ecosystems, their numbers and distribution can be measured.
For additional information on biodiversity read the article Biodiversity from the National Wildlife Federation. For an in-depth review of how biodiversity is measured read the article on Getting the Measure of Biodiversity. These resources will help you address the questions in the following Case Assignment.
Also, see the PowerPoint on Measuring Biodiversity by the Canadian Museum of Nature.
Case Assignment
From the Background readings above, address the following questions for your case assignment in the form of an essay. Complete a 2-3 page paper using complete sentences for each question and APA formatting for citations. Include any citations used to support your research. For additional expectations, including how to organize your assignment, see the Assignment Expectations below.
1. Define biodiversity.
2. Why is biodiversity important? What are some of the benefits of biodiversity?
3. How is biodiversity measured?
4. What is extinction? What is causing it today?
5. What is the Endangered Species Act? What is it meant to do? (reflect on the economic consequences of the Act as we will be delving into the topic later on)
6. What are some of the most and least diverse species in your local area? Try the interactive map called the “Map of Life” developed by a research team from both Yale University and the University of Colorado Boulder. The link can be found at https://www.mol.org/location/32.045/-471.489/.

Select “Locations” from the menu bar at the top right. Once the map pulls up, you can select an area of interest to you. For instance, clicking on the state of Arizona the data should indicate the greatest diversity is found in bird species (394) and the least in palms (1).

Select an area of interest to you to describe in your essay. Copy and paste the chart area showing the most and least diverse species in your area (map of United States does not need to be copied, only the species chart). Were you surprised by the results? Why or why not.
7. Insects are the largest and most diverse group of organisms on Earth. Select one insect species from your local area (click on the insect species from the Map of Life to learn more) and describe its importance to humans (medicine, research, agriculture, aesthetics, etc). Include an image of your chosen insect within your essay.
8. What can you do as an individual to help slow the loss of biodiversity?

Assignment Expectations
Organize this essay assignment using subtitles that summarize the topic from each question above. For example, to answer Question 1, use a descriptive subtitle like the following: The Definition of Biodiversity.
Answer each question under the subtitle using complete sentences that relate back to the question. Be sure to use APA formatting throughout your essay with 1-inch margins, 12-point type, and double spacing throughout. Include a title page, introduction, answers to the questions with subtitles, and concluding paragraph. Remember to include in-text citations within the body of the essay referencing your resources (e.g., Murray, 2014). Also, be sure to include a reference section at the end of your assignment listing all required readings and any additional resources you used to complete your essay. A helpful guide to writing a quality essay can be found in Trident’s Student Guide to Writing a High-Quality Academic Paper. This guide also provides links to example essays written in APA format.
SLP ASSIGNMENT
DEFINING AND MEASURING BIODIVERSITY
Overview
In response to the variable effects of conservation efforts and loss of biodiversity, zoos began to turn their attention to the conservation of endangered species and wildlife in the 1970s and 1980s. Supporting conservation efforts became an important goal for the modern zoo. A major milestone towards this goal was the Convention on Biodiversity which was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. As the modern zoo continues to focus its efforts towards conservation, it has been seen by many as a sort of “Noah’s Ark,” primarily focused on conserving the precious few endangered species. Unfortunately, genetic, ecosystem and economic issues have created challenges for the conservation model of the modern zoo. Read the following articles that expand on the conservation efforts of zoos and their use of technology towards this goal.
Readings
Keulartz, J. (2015). Captivity for conservation? Zoos at a crossroads. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.
Kobilinsky, D. (2016). New live cam technology might help conservation. Accessed August 13, 2016, at http://wildlife.org/new-live-cam-technology-might-help-conservation/.
Genetics
Research has shown that zoos currently hold about 15% of the endangered land animals in captivity. There remains a continual struggle to breed these animals due to low numbers. A zoo’s ability to maintain enough genetic variability among individual species is impossible and space limitations prevent expansion to allow the influx of more animals.
Economics
The secondary goal for many zoos, that of reintroduction to the wild, also faces challenges due to the costs involved, from financial to ecological. Animals living in captivity often lose the necessary skills to survive in the wild once released.
Ecosystems
Lastly, the ecosystems into which the captive animals are eventually released are constantly changing. Many factors may have affected their previous habitat, preventing the animal’s chance at a successful re-introduction to the wild.
Education and Technology
Technology and education have also been identified as important components in maintaining the biodiversity of the natural world. Zoos are in a unique position to educate the public about conservation issues and they are continually looking for ways to convey this information to visitors. The Metro Richmond Zoo uses video cam technology to encourage cheetah conservation by streaming live footage of cheetah litters online. Viewers witness the day-to-day lives of the cheetah cubs without human interference or disturbance.
Answer the following questions in complete sentences using an essay format. See the SLP Assignment Expectations for further directions on formatting and organization.
Assignment Directions:
1. Discuss how zoos have evolved over the past 50 years to become conservation centers. Incorporate the role of zoos in educating the public into your response.
2. Discuss some of the economic pressures faced by zoos—namely space, capacity, and resources—that can affect their conservation efforts.
3. How does a species get on the Endangered Species List?
4. Take a virtual trip to the zoo using one of the links below and observe at least one of the endangered species.
Take a Virtual Visit to the Zoo
You can take a virtual visit to the zoo any day of the week by tuning into any of the following live webcams, which feature many endangered animals. The World Wildlife Fund lists many of these animals as priority species.
• The Houston Zoo has some of the best webcams of gorillas, rhinos, elephants, flamingos, and giraffes here: http://www.houstonzoo.org/meet-the-animals/animal-webcams/
• The Reid Park Zoo in Arizona has webcams of lions, giraffes, elephants, lemurs, grizzly bears, and flamingos here: http://reidparkzoo.org/cameras/elephant-cam/
• Pick an animal webcam of your choice
5. Make your own ethogram. An ethogram is a graph or chart of animal behavior that is used to compare certain behaviors that can be observed while animals are in captivity. Choose one animal from the webcam links above and observe its behavior at several different times during the day or over the course of several days. Take notes on its behavior using the ethnogram (include this chart in your essay). Choose 4 or 5 different time points (on the hour or half hour, it does not need to be the same day or the exact time point).
Give your chart a title and include it in your essay.
Ethogram Document
6. Did your perception of the species you watched change as a result of seeing it on the webcam? Why or why not?
7. Do you believe technology has a positive influence on people’s feelings toward wildlife and conservation? Why or why not?
SLP Assignment Expectations
Organize this essay assignment using subtitles that summarize the topic from each question above. For example, to answer Question 1, use a descriptive subtitle like the following: The Evolution of Zoos.
Answer each question under the subtitle using complete sentences that relate back to the question. Be sure to use APA formatting throughout your essay with 1-inch margins, 12-point type, and double spacing throughout. Include a title page, introduction, answers to the questions with subtitles, and concluding paragraph. Remember to include in-text citations within the body of the essay referencing your resources (e.g., Murray, 2014). Also, be sure to include a reference section at the end of your assignment listing all required readings and any additional resources you used to complete your essay. A helpful guide to writing a quality essay can be found in Trident’s Student Guide to Writing a High-Quality Academic Paper. This guide also provides links to example essays written in APA format.