Biodiversity: a Metaguide

the valdivian temperate rain forests
The Valdivian Temperate Rain Forests, part of a hotspot in South America

Biodiversity hotspots

Biodiversity hotspots (a phrase coined by British environmental scientist Norman Myers in 1988) are characterized by “especially high numbers of endemic species” (especially plant species), and by serious levels of habitat loss. Hotspots are spread around the globe, and new ones are added to lists as habitat loss increases in particularly diverse areas.

Specific threats to biodiversity

Several scholar and organizations have created categorizations of threats to biological diversity.

  • Jared Diamond coined the concept of the “Evil Quartet” of habitat destruction, overkill, introduced species, and secondary extinctions.
  • Biologist E.O. Wilson created the acronym HIPPO, which stands for habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, human over population, and over-harvesting.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Threats Taxonomy specifies eleven direct threats.

Last (but not least): success stories in biodiversity conservation (Use the page links below to navigate)

Image credit: Roberto Bahamonde Andrade Fecha at Wikimedia Commons

  1. planetnurse

    Excellent primer on the concepts. I would submit that most people would consider the interrelationships and synergy, but ultimately will return to the question of how this affects their own daily lives. (Sustainablog readers likely represent a more ecologically sensitive subpop and already have some understanding of the significance). The link to the interim executive summary from the CHGE is helpful, but tedious.

    If we could also view the loss of biodiversity through a cultural heritage lens, we might see that the habitat destruction and introduction of nonnative traditions threatens us in significant, measurable ways. Indigenous people around the world have been forced from their land, unable to grow and eat the crops they have evolved to most efficiently process. Consequently, they are vulnerable to the diseases once associated with wealth – diabetes, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease. Witness the Pima Indians of the American Southwest with the highest Type 2 Diabetes incidence in the US. There are so few of us who do not worry about our health, or the health of our children.

    Even people who do not consider themselves native or indigenous suffer for the loss of biodiversity – as we feed the world increasing quantities of corn and wheat, we rob ourselves of the unique practices of our cultures, our climates, our microclimates. As we are witnessing, the gap between the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the ill, is widening.

    Great metaguide. Consider also the International Institute for Economic Development as a resource. Free downloads of books, reports, papers, etc. (no disclosure to report). http://www.iied.org/pubs

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