Get Involved: Young Biodiversity Photographer of the Year
Get involved in the annual photography competition and become the Young Biodiversity Photographer of the Year. This competition will be open for entries from students next May 2018. For more information on the competition click here.
Download posters to display in your school! Click each poster to download high res copy. Print and display!
Help: Clicking each poster will bring you to a file link where you can view the file. You can also download it.
What can students learn?
Biodiversity is present in every aspect of life. Learning about how species interact with and rely on each other teaches much about the workings of the earth. Biodiversity ties directly into science, geography and CSPE, and indirectly into many other subjects. Students can develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of the intricate workings of the ecosystems that we are a part of. This insight can also help students develop artistic skills, as well as promote personal growth.
An understanding of biodiversity is important for future engineers, farmers, architects, conservationists, and artists among others. A knowledge of biodiversity can help people make choices which have positive impacts for their health and for a sustainable future.
Biodiversity can be the foundation for successful Transition Year, Erasmus or CSPE projects. It can be explored deeply or simply touched upon in any classroom. The applications for this subject are virtually limitless.
How to use these resources.
Each of the resources on this page are chosen for what they add to the understanding of biodiversity. They are sourced from various third party sites and included in this collection for educational use. They can be used to give a quick overview of biodiversity or as tools to delve deeper into the biodiversity of Ireland and of your area. Read through them yourself and please get in touch if you know of anything to add or have any feedback. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biodiversity is short for ‘biological diversity’. It refers to the range and difference of every living thing on the planet and their relationships to each other, from microscopic organisms to the giant blue whale.
Put simply, biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth. It is essential for sustaining the natural living systems or ecosystems that provide us with food, clean water, fuel, health, wealth, and other services we may take for granted in our everyday life.
The scope of biodiversity can be quite overwhelming, but the premise is quite simple; every living thing depends on another whether its a direct or indirect connection. When the status of one is changed, it has knock on effects for others. We are all connected.
Everything on Earth is connected. A healthy biological diversity involves many species and their relationships between each other and the landscape. The Earth could be compared to an engine in this way. An engine has many parts, each performing a different task. Each part works with its neighbour to make the engine function properly. If one is damaged or gone, the engine will no longer work.
Biodiversity is the basis of human existence, our life support system. Ecosystems regulate climatic processes, breakdown wastes and recycle nutrients, filter and purify water, buffer against flooding, maintain soil fertility, purify air, and provide natural resources such as wood, textiles, and of course food. All agriculture depends fundamentally on Biodiversity, as do marine and freshwater food resources.
Watch these two short videos to see examples of how one creature can have far reaching effects within their environment. These are examples of how healthy ecosystems operate when there is a high diversity of species.
How Wolves Change Rivers
How Whales Change Climate
You will hear a lot of mention of ecosystems, but what exactly is an ecosystem, and what connection does it have to biodiversity?
Everything is connected and relies on each other for survival. The simplest example of this is a community (biological community), and the most basic example of a community is that of a lichen.
A lichen can look like moss or other plant-like growth, usually seen on rotting logs or ancient walls. It is actually not one plant, but two. A lichen is a combination of a fungi and an algae. They each contribute something different to the relationship, and so are able to survive together where one on it’s own could not. This arrangement benefits both species.
This community has two parts. Each member contributes something to the whole, and one could not survive without the other. The principle remains the same when the community is more complex, such as in a grassland or a woodland community.
A woodland community is made up of all the animals and plants that live together in the woods; foxes, rabbits, badgers, birds, frogs, butterflies, woodlice, bluebells, oak trees etc. They all perform a purpose that is specific to them, and of equal importance within the community. What other communities can you think of? What communities are in your locality?
The following food webs are all examples of communities around the world.
Activity: Draw a food web that shows the relationships between animals and plants in a community in your locality.
An ecosystem is made up of all of the communities that live in it; from every single organism, small to large, to lots of environmental factors, like sunlight and shade in the woodland, streams and other things. An ecosystem contains communities of interacting organisms, as well as their physical environment and non-living factors such as weather.
