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Unit 9: Biodiversity Decline

Buttress roots of a canopy tree in the rainforest of northern Queensland, Australia. Courtesy William Laurance

Buttress roots of a canopy tree in the rainforest of northern Queensland, Australia. Courtesy William Laurance

Unit Overview

Living species on Earth may number anywhere from 5 million to 50 million or more. Although we have yet to identify and describe most of these life forms, we know that many are endangered today by development, pollution, over-harvesting, and other threats. Earth has experienced mass extinctions in the past due to natural causes, but the factors reducing biodiversity today increasingly stem from human activities. In this unit we see how scientists measure biodiversity, how it benefits our species, and what trends might cause Earth's next mass extinction.


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