Pub. date: 2011 | Online Pub. Date: May 04, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412973816 | Print ISBN: 9781412996822 | Online ISBN: 9781412973816| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Biodiversity , short for biological diversity, is the variety and variability of life on Earth. It is the outcome of ongoing evolutionary processes that began about 4 billion years ago. The term gained currency in the 1980s as people became more aware of human-driven mass extinction and the many costs to society that are associated with rapidly diminishing biodiversity. The concept encompasses not only genetic and species diversity but also the multiple dimensions, dynamics, and processes of organisms and their ecological systems or ecosystems. Thus, biodiversity science investigates the past and present forms, patterns, functional traits, and interactions of ecological components, including genetic sequences, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, and landscapes. The global biodiversity crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Solutions to this complex problem require human adaptive responses coordinated with strategies to address the other major sustainability challenges of our time, including global climate change, human population ...