Biodiversity (biological diversity) research is an emerging field of study aimed at assessing the variance of Earth’s biomass. Measurements of biodiversity take place at three distinct levels: genes, species and ecosystems. Biodiversity encompasses the continually evolving and interconnected complexities between organisms and their environment.
As organisms evolve over time, their genetics change to fit their survival needs and lifestyles. Genes are the molecular units that determine the proteins and growth functions of an organism’s cells. If an organism survives long enough and reproduces, then some of its genetic material can be passed on to its offspring.
Organisms that have the most genetic material in common and that can interbreed are considered to be of the same species. A species is a ranking class that ecologists use to group like organisms.
Ecologists are most often interested in species richness (the number of different species in an area), and species abundance (the number of individuals per species in an area), when measuring a region’s biodiversity. Researchers also use population distributions between different species to assess diversity in an area.
Species tend to occupy regions that fit the conditions necessary for their survival. In other words, the environment that a species can inhabit is determined by the conditions of the environment, both biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living). Abiotic conditions include weather and the availability of water, while abiotic factors could be the presence of predators or competition from other organisms for resources.
The interconnected web species of interactions between species and the environment make up a region’s ecological matrix. Ecosystems are the nutrient and energetic processes carried out by weather conditions, chemical processes, microorganisms, species interactions, and changes to the environment.