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From the Fall 2013 Conservationist for Kids

Great Blue Heron

Biodiversity Types

By Gina Jack

Do you like to watch animals and explore outdoors? We enjoy animals and plants for their own sake, but living things are also useful to us. We use natural resources for food and to make clothing, medicine, building materials and more. Plants produce oxygen, which we breathe. Wetlands buffer floodwaters and filter pollutants from water, making it safer for people and wildlife.


Short for biological diversity, is the term used to describe the variety of life on Earth. It includes both living things and the natural processes that support them. Biodiversity is described at three levels: species, genetic and ecosystem.

Species biodiversity

Refers to the millions of different kinds of plants, animals, fungi, microbes and other things that live on Earth. They interact with and depend upon each other for survival, such as in predator-prey relationships.

Genetic biodiversity

Describes the variations within a species. Just as you and your best friend are different, no two individuals of the same species are exactly alike. Differences in genes among individuals enable a species to adapt to changes in their environment, from generation to generation and from place to place.

Ecosystem biodiversity

Looks at the big picture, and the interactions between organisms and their environment. It recognizes that different kinds of habitats ensure the needs of different animals are met for food, water, shelter and space. Species adapted to one habitat, like forests or wetlands, don't compete or survive well in habitats to which they are not well adapted. Transitional zones between habitats are suitable for some creatures from each habitat and are very diverse.

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service