Conservation Biology and Biodiversity

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.

Keywords: biodiversity; conservation; ecosystem services; habitat; extinction

Figure 1.

Relationship between species richness and latitude for butterflies in the United States and Canada. ( Data from Ricketts et al., .)

Figure 2.

Maps of the nine global biodiversity conservation priority templates: CE, crisis ecoregions; BH, biodiversity hot spots; EBA, endemic bird areas; CPD, centres of plant diversity; MC, megadiversity countries; G200, global 200 ecoregions; HBWA, high‐biodiversity wilderness areas; FF, frontier forests; and LW, last of the wild. ( From Brooks et al., , with permission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.)

Figure 3.

The distribution of diversity among groups of eukaryotic organisms (from MEA, ). (From Figure 4.9 in Ecological Ecosystems and Human Well‐Being: Current State and Trends by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Copyright © 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Reproduced by permission of Island Press, Washington, DC.)

Figure 4.

Habitat conversion of the world's terrestrial biomes. ( Reproduced with permission from Hoekstra et al., .)

Figure 5.

Biodiversity conservation and the economic value of ecosystem services under two development strategies: unrestricted versus with conservation restrictions. If there is no economic market for carbon sequestration then shifting from development to conservation creates gains in biodiversity protected but with economic losses (left pair of points). In contrast, both biodiversity and economic benefits increase if an economic market exists for carbon sequestration when development includes conservation restrictions (right markers). ( Modified from Nelson et al., , with permission from the Ecological Society of America.)

close

References

Abell R, Thieme ML, Revenga C et al. (2008) Freshwater ecoregions of the world: a new map of biogeographic units for freshwater biodiversity conservation. BioScience 58: 403–414.

Balmford A and Cowling RM (2006) Fusion or failure? The future of conservation biology. Conservation Biology 20: 692–695.

de Bello F, Lavorel S, Dìaz S et al. (2010) Towards an assessment of multiple ecosystem processes and services via functional traits. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 2873–2893.

Bongaarts J (2009) Human population growth and the demographic transition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 364: 2985–2990.

Boody G, Vondracek B, Andow DA et al. (2005) Multifunctional agriculture in the United States. BioScience 55: 27–38.

Brooks TM, Mittermeier RA, da Fonseca GAB et al. (2006) Global biodiversity conservation priorities. Science 313: 58–61.

Butchart SHM, Walpole M, Collen B et al. (2010) Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science 328: 1164–1168.

Daily GC (1997) Nature's Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Davis SJ and Caldeira K (2010) Consumption‐based accounting of CO2 emissions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107: 5687–5692.

Diaz S and Cabido M (2001) Vive la difference: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 16: 646–655.

Flannery TF (2001) The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and its People. New York, NY: Grove Press.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): Fisheries Aquaculture Department (2010) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010. Rome, Italy: United Nations.

Halpern BS, Walbridge S, Selkoe KA et al. (2008) A global map of human impact on marine ecosystems. Science 319: 948–954.

Hillebrand H (2004) On the generality of the latitudinal diversity gradient. American Naturalist 163: 192–211.

Hoekstra JM, Boucher TM, Ricketts TH and Roberts C (2005) Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection. Ecology Letters 8: 23–29.

Hoekstra JM, Molnar JL, Revenga C, Spalding MD and Jennings M (2010) The Atlas of Global Conservation: Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Holm SO and Englund G (2009) Increased ecoefficiency and gross rebound effect: evidence from USA and six European countries 1960–2002. Ecological Economics 68: 879–887.

IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lawler JJ, Shafer SL, White D et al. (2009) Projected climate‐induced faunal change in the Western Hemisphere. Ecology 90: 588–597.

Leopold A (1949) A Sand County Almanac. New York: Oxford University Press.

MacArthur RH and Wilson EO (1967) The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Magurran AE and McGill BJ (2011) Biological Diversity: Frontiers in Measurement and Assessment. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marchesi JR (2010) Prokaryotic and eukaryotic diversity of the human gut. Advances in Applied Microbiology 72: 43–62.

Marris E (2009) Conservation biology: reflecting the past. Nature 462: 30–32.

McKinney ML (2002) Urbanization, biodiversity, and conservation. BioScience 52: 883–890.

