Produced with Scholar
Icon for Biodiversity and Conservation

Biodiversity and Conservation

Learning Module


Conservation of biological diversity leads to conservation of essential ecological diversity to preserve the continuity of food chains. The genetic diversity of plants and animals is preserved. ... Biodiversity conservation serves as an insurance policy for the future.


Biodiversity, Conservation, Adaptation, Climate change, In situ, Ex-situ conservation, Environment education, Deforestation, Global warming, Migratory species, Threat, Change mitigation.

Learning objectives

Learner level: International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Learning objectives :

Students should acquire the knowledge and understandings of environmental systems at a variety of scales, apply the knowledge, methodologies and skills to analyse environmental systems and issues at a variety of scales appreciate the dynamic interconnectedness between environmental systems and societies and value the combination of personal, local and global perspectives in making informed decisions and taking responsible actions on environmental issues.

Students develop awareness of the diversity of environmental value systems; environmental problems are caused and solved by decisions made by individuals and societies that are based on different areas of knowledge. Engage with the controversies that surround a variety of environmental issues and create innovative solutions to environmental issues by engaging actively in local and global contexts.


An introduction to biodiversity

For the Student

Biodiversity is the variety of living species on Earth – plants, animals and microorganisms – and the ecosystems they form. An ecosystem is the name given to all living species that live together in a stable community, interacting with one another and their physical environment. Biodiversity includes the diversity within species and between different species within terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Ecosystems need a balanced and diverse number of species to thrive.

Significant ideas:

• Biodiversity can be identified in a variety of forms, including species diversity, habitat diversity and genetic diversity.

• The ability to both understand and quantify biodiversity is important to conservation efforts.

Media embedded October 20, 2019

Video source:

Applications and skills:

• Distinguish between biodiversity, diversity of species, habitat diversity and genetic diversity.

• Comment on the relative values of biodiversity data.

• Discuss the usefulness of providing numerical values of species diversity to understanding the nature of biological communities and the conservation of biodiversity.


For the Teacher

Through this section, students will be able to:


• Understand and define the terms biodiversity, genetic diversity, species diversity and habitat diversity

• Understand the process of Speciation and that it occurs as a result of the isolation (geographical or reproductive) of populations. Students will also learn the mechanism of natural selection and the role of natural selection and speciation in determining the current distribution of biodiversity and producing fertile off – springs to propagate the species.


Origins of biodiversity

For the Student

Significant ideas:

• Evolution is a gradual change in the genetic character of populations over many generations, achieved largely through the mechanism of natural selection.

• Environmental change gives new challenges to species, which drives the evolution of diversity.

• There have been major mass extinction events in the geological past.


Knowledge and understanding:

• Biodiversity arises from evolutionary processes.

• Biological variation arises randomly and can either be beneficial to, damaging to, or have no impact on, the survival of the individual.


Natural selection occurs through the following mechanism.

1. Within a population of one species, there is genetic diversity, which is called variation.

2. Due to natural variation, some individuals will be fitter than others.

3. Fitter individuals have an advantage and will reproduce more successfully than individuals who are less fit.

4. The offspring of fitter individuals may inherit the genes that give that advantage.

• This natural selection will contribute to the evolution of biodiversity over time.

• Environmental change gives new challenges to species: those that are suited will survive, and those that are not suited will not survive.

• Speciation is the formation of new species when populations of a species become isolated and evolve differently from other populations.

• Isolation of populations can be caused by environmental changes forming barriers such as mountain formation, changes in rivers, sea level change, climatic change or plate movements. The surface of the Earth is divided into crustal, tectonic plates that have moved throughout geological time. This has led to the creation of both land bridges and physical barriers with evolutionary consequences.

• The distribution of continents has also caused climatic variations and variation in food supply, both contributing to evolution.

• Mass extinctions of the past have been caused by various factors, such as tectonic plate movements, super-volcanic eruption, climatic changes (including drought and ice ages), and meteorite impact—all of which resulted in new directions in evolution and therefore increased biodiversity.

Media embedded October 20, 2019

Video source:



Applications and skills:

Explain how plate activity has influenced evolution and biodiversity.

Discuss the causes of mass extinctions.




For the Teacher

Through this section, students will be able to:


  • Identify consequences of plate tectonics on speciation (that is, the separation of gene pools, formation of physical barriers and land bridges) together with the implications these consequences have for evolution.
  • Recognize the role of plate activity in generating new and diverse habitats, thus promoting biodiversity.
  • Understand the role of complex processes like succession in determining biodiversity by adding complexity to the ecosystem and hence characterizing it with innate abilities of being persistent and resilient through inertia and negative feedbacks.
  • With suitable case studies, understand the role of human activities such as logging, grazing and burning in modifying succession, hence simplifying ecosystems and rendering them unstable

Threats to biodiversity

For the Student

Significant idea:

• While global biodiversity is difficult to quantify, it is decreasing rapidly due to human activity. Classification of species conservation status can provide a useful tool in the conservation of biodiversity.


