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  5. Lesson: Measuring Biodiversity

Lesson: Measuring Biodiversity

Michael Branstetter © Michael Branstetter


A silk moth (Rothschildia orizaba).

Recommended for

  • grades 7 to 10
  • secondary cycles 1 and 2.

Students will become familiar with the concept of biodiversity and different ways to measure it, and they will be able to relate these measurements to conservation issues.


  • Students will discuss what biodiversity means to them and then explore questions related to conservation.
  • They will see that there are different ways to measure biodiversity.
  • They will engage in an activity that illustrates species richness and species evenness
  • They will consider how biodiversity and conservation are related.

Curriculum Links

Curriculum links by province/territory


Student Worksheet

PowerPoint Presentation
Measuring Biodiversity

Mind Map Example
PDF to print


  • For the hands-on activity, you will need beans in five different colours, in the following amounts:
  • colour 1: 114
  • colour 2: 102
  • colour 3: 60
  • colour 4: 48
  • colour 5: 22.

You can also use alternatives to beans, such as plastic poker chips, jellybeans, marbles, etc.

Have extras on hand in case some are lost.

For the hands-on activity, you will need 12 bags.


Familiarize yourself with the content and the resources of the lesson plan.

If the students will do their work at school, make sure that the school's computers can access all the online resources.

For Activity 3
Label six bags "A" and six "B".
Put following amounts of coloured beans in them:

Bag A

  • colour 1: 12
  • colour 2: 10
  • colour 3: 3
  • colour 4: 1
  • colour 5: 2.

Bag B

  • colour 1: 7
  • colour 2: 7
  • colour 3: 7
  • colour 4: 7
  • colour 5: 0.


The UNESCO Biodiversity Science Policy Conference in Paris, from January 25 to 29, 2010, provided the following statements about biodiversity:

Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, provides us all with the critical goods and services on which our lives depend. Provision of food, fibers, energy and medicines, purification of air and water, moderation of floods and droughts, stabilization of climate—these are just some of the vital services provided by biodiversity. The goods and services supplied by biodiversity constitute the basis upon which the economy, including trade, is built.

Biodiversity's contribution to human life and well-being is not just practical, physical and utilitarian, but also cultural and spiritual. The diversity of the natural world has been a constant source of inspiration throughout human history, influencing traditions and the way our society has evolved. Yet, in recent decades, biodiversity has been lost at an unprecedented rate, mostly due to unsustainable human activities, and the 2010 Biodiversity Target that was agreed upon at the World Summit on Sustainable Development and later by the Parties to the CBD in 2002 has not been achieved. Given the importance of biodiversity to human development and well-being, the reversal of biodiversity loss has become one of the major challenges that society faces today.

Taxonomy, the discovery, naming, distinguishing and classification of natural organisms by scientists and people everywhere provides the foundation of the biodiversity knowledge base and underpins all efforts in biodiversity research, conservation, and management.


Activity 1: Biodiversity Discussion

1.1 Ask students what biodiversity means to them. Discuss what is more important:

  • The total number of species.
  • How the species are distributed. E.g., Are they evenly distributed across different areas
  • Whether there are rare species present.
  • Whether the species have different "functions" in the ecosystem.

1.2 Incorporate the students' thoughts on these questions into a mind map.
Mind map example (PDF)

Activity 2: Species Richness and Evenness

Distribute the student worksheet and show the Measuring Biodiversity PowerPoint presentation.

Discuss the questions in the presentation.

Have the students complete the questions on the worksheet for Activity 2.

Activity 3: Conservation

Divide your class into six groups. Give each group one Bag A and one Bag B.

After the students have completed the activity and filled out the answers for Activity 3 on their student worksheet, discuss their answers with the whole class.


There is an answer sheet for use by the teacher.

Access the answer sheet.