- Biodiversity refers to the number of different species in a given area. The Gulf of Mexico has a high level of biodiversity. Its warm waters and diverse habitats are home to thousands of marine species.
- In 2009, scientists listed 15,419 species living in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Biodiversity is often used as a measure of ecosystem health. The more species present in an ecosystem, the healthier it is.
- Biodiversity is typically higher in warm regions of the world.
- The organisms that call the Gulf of Mexico home range from microscopic to gigantic.
- Karenia brevis, the organism responsible for Florida Red Tide, is so small you need a microscope to see it.
- Whale sharks, on the other hand, roam the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and can grow up to 40 feet long and weigh 80,000 lbs.
- Each unique organism plays an important role in its ecosystem.
- Mangroves, coastal trees that are adapted to life in saltwater, drop leaves into shallow bays and estuaries. The leaves provide food for decomposers – organisms that consume dead matter in a process called decay. This provides energy and forms the basis for an entire ecosystem.
- Bull sharks are an apex predator – meaning they are at the top of the food web. By consuming large quantities of fish, they regulate the population size of many smaller species.
- When green sea turtles graze on seagrasses, they promote new growth and prevent the seagrasses from developing diseases and parasites.
- When biodiversity is lost, ecosystems are thrown off balance and sometimes suffer serious consequences. When a coral reef is destroyed, all of the creatures that inhabit it are also harmed.
- When a species is eradicated, it is called extinction. Extinction often occurs due to loss of habitat. Extinction decreases biodiversity.
- When a species is in danger of extinction, it is called an endangered species.
- Threats to biodiversity include habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change.
- Invasive species are species that are introduced to an ecosystem in which they are not naturally found. They often take over the roles of naturally-occurring species and damage the balance of the ecosystem.
- It is important to protect and preserve biodiversity for a number of reasons.
- Biodiversity provides the natural resources that we depend on for our daily lives – thanks to biodiversity we have a wide range of food, products, and medicines.
- The rich biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico attracts many tourists to the area, which supports local economies.
- A loss of species can have cascading effects on the entire ecosystem, and these effects can even spill into other ecosystems.
- There is also an inherent value in protecting species for the sake of keeping them on Earth.
- What is biodiversity?
- Describe the biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico.
- What are some of the risks to biodiversity?
- Why is it important to preserve biodiversity?
Apex Predator: A species at the top of the food web.
Biodiversity: The total number of species in an area.
Decomposer: An organism that consumes dead or decaying matter.
Endangered: At high risk of becoming extinct.
Extinct: No longer in existence.
Florida Red Tide: A harmful algal bloom that is the result of an accumulation of the microalgae Karenia Brevis.
Invasive Species: A species that does not occur naturally in a specific area but has been introduced.
Karenia Brevis: The microalgae responsible for the occurrence of Florida Red Tide; a solitary dinoflagellate that releases brevetoxins.
Mangrove: A coastal tree that is adapted to saltwater; provides important nursery habitat for many juvenile fish species.
Natural Resource: A naturally occurring material that is valuable to people and/ or wildlife.