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Patterns of Diversity

Patterns of diversity relate to the ecological and landscape features which have created diversity across different populations as they have had to adapt to specific environmental conditions. Diversity exists across all levels of organization, from the basic gene level all the way to the biome level.

Patterns of diversity can easily be noticed across different environmental gradients. For example, different patterns of diversity are present with changes in elevation and latitude. There is a general trend with elevation and species richness (species richness representing the number of different species). It has been noted that species richness decreases with increasing elevations. This is logical considering the harsher conditions present at high elevations, such as cooler temperatures and lower oxygen availability in the air.  Species at higher elevations have evolved a different morphology, physiology and behavioural attitude from species at lower elevations. However, fewer species have evolved to survive these harsher conditions, making the number of diverse species higher at lower ground elevations.

In terms of latitude, there is a general trend that species richness is highest at the lowest latitudes, 0 degrees, and decreases as you move closer to the poles. Species richness decreasing with higher latitudes is a pattern seen across all continents. Although biologists are unsure what causes this trend, there is speculation that it is related to the higher temperatures and precipitation levels present at lower latitudes. Higher temperatures are thought to be correlated with higher energy levels and this may potentially be causing an increase in species richness.

Evidently, patterns of diversity are present across the globe and across all species from plants to invertebrates and vertebrates. An issue today is how to protect this diversity? There is debate whether protecting patterns of diversity is more important than protecting the processes which create this diversity. However, it seems that these two factors go hand in hand because understanding the processes creating diversity is achieved by observing the patterns which exist in nature. 



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