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  Biodiversity, in ecology, refers to the vast range of species types which exist in the natural environment. This diversity is a product of natural genetic variation under the influence of natural selection; organisms adapt to suit their environment and thus tend to become more specialized during evolution. The biodiversity of a given ecosystem is often seen as an indicator of its stability—climax communities tend to contain the greatest range of species while pioneer communities (which would be found on recently disturbed land such as an abandoned building site) are commonly composed of just a few species. Human-made environments also tend to contain very few species because of the degree of control which is exerted over them. As human activity becomes more intense in previously undeveloped areas, there is a tendency for the level of biodiversity to fall. This is seen as undesirable from a conservation point of view, and there have been recent attempts to preserve the biodiversity of complex habitats such as tropical rainforest. RB

See also adaptive radiation; Gaia hypothesis; pollution.



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Other Terms : Adaptation | Antique, The | Gresham's Law
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