Examples of the multicellular biodiversity of the Earth.

Global biodiversity is the measure of biodiversity on planet Earth and is defined as the total variability of life forms. More than 99 percent of all species[1] that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct.[2][3] Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 2 million to 1 trillion, but most estimates are around 11 million species or fewer.[4] About 1.74 million species were databased as of 2018,[5] and over 80 percent have not yet been described.[6] The total amount of DNA base pairs on Earth, as a possible approximation of global biodiversity, is estimated at 5.0 x 1037, and weighs 50 billion tonnes.[7] In comparison, the total mass of the biosphere has been estimated to be as much as 4 TtC (trillion tons of carbon).[8]

In other related studies, around 1.9 million extant species are believed to have been described currently,[9] but some scientists believe 20% are synonyms, reducing the total valid described species to 1.5 million. In 2013, a study published in Science estimated there to be 5 ± 3 million extant species on Earth although that is disputed.[10] Another study, published in 2011 by PLoS Biology, estimated there to be 8.7 million ± 1.3 million eukaryotic species on Earth.[11] Some 250,000 valid fossil species have been described, but this is believed to be a small proportion of all species that have ever lived.[12]

Global biodiversity is affected by extinction and speciation. The background extinction rate varies among taxa but it is estimated that there is approximately one extinction per million species years. Mammal species, for example, typically persist for 1 million years. Biodiversity has grown and shrunk in earth's past due to (presumably) abiotic factors such as extinction events caused by geologically rapid changes in climate. Climate change 299 million years ago was one such event. A cooling and drying resulted in catastrophic rainforest collapse and subsequently a great loss of diversity, especially of amphibians.[13]

Known species

Insects make up the vast majority of animal species.[14]

Chapman, 2005 and 2009[9] has attempted to compile perhaps the most comprehensive recent statistics on numbers of extant species, drawing on a range of published and unpublished sources, and has come up with a figure of approximately 1.9 million estimated described taxa, as against possibly a total of between 11 and 12 million anticipated species overall (described plus undescribed), though other reported values for the latter vary widely. In many cases, the values given for "Described" species are an estimate only (sometimes a mean of reported figures in the literature) since for many of the larger groups in particular, comprehensive lists of valid species names do not currently exist. For fossil species, exact or even approximate numbers are harder to find; Raup, 1986[15] includes data based on a compilation of 250,000 fossil species so the true number is undoubtedly somewhat higher than this. The number of described species is increasing by around 18,000–19,000 extant, and approaching 2,000 fossil species each year, as of 2012.[16][17][18] The number of published species names is higher than the number of described species, sometimes considerably so, on account of the publication, through time, of multiple names (synonyms) for the same accepted taxon in many cases.

Based on Chapman's (2009) report,[9] the estimated numbers of described extant species as of 2009 can be broken down as follows:

