Web Niche on Biodiversity & Conservation Biology

Welcome to my Web Niche on Biodiversity and Conservation Biology (BCB) the department I work in at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town. Biodiversity is the variety of forms of living organisms at various levels and Conservation Biology is the study of how we can prevent species and habitats being lost while still maintaining sustainable human societies. I teach Landscape Ecology and Ecological Informatics.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Origin and growth of the concept "Biodiversity"

The term “Biodiversity” is a new concept coined by Prof E.O. Wilson. Originally born “BioDiversity” is was the theme of a “National Forum on BioDiversity”, held in Washington, D.C., on September 21-24, 1986, The proceedings of the forum, published in 1988 under the title BioDiversity has usually been cited as Biodiversity and the latest printing indeed uses this title and published by National Academy Press and is freely available in PDF format to South African citizens at the following wenb address http://www.nap.edu/catalog/989.html. The forum coincided with an increase in interest, among scientists and the public alike, in matters of global species and ecosystems conservation.. This was mostly due to sufficient data on deforestation, species extinction, and tropical biology becoming available. The establishment of the Society for Conservation Biology in 1986 was also a catalyst for the founding of this new discipline. Simultaneously with these events was forging of relationships between biodiversity conservation and economic development. From the late 1960’s the developed countries of the world were seeing polarization between development and environmental concerns, whereas in the developing countries unchecked development was happening at the expense of the natural environment and essentially boom and bust economies. Further the biodiversity of the developing countries, who were mostly in the tropical regions tropical, was not recognized as value for new foods, pharmaceuticals, fibers, and petroleum substitutes.


By 1992 the concept of Biodiversity was firmly established, and was the key topic of the Rio environmental summit. This summit shifted biodiversity from the scientific communities to become a world-wide political issue that has largely overshadowed other issues of organism-level biology. To illustrated this as of the end of 2005 a search in Google on the word “Biodiversity” produces almost 40 million hits, where as the terms ”Zoology” and ”Botany” are approaching 18 million. The term “natural selection”, “systematics”and “cladistics” the constructs that are mostly responsible for explaining, managing and analyzing biodiversity have >8 million, >4 million and 325 thousand hits respectively. Essentially this reflects that Biodiversity has become “Mainstreamed” in societies around the world.

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