Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is a generic term for the variety of life on Earth. Such variety is described in Genesis as the "swarms" of creatures Earth brings forth (Gen. 1:20-25). One basic measure of biodiversity is species, though other indicators run a spectrum from genetic alleles (variants) through ecosystems and landscapes. Estimates of the total number of existing species vary from three to ten million (and as much as thirty million), with about 1.5 million described. The unknowns are mostly small invertebrates and microorganisms. Contemporary species inherit their diversity from forms that have gone extinct; diversity overall has increased over evolutionary history. Estimates of the number of species that humans place in jeopardy run from fifteen percent to twenty-five percent of the total. Scientists and religious persons may differ about evolutionary origins but seldom differ about the urgency of conserving biodiversity.
See also Ecology; Evolution
levin, simon asher, ed. encyclopedia of biodiversity. san diego, calif.: academic press, 2001.
holmes rolston, iii