Biodiversity: The Web of Life
Running Time: 27 minutes
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From the penguins in Antarctica to tree frogs in Costa Rica, to E. coli bacteria in the human intestines, this video and print program focuses on the incredible variety of life on our planet and explores the biological processes at work in communities and ecosystems throughout the globe. Students see exotic footage demonstrating how life has adapted to all kinds of ecosystems—-from the desert to the rain forest and coral reefs. Viewers will appreciate why biodiversity is so important to their own well being, and will come to recognize how the rapid growth of the human population poses a variety of threats to other species. In addition, the program examines global efforts to protect biodiversity through habitat preservation, the protection of air and water quality, and—-as a last resort-—captive breeding. Accompanying Teacher’s Resource Book offers follow-up student worksheets for classroom use.
video, plus teacher’s resource book, student handouts in digital format
Meets California Learning Resource Network review criteria
Recommended Biodiversity: the Web of Life begins with a view of the solar system. This is the macro view of biodiversity. The narrator quickly takes the viewer to a more manageable description of biodiversity at a local, ecosystem level. The film provides a very good overview of the important concepts of habitats, low versus high species diversity areas, adaptations, why biodiversity is important, interdependency of species, various threats to biodiversity such as habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation, the role of genetic diversity, and different approaches to protecting biodiversity. There is an impressive level of detail despite being an overview of the subject. Terms such as “niche” “keystone species” and “genetic bottlenecks” are described and examples provided. Coral reefs, deserts, salt marshes and tide pools are discussed although the rainforest ecosystem predominates. The aesthetic importance of biodiversity to humans is mentioned, along with the more typical reasons such as food, shelter and medicine. The level of information is appropriate for grades 8 through 12.
The examples for some of the concepts are less well known, which was a welcomed change. Captive breeding programs mentioned a lizard species instead of the California condor. Miconia is the non-native plant introduction mentioned rather than kudzu. The experts who spoke, Barbara Terkanian from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Peter Warren from the Nature Conservancy of Arizona, were eloquent and knowledgeable. The production quality is excellent, and the footage strongly reinforces the narration and shows many different types of plants, animals and ecosystems (appropriate for a film about biodiversity). However, to barely mention human overpopulation as one of the main threats to biodiversity is like trying to ignore the elephant in the room, and injures the integrity of the film.
The chapter selection is helpful on the DVD version, but offers little other benefit. The bibliography and internet resources are brief and not very helpful. The quiz is rather simple and one question’s answer is “starfish” even though in the film it is called by the more appropriate name “sea star.”
The video and DVD are accompanied by a workbook of student activities, worksheets and fact sheets. The bibliography listed interesting articles, but most of the books mentioned are for reference and not intended to be read as a narrative. The worksheets offer good discussion points.
Recommended for junior high / high school libraries or public libraries
- Christy Caldwell, Science Librarian, University of California, Santa Cruz