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biodiversity – The variety of plants and animals and other living things in a particular area or region. Biodiversity is important because plant and animal species interact and depend upon one another for food, shelter, oxygen and soil enrichment.
biome – A major ecological community, classified according to the predominant vegetation and characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. For example, the world can be divided into at least five major biomes: aquatic, deserts, forests, grasslands and tundra.
biosphere reserves – Internationally recognized areas within UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program that promote a balanced relationship between people and nature to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. In September 2001, there were 411 biosphere reserves in 94 countries.
biota – The plants, animals and other living organisms found in a specific region or during a specific geologic period.
birds – These are warm blooded, egg laying vertebrates that are covered in feathers and whose forelimbs are modified into wings; in most instances these are used for flying. Some birds such as penguins are flightless and instead use their wings to propel themselves through the water. There are close to 10,000 known bird species worldwide.
bontebok – (Damaliscus dorcas) A South African antelope about 2 meters tall, which weighs about 60 kilograms. Due to hunting and pressure from agriculture and domesticated livestock, the bontebok became one of the rarest antelopes in the world, but careful conservation has ensured its survival and numbers have risen from 15 to more than 15,000.
broadleaf forests – Deciduous forests, as opposed to evergreen coniferous forests. Structurally, these forests have four layers: a canopy of mature trees, with emergent trees poking through the canopy layer, a shrub layer and an understory of grasses and other herbs. The most species-rich broadleaf forests occur in central China and eastern North America, with some unique regions in the Caucasus, the Himalayas, southern Europe and the Russian Far East.
bromeliad – A large family of plants with 56 genera, found in South America (although one species is found in West Africa). The rosette-forming bromeliads grow in all habitats – rainforests to deserts – and up to 7,000 meters. Some are terrestrial (the most famous being pineapples) and some grow on rocks, but bromeliads are best known as piphytes – that is, they grow on other plants. Bromeliads use water efficiently and many species have "tanks" – leaves that funnel and store water in the center of the plant. Many animals, such as insects and amphibians, live and breed in these tanks.
bushmeat – Meat from animals caught in the wild (in Africa, the forest is called "the bush"). Often caught by poachers, a commercial trade exists in wild animals such as primates, antelopes, crocodiles, porcupines, wild pigs, rodents, lizards and birds. This trade threatens many species, including endangered species. Bushmeat does not generally refer to species caught for the pet trade.