The word “biodiversity” is a contraction of “biological diversity” and refers to all the variety of life that can be found on Earth. Biodiversity can also refer to variability at a range of biological levels: genetic, species and ecosystem.

Genetic diversity

The variation in genetic information within an individual, across individuals within a population, and across populations within a species.

Species diversity

The variation in the number and abundance of species within a given area or community of species, and across areas or communities. Ireland has 31,448 species of which potentially another 8,500 have yet to be discovered.

Ecosystem diversity

The variation in the number of ecosystem types (e.g. calcareous grasslands, fixed dunes or raised bogs) with a given area and across areas. Ireland has 117 terrestrial and freshwater habitats, and 23 predominant seabed habitats.

Article 2 of The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) provides a formal and widely accepted definition of biodiversity: “Biological diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.”