The study of biodiversity is relatively new. The word was coined by Edward O. Wilson in order to explain the biological living resources and wealth lost when whole areas of tropical rain forest were destroyed by clear-cutting and burning. Many, if not all, of these tropical rain forests were in remote areas, often in developing countries, untouched by modern civilization, and relatively unstudied by scientists. As a result, many of the plants and animals, especially insects, were unknown to scientists. Many of the species lived nowhere else on earth and, once destroyed, became extinct. Scientists realized that these tropical rain forests held a great wealth of species and that their destruction was removing large numbers, perhaps millions, of species, along with the DNA that made each species unique. Wilson referred to this loss of species as a loss of the forests’ biological diversity, or biodiversity. The loss is not merely of the species that become extinct but also of the combination of highly specific genetic material in each species.
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