Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Harper from Louisville, KY. Harper Wonders, “Why is biodiversity important?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Harper!

When you think of areas in the world teeming with a wide variety of wildlife, what comes to mind? The continent of Africa? The rainforests surrounding the Amazon River? How about your own backyard?

You may be thinking that your backyard can't compete with Africa or an Amazon rainforest when it comes to wildlife. You may be right. But you might also be underestimating your backyard!

If you took the time to sit in your backyard for an extended period of time, you might be surprised by the number of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects that call your backyard home. And that's just what you can see on and above the surface.

Get down on your hands and knees and examine what crawls on — and underneath! — the soil, and you'll discover an entirely new world of creatures that usually go unseen. Scientists have a term they use to describe the variety of life found in a specific area: biodiversity. The term comes from combining the words "biological" and "diversity" into one word.

At its most basic level, biodiversity refers to the variety of plant and animal species that can be found in a particular habitat. The species biodiversity of your backyard might include a blackbird, a squirrel, a mosquito, a snake, and a frog. It would also include all the species of plants present, including grass, trees, and flowers.

As you learned earlier, though, what you can see is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to biodiversity. You have to include all the species you can't see, too. These might include underground worms, as well as thousands of microscopic bacteria that play an important role in the ecosystem of your backyard.

If you're a scientist studying biodiversity, you have to go beyond simple species biodiversity. You also have to take genetic biodiversity into account. This includes all the variations in genes that exist within each species. For example, all dogs belong to the same species, but you can find a tremendous amount of diversity when you consider all the different breeds of dogs you might come across.

Scientists also must take ecological biodiversity into account. There are many ways in which seemingly similar ecosystems can differ based upon wildlife and climate. For example, a forest ecosystem in Florida can be vastly different from a forest ecosystem in Colorado.

Studies of biodiversity have shown that tropical rainforests tend to be the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. That's one of the reasons why scientists want to protect rainforests from human interference. Biodiversity is incredibly important, and decreased biodiversity can have negative effects that impact the entire planet.

Why is biodiversity so important? A wide variety of species of plants, animals, and even bacteria allow us to live longer, better, healthier lives. Robust ecosystems give us clean water and provide the oxygen we breathe.

Vibrant communities of plants, soils, and pollinators give us the foods we eat and many of the medicines that help us heal. Areas with great biodiversity recover more quickly from natural disasters and help prevent diseases.

Unfortunately, there are many threats to biodiversity. Anything that leads to reduction or extinction of species negatively affects biodiversity. Some of these factors include habitat loss, overuse of natural resources, invasive species, pollution, and climate change. As we seek to make the world a better place, it's important that we keep in mind the importance of biodiversity and protecting endangered species.

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is what you get when you mix red, yellow, and green!