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Term Genetic diversity
Definition

Variation in the genetic code between individuals of a same species. It represents the inheritable variation within and between populations of organisms. Genetic diversity maintains a reserve of responses to the environment which enable the adaptation and survival of the species (for example, responses to the cooling of the earth during past ice ages). It includes the diversity that exists within certain populations of each species, as is the case of the many traditional varieties of corn in rural areas of Mesoamerica, or of the multiple kinds of pine (Pinus occidentalis) in coniferous forests in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. It also covers the genetic variation of a single population, such as an endemic species known in only one place.

Genetic diversity can be very high for a species with a wide distribution in a continental country such as Mexico or Brazil. In contrast, it tends to be very low in an endemic species, isolated on an island of the Lesser Antilles. At present, the most frequently applied measurements correspond to domesticated populations of ornamental plants (orchids), agricultural crops (coffee, bananas, wheat, rice, maize), and populations of farm animals (beef cattle, sheep, horses) or pets (pure bred dogs, cats).  In zoo networks, the genetic variety of species is also measured (ex situ) when the species is in danger of extinction in its original habitat (in situ).  Examples are lions, jaguars, gorillas, and rhinoceroses. Botanical gardens and other ex situ places such as seed banks also increasingly use measurements of genetic diversity to get to know the biological variety in their collections of rare, useful, key, and endangered species.


Topic  BiodiversityForest resourcesProtected areasUse / land coverResources coastal / marine