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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: August 2009

1 - Introduction



In biology, as in all natural sciences, particular concepts come into and go out of fashion. Biodiversity, including species richness, is currently in fashion. This is in large measure a consequence of concerns about species rarity and threats of global and local extinction of organisms in response to human activities and global warming. Conservation interests in particular stress the importance of biodiversity and the need to preserve or restore it as the case may be. The term is found in a wide range of conservational, ecological and biological literature. In practice it is seldom defined and even though it is clear that it means different things to different people, it is always regarded as ‘a good thing’. Definitions aside, biodiversity in practice is often used to justify the conservation of a rare species or of a particular habitat on a local or a regional scale. Emphasis on rare species has always been a feature of research and conservation interests. This has often been at the expense of understanding widespread, common and successful species and the ways in which they can adapt to human influences and their consequent changes in habitat and land use.

Biodiversity concerns are also frequently subjective and anthropocentric. They are all too often centred on particular types of habitat, communities and ecosystems that contain species that are considered particularly attractive. There is more concern about the possible loss of one species of mammal or bird than ten species of insect or crustacean.

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