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The Shortfalls of the Term “Biodiversity”

October 31, 2016 |


Opinion by Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier.

This article was originally published on bioGraphic.

“In 2011, shortly after one of us—Peter Kareiva—was promoted to Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, TNC’s magazine published a much-discussed profile piece about Peter. The cause of all the controversy was a single quote in the opening paragraph, in which Peter stated that he was “not a biodiversity guy.” What could the Chief Scientist of the world’s largest conservation organization mean by such a surprising claim?

The word “biodiversity,” shorthand for biological diversity, entered the scientific literature in full force in 1988 when it appeared as the title of a National Academies report on the global extinction crisis. The term was coined to describe the diversity of life at all levels, from genes to ecosystems. It quickly took off and became a catchword on which to hang a growing concern about the extinction of species, the clearing of tropical rainforests, and the construction of roads, oil derricks, and shopping malls in what once were treasured landscapes.

Increasingly, scientists and science communicators are using the term biodiversity to represent everything that people love and value in nature. However, in practice, assessing biodiversity typically reduces to conducting a count of species. Similarly, focusing on biodiversity in conservation efforts often simply means attempting to secure as long a list of species as possible. And that, in turn, leads to some awkward priorities and practices…”

Read on at: bioGraphic.

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