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Biodiversity, or biological diversity, refers to the variability among living organisms – within species (genetic diversity), between species (species diversity), and in ecosystems (ecosystem diversity).

  • Species diversity refers to the variety of different species (plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms) such as palm trees, elephants or bacteria.
  • Genetic diversity corresponds to the variety of genes contained in plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms. It occurs within a species as well as between species. For example, poodles, German shepherds and golden retrievers are all dogs, but they all look different.
  • Ecosystem diversity refers to all the different habitats or places that exist, like tropical or temperate forests, hot and cold deserts, wetlands, rivers, mountains, coral reefs, etc. Each ecosystem corresponds to a series of complex relationships between biotic (living) components such as plants and animals and abiotic (non-living) components which include sunlight, air, water, minerals and nutrients.

The Value of Biodiversity

Biodiversity is important not only for its intrinsic value but also for what it provides us with, for example, clean air and water, compounds for new medicines, and seeds for new crops. Loss of species or change in species composition can threaten ecosystem health and affect our economic and socio-cultural sustainability. (Environment Canada, 2010)

The global decline of biodiversity is now recognized as one of the most serious environmental issues facing humanity. The United Nations proclaimed May 22nd of each year as International Day for Biological Diversity to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Get Involved

The International Day for Biological Diversity highlights events and other awareness activities on a given day, but there are many opportunities for you to support biodiversity throughout the year. Here are just a few ways you can help protect biodiversity:

  1. Experience the outdoors and enjoy the biodiversity around you.
  2. Help monitor local wildlife.
  3. Create wildlife habitat.
  4. Join a local stewardship group and help protect and restore biodiversity in your community.
  5. Get a conservation easement on your land.
  6. Grow to protect genetic diversity.
  7. Protect a riparian area.
  8. Restore a wetland.
  9. Reduce pesticide use.
  10. Eat organic foods.
  11. Switch to electronic (paperless) billing.
  12. Take the one tonne challenge – reduce the fumes that cause acid rain and global warming.

Biodiversity and Your Community

Tasked with land-use planning, developing supportive policy and bylaws, and constructing and managing local infrastructure in their communities, municipalities are beginning to implement sustainable development at the local level.

More than ever, local governments are taking the initiative to interact directly with their residents and stakeholders, show leadership within their municipalities and offer vital support and encouragement to local land and property owners to conserve the native flora and fauna within their communities.

Local governments are beginning to incorporate biodiversity planning into their land use plans. For example, the City of Edmonton, Alberta is one of 19 cities around the world participating in an international study of local governments’ management and conservation of biodiversity at a local level. Learn more about this Local Action for Biodiversity Project.

The Green Communities Guide is another example of a tool communities can use to develop stewardship strategies to protect wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

Learn More

The following sources offer information about biodiversity and/or the state of species and ecosystems across Canada.

  • The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute monitors the changing state of Alberta’s species, habitats, and ecosystems.
  • Learn about the state of Alberta’s ecological communities on-line at the Alberta Conservation Information Management System. Formerly the Alberta Natural Heritage Information Centre (ANHIC).
  • Mounting concern over the decline of biodiversity globally, led to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) being signed by many nations at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, or Earth Summit, in 1992.
  • The Canadian Biodiversity Information Network (CBIN) was developed in 1996 to deliver information on the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy and to serve as Canada’s national node to the global Clearing House Mechanism (CHM).
  • The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy was published in 1995 to provide a framework for action to enhance the nation’s ability to ensure the productivity, diversity and integrity of our natural systems and, as a result, Canada’s ability to develop sustainably.

Photo credit Dave Fairless.





The state of biodiversity can assessed in terms of the health of both ecosystems and species. Read more about the state of biodiversity.