Biodiversity: Comparing Diversity in Human-Managed Habitats
Purpose: Each student will assess the biodiversity of a specific outdoor location. This
lab will provide the abilities to analyze record and mathematically determine the
biodiversity in the environment. Each student will also be able to compare human
impact on biodiversity in areas that have different degrees of human activity.
Background: The tem biodiversity has meaning at a variety of levels-at the genetic level,
species level, at larger taxonomic group levels, and at the community or ecosystem level.
Biodiversity has been defined by the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment as “the variety
and variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they
Estimates of the number of species worldwide vary tremendously. Already identified
and named species include 1.6-1.8 million plants and animals. But many are not identified
or named-some estimates are as high as 28 million species!
Biodiversity is declining worldwide. Because of human activities, rates of species
extinctions are higher than at any time in previous history on Earth. Humans have
affected the biodiversity of natural systems to varying degrees. Some of the most
impacted are those around our houses and buildings. The purpose of this activity is to
compare human impact on biodiversity in areas that have different degrees of human
Materials: 10 meter long string, note cards, tape, pencil/pen
1. Draw of map of campus and note your assigned location on the map (can use
2. Proceed to your assigned location and establish a 10 meter transect.
3. Count the number of species (identify by leaf shape, no need to learn specific
names) along the transect. Take one sample of each organism and tape it to
the card. Create a morphospecies name (relevant to its appearance) and write
this on the card. (Note: grass grows from one basic root system in clumps.
You will need a total count of ‘clumps’ throughout your transect. Do not
count every clump! Obtain the total number of grass species by making a
specific count over a smaller ‘area’, then multiplying this number by the total
area throughout your transect.)
4. Record the total number for each species you found (richness) and note this
on the appropriate card. Species that ‘crawl’ or ‘fly’ away from your transect
must still by recorded.
5. Clean up all materials and return to class.
6. Determine the species diversity index (Shannon-Weiner Index) of your data
by creating a data table.
7. Construct a bar graph depicting your species statistics.
8. On your map, label all other groups’ species diversity indices
9. With your group write up a lab report (see me for the format), with a Title,
Purpose, Procedure, Hypotheses and Conclusion (part of the conclusion will
be the questions response below.)
Biodiversity Conclusion Questions
Answer the following questions in complete sentences in a neat, spell-checked and proof-
1. Was your species diversity index within the range of a ‘real’ community?
2. Explain how your answer to #1 relates to biodiversity? (i.e. is your area diverse?
Too many species? Too little?)
3. What type of human impact has influenced the area you examined?
4. What type of species dominated your area and why do you suppose this is the
5. What about the other locations, why would there indexes be higher/lower?
6. Give a brief definition, in your own words, of “biodiversity.”
7. List the five different kinds of diversity.
8. What is GIS?
9. Of the species on Earth that have been identified, what percentage are insects,
invertebrates, plants, single-celled organisms, and vertebrates?
10. What parts of the Earth have the greatest biodiversity?
11. What is the relationship between diversity and latitude?
12. How have humans affected biodiversity on the planet? Be specific. Address the
effects of human population growth.
13. Define: habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, pollution, introduced species,
and overharvesting. How does each of these lead to loss of biodiversity?
14. Why should we protect biodiversity?
15. List the seven major organizations that protect biodiversity. Where are they
16. List six different international approaches to protecting biodiversity and provide
an example for each.
17. What is CITES? When was it instituted? What is its purpose?
18. What is a “debt-for-nature swap”?
19. What are five different national conservation programs? Give one example of
20. In your own words, answer the following question:
If you could only communicate one message about biodiversity, what would that be?