Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
These are some of the points discussed in a rather thought-provoking column by Brad Allenby, over at Greenbiz.com.
Some choice excerpts:
To begin with, it is apparent that "biodiversity" is not a factual observation, but a cultural construction. One way to construct it is by considering only biodiversity that arises from evolutionary processes, in which case loss of "traditional" species equates to loss of biodiversity. Alternatively, one can consider only designed biodiversity, in which case gains in constructed forms of life, such as GMOs or engineered bacteria constitute gains in biodiversity. Or one could consider overall information content of biological systems of all sorts as biodiversity, in which case no one knows whether it's increasing or decreasing.More?
What community gets rights to define the cultural construct of biodiversity matters because the definition of the term in large part bounds public perceptions, and thus potential policy responses. Biodiversity traditionally has been defined by the conservation biology community, which by self-selection, focus and training has a strong incentive to perceive losses in evolutionary biodiversity, and little experience or interest in understanding designed biodiversity at all, except perhaps as it overlaps "natural" systems (a major reason for this is that designed biodiversity tends to be found in industrial and agricultural systems, as opposed to "natural" environments). This definition accordingly is based on the construct of “species” generated by evolved biology, and - given the continued development of the anthropogenic Earth - necessarily implies a “crisis” in biodiversity, requiring in turn strong policy measures to “preserve biodiversity”.