McKinney ML and Lockwood JL (1999) Biotic homogenization: a few winners replacing many losers in the next mass extinction. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 14: 450–453.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well‐being: Synthesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Naeem S, Thompson LJ, Lawler SP, Lawton JH and Woodfin RM (1994) Declining biodiversity can alter the performance of ecosystems. Nature 368: 734–737.

Naidoo R, Balmford A, Costanza R et al. (2008) Global mapping of ecosystem services and conservation priorities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10: 9495–9500.

Nelson E, Mendoza G, Regetz J et al. (2009) Modeling multiple ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, commodity production, and tradeoffs at landscape scales. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7: 4–11.

Olson DM and Dinerstein E (1998) The global 200: a representation approach to conserving the Earth's most biologically valuable ecoregions. Conservation Biology 12: 502–515.

Ostrom E (2009) A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social‐ecological systems. Science 325: 419–421.

Parmesan C, Ryrholm N, Stefanescu C et al. (1999) Poleward shifts in geographical ranges of butterfly species associated with regional warming. Nature 399: 579–583.

Pickett STA and White PS (1985) The Ecology of Natural Disturbance and Patch Dynamics. Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

Pimentel D, Lach L, Zuniga R et al. (2000) Environmental and economic costs of nonindigenous species in the United States. BioScience 50: 53–65.

Pringle CM, Freeman MC and Freeman BJ (2000) Regional effects of hydrologic alterations on riverine macrobiota in the New World: tropical–temperate comparisons. BioScience 50: 807–823.

Purvis A and Hector A (2000) Getting the measure of biodiversity. Nature 405: 212–219.

Ricketts TH, Dinerstein E, Olson DM et al. (1999) Terrestrial Ecoregions of North America: A Conservation Assessment. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K et al. (2009) Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14: 32 [online] URL: http://www.ecology andsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/.

Rodriguez RW, White JF, Arnold AE et al. (2009) Fungal endophytes: diversity and functional roles. New Phytologist 182: 314–330.

Rolston H (2000) The land ethic at the turn of the millennium. Biodiversity and conservation 9: 1045–1058.

Root TL, Price JT, Hall KR et al. (2003) Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants. Nature 421: 57–;60.

Rossello‐Mora R and Amann R (2001) The species concept for prokaryotes. FEMS Microbiology Reviews 25: 39–67.

Sinding SW (2009) Population, poverty and economic development. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 364: 3023–3030.

Spalding MD, Fox HE, Allen GR et al. (2007) Marine ecoregions of the world: a bioregionalization of coastal and shelf areas. BioScience 57: 573–583.

Spellerberg IF and Fedor PJ (2003) A tribute to Claude Shannon (1916–2001) and a plea for more rigorous use of species richness, species diversity and the Shannon Wiener Index. Global Ecology and Biogeography 12: 177–179.

Stern PC (2000) Psychology and the science of human‐environment interactions. American Psychologist 55: 523–530.

Taylor D (2007) Employment preferences and salary expectations of students in science and engineering. BioScience 57: 175–185.

United Nations (2011) World Population Prospects: the 2010 revision. Accessed 8 May 2011: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/index.htm.

Vitousek PM, Mooney HA, Lubchenco J and Melillo JM (1997) Human domination of Earth's ecosystems. Science 277: 494–499.

Whittaker RH (1967) Gradient analysis of vegetation. Biological Reviews 42: 207–264.

Wilcove DS, Rothstein D, Dubow J, Phillips A and Losos E (1998) Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. BioScience 48: 607–615.

World Resources Institute (2007) EarthTrends: Environmental Information. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. Available at http://earthtrends.wri.org.

Zabel RW, Harvey CJ, Katz SL, Good TP and Levin PS (2003) Ecologically sustainable yield. American Scientist 91: 150–157.

Further Reading

Groom MJ, Meffe GK and Carroll CR (2006) Principles of Conservation Biology. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.

Howlett R and Dhand R (eds) (2000) Nature insights: biodiversity. Nature 405: 207–253.

Kareiva P and Marvier M (2011) Conservation Science: Balancing the Needs of People and Nature. Greenwood Village, Colorado: Roberts and Company Press.

Myers N, Mittermeier RA, Mittermeier CG, daFonseca GAB and Kent J (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853–858.

Rolston H (1989) Environmental Ethics. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.

Rosenzweig ML (1995) Species Diversity in Space and Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Pennington, Derric N, and Ricketts, Taylor(Dec 2011) Conservation Biology and Biodiversity. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003256.pub2]