Major/Component group Described Global estimate (described + undescribed)
Chordates 64,788 ~80,500
Mammals 5,487 ~5,500
Birds 9,990 >10,000
Reptiles 8,734 ~10,000
Amphibia 6,515 ~15,000
Fishes 31,153 ~40,000
Agnatha 116 unknown
Cephalochordata 33 unknown
Tunicata 2,760 unknown
Invertebrates ~1,359,365 ~6,755,830
Hemichordata 108 ~110
Echinodermata 7,003 ~14,000
Insecta ~1,000,000 (965,431–1,015,897) ~5,000,000
Archaeognatha 470
Blattodea 3,684–4,000
Coleoptera 360,000–~400,000 1,100,000
Dermaptera 1,816
Diptera 152,956 240,000
Embioptera 200–300 2,000
Ephemeroptera 2,500–<3,000
Hemiptera 80,000–88,000
Hymenoptera 115,000 >~1,000,000[19]
Isoptera 2,600–2,800 4,000
Lepidoptera 174,250 300,000–500,000
Mantodea 2,200
Mecoptera 481
Megaloptera 250–300
Neuroptera ~5,000
Notoptera 55
Odonata 6,500
Orthoptera 24,380
Phasmatodea (Phasmida) 2,500–3,300
Phthiraptera >3,000–~3,200
Plecoptera 2,274
Psocoptera 3,200–~3,500
Siphonaptera 2,525
Strepsiptera 596
Thysanoptera ~6,000
Trichoptera 12,627
Zoraptera 28
Zygentoma (Thysanura) 370
Arachnida 102,248 ~600,000
Pycnogonida 1,340 unknown
Myriapoda 16,072 ~90,000
Crustacea 47,000 150,000
Onychophora 165 ~220
non-Insect Hexapoda 9,048 52,000
Mollusca ~85,000 ~200,000
Annelida 16,763 ~30,000
Nematoda <25,000 ~500,000
Acanthocephala 1,150 ~1,500
Platyhelminthes 20,000 ~80,000
Cnidaria 9,795 unknown
Porifera ~6,000 ~18,000
Other Invertebrates 12,673 ~20,000
Placozoa 1 -
Monoblastozoa 1 -
Mesozoa (Rhombozoa, Orthonectida) 106 -
Ctenophora 166 200
Nemertea (Nemertina) 1,200 5,000–10,000
Rotifera 2,180 -
Gastrotricha 400 -
Kinorhyncha 130 -
Nematomorpha 331 ~2,000
Entoprocta (Kamptozoa) 170 170
Gnathostomulida 97 -
Priapulida 16 -
Loricifera 28 >100
Cycliophora 1 -
Sipuncula 144 -
Echiura 176 -
Tardigrada 1,045 -
Phoronida 10 -
Ectoprocta (Bryozoa) 5,700 ~5,000
Brachiopoda 550 -
Pentastomida 100 -
Chaetognatha 121 -
Plants sens. lat. ~310,129 ~390,800
Bryophyta 16,236 ~22,750
Liverworts ~5,000 ~7,500
Hornworts 236 ~250
Mosses ~11,000 ~15,000
Algae (Plant) 12,272 unknown
Charophyta 2,125 -
Chlorophyta 4,045 -
Glaucophyta 5 -
Rhodophyta 6,097 -
Vascular Plants 281,621 ~368,050
Ferns and allies ~12,000 ~15,000
Gymnosperms ~1,021 ~1,050
Magnoliophyta ~268,600 ~352,000
Fungi 98,998 (incl. Lichens 17,000) 1,500,000 (incl. Lichens ~25,000)
Others ~66,307 ~2,600,500
Chromista [incl. brown algae, diatoms and other groups] 25,044 ~200,500
Protoctista [i.e. residual protist groups] ~28,871 >1,000,000
Prokaryota [ Bacteria and Archaea, excl. Cyanophyta] 7,643 ~1,000,000
Cyanophyta 2,664 unknown
Viruses 2,085 400,000
Total (2009 data) 1,899,587 ~11,327,630

The distribution of numbers of known and undescribed (estimated) species on Earth, grouped by major taxonomic groups; according to Chapman 2009. Absolute number of species on the left (orange = estimated number of yet to be described species, blue = already described). Right: percentage of species already described (green) and estimated to be not yet known (yellow).
The distribution of numbers of known and undescribed (estimated) species on Earth, grouped by major taxonomic groups; according to Chapman 2009. Absolute number of species on the left (orange = estimated number of yet to be described species, blue = already described). Right: percentage of species already described (green) and estimated to be not yet known (yellow).

Estimates of total number of species

However the total number of species for some taxa may be much higher.

In 1982, Terry Erwin published an estimate of global species richness of 30 million, by extrapolating from the numbers of beetles found in a species of tropical tree. In one species of tree, Erwin identified 1200 beetle species, of which he estimated 163 were found only in that type of tree.[26] Given the 50,000 described tropical tree species, Erwin suggested that there are almost 10 million beetle species in the tropics.[27] In 2011 a study published in PLoS Biology estimated there to be 8.7 million ± 1.3 million eukaryotic species on Earth.[11]