Knowledge and understanding:

• Estimates of the total number of species on Earth vary considerably. They are based on mathematical models, which are influenced by classification issues and a lack of finance for scientific research, resulting in many habitats and groups being significantly under-recorded.

• The current rates of species loss are far greater now than in the recent past, due to increased human influence. The human activities that cause species extinctions include habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, pollution, overharvesting and hunting.

• The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes data in the “Red List of Threatened Species” in several categories.

• Factors used to determine the conservation status of a species include: population size, degree of specialization, distribution, reproductive potential and behaviour, geographic range and degree of fragmentation, quality of habitat, trophic level, and the probability of extinction.

• Tropical biomes contain some of the most globally bio-diverse areas and their unsustainable exploitation results in massive losses in biodiversity and their ability to perform globally important ecological services.

• Most tropical biomes occur in less economically developed countries (LEDCs) and therefore there is conflict between exploitation, sustainable development and conservation.

Media embedded October 20, 2019

Video source:

Applications and skills:

• Discuss the case histories of three different species: one that has become extinct due to human activity, another that is critically endangered, and a third species whose conservation status has been improved by intervention.

• Describe the threats to biodiversity from human activity in a given natural area of biological significance or conservation area.

• Evaluate the impact of human activity on the biodiversity of tropical biomes.

• Discuss the conflict between exploitation, sustainable development and conservation in tropical biomes.


For the Teacher

Through this section, students will be able to:

  • Identify factors both natural and anthropogenic that have led to the loss of diversity and compare and contrast the possible causes of past mass extinctions through the geological time scale with those of present – day extinctions.
  • Consider the distribution and importance of tropical rainforests in contributing to the world’s biodiversity. Students will also identify the threats surrounding the tropical rainforests and their vulnerability of these areas owing to the increasing external demands of goods obtained from the tropical rainforests, thereby threatening the existence of the several species of flora and fauna.
  • Determine the various risk factors that make species more prone to extinction through their ecology or behavior, population size, limited distribution, degree of specialization, reproductive potential, non – competitive behavior, position in the trophic levels, commercial value of products etc.
  • Examine the role of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in documenting the status of a particular species threatened with extinction and in promoting their conservation.
  • Recognize the importance and purpose of the IUCN Red Data List as an inventory of all catalogued species of flora and fauna and classification of these based on factors such as population size, number of mature individuals, geographic range, degree of fragmentation, quality of habitat, area of occupancy and probability of extinction.
  • Through case studies, illustrate the ecological, socio – political and economic pressures that caused or are causing the extinction of species

Conservation of biodiversity

For the Student

Significant ideas:

• The impact of losing biodiversity drives conservation efforts.

• The variety of arguments given for the conservation of biodiversity will depend on EVSs.

• There are various approaches to the conservation of biodiversity, each with associated strengths and limitations.


Knowledge and understanding:

• Arguments about species and habitat preservation can be based on aesthetic, ecological, economic, ethical and social justifications.

• International, governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are involved in conserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity, with varying levels of effectiveness due to their use of media, speed of response, diplomatic constraints, financial resources and political influence.

• Recent international conventions on biodiversity work to create collaboration between nations for biodiversity conservation.

• Conservation approaches include habitat conservation, species-based conservation and a mixed approach.

• Criteria for consideration when designing protected areas include size, shape, edge effects, corridors, and proximity to potential human influence.


Alternative approaches to the development of protected areas are species-based conservation strategies including:


• Captive breeding and reintroduction programmes, and zoos

• Selection of “charismatic” species to help protect others in an area (flagship species)

• Selection of keystone species to protect the integrity of the food web.

• Community support, adequate funding and proper research influence the success of conservation efforts.


• The location of a conservation area in a country is a significant factor in the success of the conservation effort. Surrounding land use for the conservation area and distance from urban centres are important factors for consideration in conservation area design.

Media embedded October 20, 2019

Video source :



Applications and skills:

• Explain the criteria used to design and manage protected areas.

• Evaluate the success of a given protected area.

• Evaluate different approaches to protecting biodiversity.


For the Teacher

Through this section, students will be able to:

Assess the ecological roles of species and the possible consequences of their disappearance using named examples

  • Through case studies, illustrate the ecological, socio – political and economic pressures that caused or are causing the degradation of the chosen area and the consequent threat to biodiversity.
  • Appreciate arguments based on ethical, aesthetic, genetic resource and commercial (including opportunity cost) considerations for preserving species and habitats.
  • Appreciate life support and ecosystem – support functions of biodiversity and habitat diversity.
  • Recognize the role of Government Organizations (UNEP and IUCN) and Non – governmental organizations (WWF and Greenpeace) in conserving and restoring the ecosystems and biological diversity.
  • Evaluate the strategies designed under global conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD – Rio 1992), their consequent amendments for the protection of species and their habitats.
  • Understand and value the criteria designed to plan a protected area based on size, shape, proximity, corridors and edge effect.
  • Through case studies and local examples evaluate the success of a protected area and understand that granting of protected status to a species or ecosystem is no
  • guarantee of protection without community support, adequate funding and proper research.
  • With specific examples illustrate the relative strengths and weaknesses of species based conservation taking into account the roles of the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species (CITES), captive breeding and reintroduction programmes and zoos andaesthetic versus ecological value of a species.

