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About Biodiversity at Cal Poly Pomona

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity is a measure of the variability of living organisms in a given region. It can be measured as the total number of species, the total number of ecological communities, or the total amount of genetic variation. Biodiversity is strongly influenced by climate and topography (tropical regions usually have more species, and mountainous regions a greater number of communities), but it is also a measure of biological impacts that reduce diversity relative to measured diversity of the past, or theoretical diversity based on comparison with similar environments elsewhere.

Why is biodiversity important?

Diverse habitats are resilient. Each species plays a role in the web of interactions that makes up a biological community. The functioning of these species together is an important part of "ecosystem services": the oxygen generation, water purification, erosion control, and all the other things that our planet does for us at no direct cost. The fewer the species, the more unlikely it is that other species will be able to "take up the slack" to keep things running smoothly.

Do humans always negatively affect biodiversity?

Not necessarily. There is growing evidence that indigenous people often manipulated the environment in ways that increased biodiversity. This is well-established in parts of Yucatán and the Amazon basin, and even here in southern California, there is evidence that the Gabrieleño and other indigenous people actively managed habitats, primarily through use of fire, in a manner that often sustained or increased biodiversity. With European settlement, the collapse of indigenous societies, and the introduction of Eurasian plant and animal species, changing patterns of land use in many cases greatly reduced biodiversity (for example, urbanization and monoculture agriculture) and in other cases caused major shifts in ecological communities (for example, converting forest to chaparral). But, given the right circumstances, people are quite capable of maintaining or increasing biodiversity while at the same time optimizing their own interests.

Why is this important for Cal Poly Pomona?

In just over 1400 acres (580 ha), Cal Poly Pomona contains the usual buildings, lawns, and parking lots, as well as agricultural fields, extensive ornamental tree plantings, and four different natural ecological communities, making it one of the most biologically diverse campuses in the California State University. Much of the natural diversity is contained within the Voorhis Ecological Reserve, but there is extensive walnut woodland among the grazed pastures and adjacent to the Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies on the south side of campus.

The biodiversity of campus provides a natural laboratory for teaching and research. A number of Master's theses have been based on studies of the Voorhis Ecological Reserve and other undeveloped areas, and a number of courses in several departments routinely use the areas.

Biodiversity is part of the continuing heritage of the university, and of its modern stewardship. The campus commitment to sustainability includes biodiversity at its foundation.