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Biodiversity is the relationship between the number of species present in an area and the number of individuals within each of those species. Coral reefs are a haven for many species of plants and animals. In fact, they are the second most diverse ecosystem on Earth. Tropical rain forests are the most diverse. For this reason coral reefs are often referred to as the "rainforests of the sea."

With the destruction of coral reefs, many organisms lose their habitat. That can lead to a decrease in the number of plants and animals in the area. This results in an overall loss in biodiversity.

Image of tropical rainforest.
Photo: Countless species of plants and animals exist in the tropical rainforest on the island of St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy of NOAA/Department of Commerce and Mr. Sean Linehan.
Image of plants and animals in coral reef of Borneo, Malaysia.
Photo: An example of plant and animal biodiversity in a coral reef located off the coast of Borneo, Malaysia. Photo 2003
Image of Golden Lion Tamarin.
Photo: The Golden Lion Tamarin is native to the lowland coastal Atlantic forest in Brazil. Habitat destruction is the major reason for the endangered status of this unique primate. Photo 2003 
Image of green sea turtles.
Photo: Large breeding populations of green sea turtles are located off the Atlantic coast of Florida and the Pacific coast of Mexico. Their endangered status is because of human impacts on nesting activities. Photo 2003

There are many reasons to be concerned with decreasing biodiversity. All species are unique and should be preserved. Their value as life forms can never be recreated once they are extinct. It is important to be able to study the genetic makeup of various species in order to understand the evolution of new species. The usefulness of various plant and animal species for food and medicine is another reason for preserving biodiversity. A final argument for preserving biodiversity is the fact that all organisms are interrelated. It is often not until a species is extinct that people realize its importance to the ecosystem.

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Maintained by ETE Team
Last updated March 08, 2004

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