Quantifying biodiversity

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  • Salters-Nuffi eld Advanced Biology (SNAB) is much more than just another A-level specifi cation. It is a complete course with its own distinctive philosophy. h e course is supported by a comprehensive set of teaching, learning and support materials which embrace a student centred approach. SNAB combines the key concepts underpinning biology today, combined with the opportunity to gain the wider skills that biologists now need.

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  • Genetic diversity is the fundamental source of biodiversity – the total number of genetic characters contributing to variation within species. In other words it is the measure that quantifies the variation found within a population of a given species. Genetic diversity among individuals reflects the presence of different alleles in the gene pool, and hence different genotypes within populations. Genetic diversity should be distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic traits found within populations to vary (Laikre et al., 2009).

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  • Conserving biodiversity is a daunting and complex task. Perhaps no species presents a greater challenge than the giant panda – one of the most recognized and threatened animals on the planet. Its difficult-to-traverse, mountainous habitat in China makes quantifying population numbers in the wild exceedingly difficult. Despite a recent survey suggesting that the wild population may be growing, there is no disagreement that the primary threat is severely fragmented habitat.

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  • Atmospheric pollution and climate change present major threats to biodiversity, both globally and within the UK. National and regional governments have commitments to address these issues. Responding to the threats posed by air pollution and climate change requires an understanding of the nature and extent of their impacts. Monitoring allows changes in biodiversity to be detected and quantified and therefore provides objective evidence on which to develop scientific understanding, policy and management responses.

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