Areas like tropical rainforests have millions of different species and are very biodiverse. Other areas like the polar regions have far fewer species and are less biodiverse.

Biodiversity is specifically the number of different species. Biodiversity is greater in ecosystems that provide a bigger range of different habitats, which are home to larger populations of a variety of organisms. An area with large populations of few species is not biodiverse.

If the numbers of one species are affected, there are almost always knock-on consequences. A simple food chain is:

algae → zooplankton → sand eel → puffin → arctic skua

If the numbers of zooplankton are reduced by pollution, such as plastic waste, then more algae will grow and the population of other consumers will fall.

Ecosystems with higher biodiversity have fewer species that depend on just one other for food, shelter and maintaining their environment. The example above is part of a wider food web. The puffins could also eat molluscs and worms. Ecosystems with higher biodiversity are more stable as they can easily adjust to changes.

We are slowly realising that the future of our species on Earth depends on maintaining high biodiversity. Ecosystems with high levels of biodiversity help to provide the resources needed to sustain life, including human life. Activities that create air and water pollution are reducing biodiversity in many ecosystems.

Conservation of species and habitats by charities, governments and individuals helps to maintain the range of biodiversity.