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What is genetic biodiversity?

Genetic diversity in Idotea balthicaPhoto: Pierre deWit

Genetic diversity is the biological variation that occurs within species. It makes it possible for species to adapt when the environment changes. Thus, large genetic diversity (a big gene pool) positively affects ecosystem resilience and function.

Important for the Baltic Sea
When we drain species of their genetic diversity we destroy their adaptive potential, and their long-term survival will be jeopardised. Genetic diversity is particularly important under rapid environmental change, such as in the Baltic Sea.

Biological diversity at several levels by Jerker Lokrantz/Azote
Biological variation at the DNA-level forms the basis for all biodiversity. Colors represent alleles – variants of separate genes – genetic diversity. 
Illustration: Jerker Lokrantz/Azote

Keep populations large and connected

The most efficient way to counteract loss of genetic diversity is to maintain large and well connected populations. Small and isolated populations will rapidly lose genetic variation resulting in lower adaptive capacity, loss of resilience and weak potential for long-term survival.

Large vs small populations by Jesper Lokrantz/AzoteLarge populations can harbour much genetic diversity (illustrated with many colours). Small populations can not do that and will rapidly loose variation. Illustration: Jerker Lokrantz/Azote

Genes & biodiversity

The short film below describes how the gene pool contributes to biodiversity.

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