Theory of Knowledge on Biodiversity

For the Student

Humans make judgments about the natural world and the ways in which it can be protected. They also make judgments about which species needs to be protected depending on their economic or aesthetic value. Do all species have an inherent right to exist even if they do not a direct value to humans?

To what extent then can judgments made by humans be justified in designing policies for protection of biodiversity if the choices of protection of species are based on emotions rather than reasoning?

Media embedded October 20, 2019

Video source:



“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would generate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos –Edward O Wilson”. Given to understand this statement, the role of insects in maintaining the balance of ecosystems is that of a key – stone species. However, the economic importance of insects to humans is negligible except for a few that are known to generate natural income. In the wake of

this, can policymakers develop strategies to conserve species of insects as has been the case in conservation of large organisms?

Zoos are a form of ex – situ breeding programs which focus on species – based conservation. However, ecocentrics believe that all species belong to the wild and conservation strategies should revolve more on in – situ conservation strategies. Knowing that captive breeding programs are successful based upon funding received for the propagation of species, how does captive breeding then justify as a method of conservation? Also, do reintroductions into the wild have a negative repercussion on the well-being a territorial individual?

Conservationists argue that ecological functions of forests are more economically valuable than timber. Timber companies argue that continued production supports stable jobs and local economies. Thus, in such circumstances conservation and increase in job opportunities and economies contradict each other.

How will governments of countries facing such problems balance the viewpoints to attain a balance between conservations and economies enhanced by goods obtained from such natural capital?




For the Teacher

Through this section, students will be able to critically analyse the following aspects of biodiversity

a) Ways of knowing

b) Areas of knowledge

c) The knowledge framework


Inculcating International Mindedness through biodiversity

For the Student

Rate of loss of biodiversity may vary from country to country depending on the ecosystems present, protection policies and monitoring, environmental viewpoints and stage of economic development. The status of all species in the world has been critical owing to the importance given to development over conservation. However, through concerted efforts of ecocentric policymakers and leaders, conservation of habitats and species has been implemented under several strategies designed for the protection and conservation of flora and fauna. All countries both MEDCs and LEDCs, via several conventions and agreements have realized the importance of conserving natural ecosystems and value them as source of tangible and intangible goods and services. The spread and containment of contagious diseases such as bird flu require international coordination and communication.

Media embedded October 20, 2019

Video source:


For the Teacher

Through this section, students will be able to describe how this unit will enable students to engage with an issue of global importance and/or analyse an issue from different cultural perspectives.


Peer reviewed articles

Biodiversity and Conservation
Conservation Biology


Assessment rubrics

Assessment Rubrics

Assessment Objectives:

Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of relevant

  • facts and concepts
  • methodologies and techniques
  • values and attitudes

Apply this knowledge and understanding in the analysis of

  • Explanations, concepts and theories
  • data and models
  • case studies in unfamiliar contexts
  • arguments and value systems

Evaluate, justify and synthesise, as appropriate

  • Explanations, theories and models
  • arguments and proposed solutions
  • methods of fieldwork and investigation
  • cultural viewpoints and value systems

Engage with investigations of environmental and societal issues at the local and global level

  • evaluating the political, economic and social contexts of issues
  • selecting and applying the appropriate research and practical skills necessary
  • to carry out investigations
  • suggesting collaborative and innovative solutions that demonstrate awareness
  • and respect for the cultural differences and value systems of others


  2. Bagstad K, Villa F, Batker D, Harrison‐Cox J, Voigt B, Johnson G. 2014. From theoretical to actual ecosystem services: mapping beneficiaries and spatial flows in ecosystem service assessments. Ecology and Society 19:64.
  3. Austin JM, Hilke J, Kart J. 2013. BioFinder: Project Development Report. Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Natural Resources - Mapping Project.
  4. CBD Technical Series No. 29- Emerging Issues for Biodiversity Conservation in a Changing Climate Abstracts of Poster Presentations at the 12th Meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2–6 July 2007 in Paris, France
  5. Agroforestry and Biodiversity Conservation in Tropical Landscapes Götz Schroth, Gustavo A. B. da Fonseca, Celia A. Harvey, Claude Gascon, Heraldo L. Vasconcelos, Anne-Marie N. Izac Island Press, 22-Mar-2013
  7. IB Biology Course Book: Secondary: Oxford University Press
  8. Press
  9. Video resources :