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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2009

1 - The Phenomenon of Biodiversity

Summary

[D]iversity is rather like an optical illusion. The more it is looked at, the less clearly defined it appears to be and viewing it from different angles can lead to different perceptions of what is involved.

Magurran (1988)

The complexity of the biodiversity concept does not only mirror the natural world it supposedly represents; it is that plus the complexity of human interactions with the natural world, the inextricable skein of our values and its value, of our inability to separate our concept of a thing from the thing itself. Don't know what biodiversity is? You can't.

Takacs (1996)

INTRODUCTION

The neologism “biodiversity” entered the vocabularies of science, bioethics, the media, and the environmentally aware public during the 1980s; its longer version, “biological diversity,” has been in use since the late 1970s (Schwarz et al. 1976; States et al. 1978). After the National Forum on BioDiversity in Washington, D.C. in 1986 and the publication of the proceedings of that conference (Wilson 1988), use of the term “biodiversity” increased very rapidly. The number of scientific publications on biodiversity issues has grown exponentially since the late 1980s and currently exceeds 3,000 per year (Fig. 1.1). The term has also quickly gained popularity outside the scientific realm, and has become a household word widely used by politicians, the media, and at least to some extent the general public.

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