By 2017, most estimates projected there to be around 11 million species or fewer on Earth.[4] A 2017 study estimated there are around at least 1 to 6 billion species, 70-90% of which are bacteria.[4] A May 2016 study based on scaling laws estimated that 1 trillion species (overwhelmingly microbes) are on Earth currently with only one-thousandth of one percent described,[28][29] though this has been controversial and a 2019 study of varied environmental samples of 16S ribosomal RNA estimated that there exist 0.8-1.6 million species of prokaryotes.[30]

Indices to describe trends

After the Convention on Biological Diversity was signed in 1992, biological conservation became a priority for the international community. There are several indicators used that describe trends in global biodiversity. However, there is no single indicator for all extant species as not all have been described and measured over time. There are different ways to measure changes in biodiversity. The Living Planet Index (LPI) is a population-based indicator that combines data from individual populations of many vertebrate species to create a single index.[31] The Global LPI for 2012 decreased by 28%. There are also indices that separate temperate and tropical species for marine and terrestrial species.

The Red List Index is based on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and measures changes in conservation status over time and currently includes taxa that have been completely categorized: mammals, birds, amphibians and corals.[32] The Global Wild Bird Index is another indicator that shows trends in population of wild bird groups on a regional scale from data collected in formal surveys.[33] Challenges to these indices due to data availability are taxonomic gaps and the length of time of each index.

The Biodiversity Indicators Partnership was established in 2006 to assist biodiversity indicator development, advancement and to increase the availability of indicators.

Biodiversity loss

Summary of major environmental-change categories that cause biodiversity loss. The data is expressed as a percentage of human-driven change (in red) relative to baseline (blue). Red indicates the percentage of the category that is damaged, lost, or otherwise affected, whereas blue indicates the percentage that is intact, remaining, or otherwise unaffected.[34]

Biodiversity loss happens when plant or animal species disappear completely from Earth (extinction) or when there is a decrease or disappearance of species in a specific area. Biodiversity loss means that there is a reduction in biological diversity in a given area. The decrease can be temporary or permanent. It is temporary if the damage that led to the loss is reversible in time, for example through ecological restoration. If this is not possible, then the decrease is permanent. The cause of most of the biodiversity loss is, generally speaking, human activities that push the planetary boundaries too far.[34][35][36] These activities include habitat destruction[37] and land use intensification (for example monoculture farming).[38][39] Further problem areas are air and water pollution (including nutrient pollution), over-exploitation, invasive species[40] and climate change.[37]

Many scientists, along with the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, say that the main reason for biodiversity loss is a growing human population because this leads to human overpopulation and excessive consumption.[41][42][43][44][45] Others disagree, saying that loss of habitat is caused mainly by "the growth of commodities for export" and that population has very little to do with overall consumption. More important are wealth disparities between or within countries.[46]

Climate change is another threat to global biodiversity.[47][48] For example, coral reefs—which are biodiversity hotspots—will be lost by the year 2100 if global warming continues at the current rate.[49][50] Still, it is the general habitat destruction (often for expansion of agriculture), not climate change, that is currently the bigger driver of biodiversity loss.[51][52] Invasive species and other disturbances have become more common in forests in the last several decades. These tend to be directly or indirectly connected to climate change and can cause a deterioration of forest ecosystems.[53][54]

Deforestation also plays a large role in biodiversity loss. More than half of the worlds biodiversity is hosted in tropical rainforest.[55] Regions that are subjected to exponential loss of biodiversity are referred to as "hotspots", since 1988 the hotspots increased from 10 to 34, of the total 34 hotspots currently present, 16 of them are in tropical regions.[56] Researchers have noted that only 2.3% of the world is covered with biodiversity loss hotspots, even though only a small percentage of the world is covered in hotspots, it host a large fraction (50%) of vascular plant species.[57]

Groups that care about the environment have been working for many years to stop the decrease in biodiversity. Nowadays, many global policies include activities to stop biodiversity loss. For example, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity aims to prevent biodiversity loss and to conserve wilderness areas. However, a 2020 United Nations Environment Programme report found that most of these efforts had failed to meet their goals.[58] For example, of the 20 biodiversity goals laid out by the Aichi Biodiversity Targets in 2010, only six were "partially achieved" by 2020.[59][60]

This ongoing global extinction is also called the holocene extinction or sixth mass extinction.

See also


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