This image includes sunlight and heat in order to show the ecosystem.
Activity: As a class, discuss what kind of ecosystem you live in. What is the temperature and weather like at different times of year? Think of a community in your locality. How are the living creatures in that community effected by the temperature and weather of your area?
Further discussion: Have you seen or can you foresee any changes in the weather? What effect do you think this will have on the creatures in your community?
You will have different local biodiversity depending on where you live. Are you in the mountains with forest or low scrub? Are you surrounded by farmland with rivers and hedgerows? Do you live in the city with parks, community gardens and wildlife that has adapted to built surroundings? If you are at the coast you could consider the diversity of the underwater landscape and how it affects life on shore too. Bogs and wetlands provide unique habitats that house unique plants and animals. No matter where you live there are always examples of biodiversity around you.
Interactive Biodiversity Maps
The Biodiversity Data Centre here in Ireland has created Biodiverstiy Maps that you can use to explore what species are found to be present in any given area of Ireland. This programme must be run on internet explorer. To open this programme follow these instructions:
Using Internet Explorer
- Click Biodiversity maps (bottom left box)
- Install Microsoft Silverlight
- Refresh website
- Click “go to live maps” (blue button)
- This will open an interactive map
- Accept data use agreement
You can scroll in and out to zoom in to specific areas and drag the map around to find exactly where you would like to search. It might be easier to find specific areas if you select “OSi Ortho” under Base Maps in the left hand column. Once you have found where you want information for go to the “Advanced Reporting” tab at the top of the page and select “report by polygon” and use the mouse to click points around a certain area. When you are done selecting your area double click. Open the report that has been generated at the bottom of the screen and Excel will open. The first tab will show the map area you selected and the second tab will show you what species are found in your area. If you are looking for specific things you can filter by species so Excel will show you only what you need.
Biodiversity is currently being lost at an unprecedented rate globally, and Ireland is no exception. The decline in biodiversity has been more rapid in the past 50 years than ever before in human history and human activity is leading to increased extinction rates. Biodiversity loss in Ireland is caused mainly by:
- Habitat destruction (for example through construction and wetland drainage or infilling)
- Invasive alien species (such as Japanese Knott Weed and Zebra Mussel)
- Pollution (for example from use of excess fertilizer leading to excessive levels of nutrients in soil and water)
- Land use change (such as conversion of land to plantation forestry or agriculture)
- Unsustainable and excessive consumption
- Climate Change
How can you help?
You can help by protecting and increasing biodiversity in your local area. Every small action helps towards the larger goal. Here’s a list of 7 things you can do to help protect and increase biodiversity.
- Make Wildlife Welcome
- Support the birds, reptiles, mammals, and plants that live in your neighborhood. You can also attract more wild species by providing water, food, shelter, and privacy. You can plant native flowers and trees, hang bird boxes, bat boxes or insect hotels.
- Protect Habitats
- Explore habitats in your area. Help clean up and protect beaches, parks, reserves, and fields where wild plants and animals live. Put your rubbish in a bin, not on the ground.
- Volunteer Your Time
- Give your time to groups in your area who are working towards cleaning and greening your community.
- Harness Your House Pet
- If you have pet who likes to chase birds or rabbits think about how you could stop them. You could bring them for extra long walks to tire them out, or provide them with more toys to distract them. If you have a cat who brings you dead birds, think about keeping them indoors during the day when you’re not around. This could save the lives of many birds, especially during nesting season.
- Be a Smart Shopper
- Shop locally sourced food and Irish made products. This reduces the amount of fossil fuels needed to transport your goods. Buying products with less or no plastic also helps reduce the need to create and dispose of this waste. This reduces the amount of non-degradable waste in landfills and in the ocean.
- Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
- Follow the four R’s in this order to create a positive impact on the planet.
