Biological diversity, or biodiversity, is the variety of biological life on earth. Biodiversity comprises:
genetic diversity – the genetic variety among individuals of a single species
species diversity – the variety of species within a particular geographical area
- ecological diversity – the variety of ecosystems (such as forests, deserts, wetlands, grasslands, streams, lakes and oceans), the communities within these and the interactions between them.
It is neither practical nor possible to measure the distribution and health of every native plant and animal or ecosystem to assess the state of New Zealand’s native biodiversity. Instead, the monitoring of New Zealand’s land and a selected range of native species, habitats and ecosystems can provide an indicative measure of the state of and changes to native biodiversity.
Two national environmental indicators are used to report regularly on New Zealand’s biodiversity:
This covers native land-based and freshwater biodiversity. Marine biodiversity is covered in oceans.
Did you know?
- New Zealand's biodiversity is important in providing clean air and water, helping to decompose wastes and recycle nutrients, maintaining healthy soils, aiding pollination, regulating local climates and reducing flooding.
- While almost half of the native habitats and ecosystems that existed before human settlement remain today, many of them have been modified.
- There are an estimated 80,000 native species in New Zealand.
- All our frogs and reptiles, more than 90 per cent of our insects, about 80 per cent of our vascular plants (plants other than mosses, liverworts and hornworts) and a quarter of our bird species are found only in New Zealand.
- Since human settlement, many of New Zealand’s unique native species have become extinct. Many more of our native species are currently threatened, with our levels of threatened species rated among the highest in the world.
- Introduced pests, coupled with the loss of native habitats and ecosystems, have caused a substantial decline in New Zealand’s native plant and animal species.
Limitations of the environmental indicators for biodiversity.
For more information on other national biodiversity indicators see the:
Last updated: December 2007