Biodiversity is the variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or for the entire Earth. Biodiversity is often used as a measure of the health of biological systems. The biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological species, which is the product of nearly 3.5 billion years of evolution.
Biodiversity is a portmanteau word, from biology and diversity. The Science Division ofThe Nature Conservancy used the term “natural diversity” in a 1975 study, “The Preservation of Natural Diversity.” The term biological diversity was used even before that by conservation scientists like Robert E. Jenkins and Thomas Lovejoy. The wordbiodiversity itself may have been coined by W.G. Rosen in 1985 while planning theNational Forum on Biological Diversity organized by the National Research Council(NRC) which was to be held in 1986, and first appeared in a publication in 1988 when entomologist E. O. Wilson used it as the title of the proceedings of that forum. The word biodiversity was deemed more effective in terms of communication thanbiological diversity.
Since 1986 the terms and the concept have achieved widespread use among biologists, environmentalists, political leaders, and concerned citizens worldwide. It is generally used to equate to a concern for the natural environment and nature conservation. This use has coincided with the expansion of concern over extinctionobserved in the last decades of the 20th century.
The term “natural heritage” pre-dates “biodiversity”, though it is a less scientific term and more easily comprehended in some ways by the wider audience interested in conservation. “Natural Heritage” was used when Jimmy Carter set up the Georgia Heritage Trust while he was governor of Georgia; Carter’s trust dealt with both natural and cultural heritage. It would appear that Carter picked the term up from Lyndon Johnson, who used it in a 1966 Message to Congress. “Natural Heritage” was picked up by the Science Division of The Nature Conservancy when, under Jenkins, it launched in 1974 the network of State Natural Heritage Programs. When this network was extended outside the USA, the term “Conservation Data Center” was suggested by Guillermo Mann and came to be preferred.