University of Vermont

Taylor Ricketts, Rubenstein School

New chapter: Conservation biology and biodiversity

Chapter in Encyclopedia of Life Sciences

Taylor collaborated with Derric Pennington to publish a chapter on Conservation Biology and Biodiversity in the Encyclopedia of Life Sciences.

Abstract:Human population growth and the corresponding increase in human consumption rate are leading factors contributing to biodiversity degradation and loss worldwide. Conservation biology integrates diverse disciplines within the natural and social sciences, with the goal of preserving the world's biodiversity, or variety of life. This chapter defines biodiversity and different metrics of diversity, and summarises how biodiversity is distributed, emphasising important patterns both across space and taxonomic groups. Next it describes the major threats to global biodiversity. It examines how people assign values to biodiversity, with a focus on ecosystem services. Finally, it highlights future challenges of conservation biology to protect biodiversity as well as human well-being. Making conservation more relevant to policy makers, and people in general, requires integrated research to understand the provision of ecosystem services, their relationship to biodiversity and the tradeoffs of resource use decisions.

Key Concepts:

  • Conservation biology is an interdisciplinary endeavour that aims to balance the natural resource uses of a growing human population while sustaining a functioning and diverse biosphere for future generations.
  • Biodiversity is a hierarchical concept that includes the diversity of alleles, genes, individuals, populations, species, communities and ecosystems.
  • Each level of biodiversity serves an important function, and human activities can affect biodiversity at any level of organisation.
  • Biodiversity is unevenly distributed, both across spatial and temporal gradients and across taxa.
  • Human population growth and the corresponding increase in human consumption rate are impacting land cover, biogeochemical cycling, water quality and availability, and other major features of the world that is contributing to biodiversity degradation and loss.
  • Biodiversity has both intrinsic value and utilitarian value; the latter is derived from the ecosystem services, or the essential goods and services that ecosystems provide to humanity, including food, medicine, building materials, clean water and flood control.
  • Quantifying ecosystem services can make conservation more relevant to policy makers and people in general, and research is needed to understand the provision of ecosystem services, their relationship to biodiversity, and the tradeoffs of resource use decisions.

 

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