ECOL 100

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 categoriesgenes, species, and ecosystemsthat 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 regionits species richnessis 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 communitiesassociations of speciesand 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.

Define biodiversity.

Why is biodiversity important? What are some of the benefits of biodiversity?

How is biodiversity measured?

What is extinction? What is causing it today?

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)

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

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.
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.
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.

Direct quotes should be limited and must be designated by quotation marks. Paraphrased ideas must give credit to the original author, for example: (Murray, 2014). Direct copying from homework help websites will not receive credit. Once you have completed your assignment within a Word document, please upload your final version to the Case 1 Dropbox. Please also note your Turnitin originality score and make revisions as needed. Please contact your instructor with any questions.

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