- Leave Wild Things in the Wild
- Watch wild things and learn from them, but don’t bring them home. Plants and animals often die outside of their habitat. Even if they don’t, they have been taken out of the web which they are a part of and can no longer do their job. It is more sustainable and healthier for the animals if you create an area in your own garden for wildlife by planting native plants and providing food and shelter for animals.
Web of Life
Web of Life shows how an ecosystem is a delicate balance containing a number of different species.
You will need:
Images of species from a chosen ecosystem. A ball of wool.
How to play:
Print out images of species known to coexist in a given ecosystem, e.g. river ecosystem. Have the students select an animal or other element (river, soil) and stand in a circle holding their animal facing out for all to see.
One student begins by suggesting what aspect of the ecosystem their own picture might be related to and how (otter eats salmon, bat eats insect, flower needs soil, etc). Introduce a ball of wool which is then passed from the first student to a second student whose picture is mentioned by the first student. Eg. Student with picture of otter passes the wool to the student with a picture of a salmon.
The second student then picks another element of the ecosystem and says how their own is connected to that, and the line of wool, still held by the first and second students, is then passed to the third student. This continues until all students have found at least one connection in the “Web of Life”.
You can then demonstrate how all species of the ecosystem are connected by asking for a volunteer to say how their species might be at risk (e.g. over-fishing, pollution, too many deer eating young forest shoots) and have them sit on the floor. The students who then feel a tug on the wool as a result of this can incur that they would be effected if that species were to dramatically increase or decrease in numbers. You can then have them stand back up and ask another student to be the species/part of the ecosystem that is polluted/reducing in numbers/increasing in numbers. Make sure everyone keeps hold of the wool until you have done this a number of times as it takes a lot of work to get back into this position!
Your biodiversity project can be tied into the PE cirriculum. Orienteering can be modified to include biodiversity elements.
Game one: Each location that the students find has a different species recorded there. The students write down what species is at which location. The team with the most species recorded correctly wins.
Game two: Upping the stakes. Create a more engaging game by including a collection and competition element. In this version, students have to collect different species from each location before the other teams get there first. The team with the largest variety at the end of the game wins.
You will need:
Usual orienteering materials. Coloured paper animals, with as many colours as there are locations, and as many animals as there are locations. For example, six teams and ten locations you will need ten sets of six animals, with each set a different colour.
Collect as many different animals as possible. Each animal must be a different colour. Collect the largest variety to win, and don’t forget to record where you found each animal.
How to play:
Students separate into teams. They use their orienteering skills to find certain locations within the school grounds. At each location there will be a group of animals. No two animals are alike at any one location, and the number of animals at each location is equal to the number of teams. Each location only has one colour of animal. Students must collect a different animal at each location and are only allowed have one of each colour.
Tip: Use pictures of animals, insects and plants that you are learning about in the classroom.
Example play through:
There are six teams playing. Each team has ten locations to find. At each location there are six animals, all different. Team 1 arrives at the first location and sees a bee, a dandelion, a fox, a lizard, a trout and a heron. All of these animals are blue. They can only have one blue animal so they choose the blue fox and bring it with them. They mark down where they found the blue animals and move one.
When Team 1 reach their next location they see red animals; a bee, a dandelion, a hare, a lizard, a magpie and a cow. They need a variety of animals to win so they must not take the fox. They take the red lizard. They mark down where they found the red animals and move on.
Team 1 then reach their third location. It has yellow animals. However they find that other teams have already been here, and all that is left are a yellow lizard and a yellow fox. They already have both these animals so they must leave the yellow ones there and move on to the next location.
In the event of a tie, the team with the most amount of locations recorded correctly wins.
In the classroom:
Have a discussion in the classroom after this game as an additional aspect. Each team studies the collection of animals and plants that they gathered while orienteering. As a group, they decide how healthy the biodiversity of their collection is. Do all animals have something to eat? Do plants have pollinators? What is missing from their collection and what effects will it have? Discuss with the class.