EOWilsonBiodiversity - SnrEcrIoN l9 D The C urrent S tatet...

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SnrEcrIoN l9 The Current State tf Biological Diversity E. O. Wilson It may properly be said that the extinction of species of flora and fauna is a natural phenomenon that has been occurring since the beginning of life on earth. Why then is there a growing concern among biologists about endangered species to the point where many consider it a crisis worthy of immediate international attention? The answer is that, although there is insufficient information to deduce the precise rate of species extinction, there is broad agreement among experts that the rate has been accelerating rapidly as the direct result of human developmental activities. The ability of species to evolve and adapt to changing conditions requires the continued existence of a diverse pool of genetic material, which dwindles as species disappear. The long term maintenance of ecosystem stability requires an appropriate balance between the evolution of new and the extinction of old species. Harvard University entomology professor E. O. Wilson has developed a ',vorldwide reputation as an expert on evolution and species diversity through his pioneering studies of ants and his founding of the controversial field of sociobiology. In recent years he has become one of the most eloquent spokespeople for the need to curb the environmentally destructive, unsustainable practices that threaten a massive reduction in the diversity of the world's biological endowment. The follbwing selection is from "The Current State of Biological Diversity," in Wilson's edited book Biodi'crsitv (National Academy Press, 1988). Key Concept: the urgency of maintaining biodiversity iological diversity must be treated more seriously as a global resource, to be indexed, used, and above all, preserved. Three circumstances conspire to give this matter an unprecedented urgency. First, exploding human populations are degrading the environment at an accelerating rate, especially in tropical countries. Sec- ond, science is discovering new uses for biological diver- sity in ways that can relieve both human suffering and environmental destruction. Third, much of the diversity is being irreversibly lost through extinction caused by the destruction of natural habitats, again especially in the tropics. Overall, we are locked into a race. We must hurry to acquire the knowledge on which a wise policy of conservation and development can be based for cen- turies to come. To summarize the problem, I review some current information on the magnitude of global diversity and the rate at which we are losing it. I concentrate on the tropical moist forests, because of all the major habitats, they are richest in species and because they are in great- est danger. The Amorint of Biological Diversity
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This note was uploaded on 12/26/2009 for the course LSP T07.5005.0 taught by Professor Caseyking during the Fall '09 term at NYU.

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EOWilsonBiodiversity - SnrEcrIoN l9 D The C urrent S tatet...

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