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Biology 295S

Biodiversity is the term given to the variety of life on Earth. It includes all living organisms, genetic differences within each species (for example, between varieties of crops and breeds of livestock), and the tremendous variety of ecosystems occurring in deserts, forests, wetlands, mountains, lakes, rivers, and agricultural landscapes. Scientists who study biodiversity have documented that many wild species are becoming extinct -- including many that are still unknown or not well understood -- and that this bodes ill for the future of the planet. Why is the loss of biodiversity cause for concern? What determines global patterns of biodiversity? How is biodiversity important for the structure and functioning of ecosystems? How do we measure biodiversity? In this course, we will develop the scientific basis to address questions such as this. We will review theories of biodiversity and, once a conceptual basis has been established, we will explore a suite of contemporary issues related to the influence of humans on biodiversity, including conservation and sustainable land use.