Post-Graduate

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The origin and growth of the concept "Biodiversity"

The term "Biodiversity" is a new concept coined by Prof E.O. Wilson.
Originally born "BioDiversity" is was the theme of a "National Forum on
BioDiversity", held in Washington, D.C., on September 21-24, 1986, The
proceedings of the forum, published in 1988 under the title BioDiversity
has usually been cited as Biodiversity and the latest printing indeed
uses this title and published by National Academy Press and is freely
available in PDF format to South African citizens at the following web
address http://www.nap.edu/catalog/989.html. The forum coincided with
an increase in interest, among scientists and the public alike, in
matters of global species and ecosystems conservation.. This was mostly
due to sufficient data on deforestation, species extinction, and
tropical biology becoming available. The establishment of the Society
for Conservation Biology in 1986 was also a catalyst for the founding of
this new discipline. Simultaneously with these events was forging of
relationships between biodiversity conservation and economic
development. From the late 1960's the developed countries of the world
were seeing polarization between development and environmental concerns,
whereas in the developing countries unchecked development was happening
at the expense of the natural environment and essentially boom and bust
economies. Further the biodiversity of the developing countries, who
were mostly in the tropical regions tropical, was not recognized as
value for new foods, pharmaceuticals, fibers, and petroleum
substitutes.

By 1992 the concept of Biodiversity was firmly established, and was
the key topic of the Rio environmental summit. This summit shifted
biodiversity from the scientific communities to become a world-wide
political issue that has largely overshadowed other issues of
organism-level biology. To illustrated this as of the end of 2005 a
search in Google on the word "Biodiversity" produces almost 40 million
hits, where as the terms "Zoology" and "Botany" are approaching 18
million. The term "natural selection", "systematics"and "cladistics"
the constructs that are mostly responsible for explaining, managing and
analyzing biodiversity have >8 million, >4 million and 325 thousand hits
respectively. Essentially this reflects that Biodiversity has become
"Mainstreamed" in societies around the world.

Dr Richard Knight
Co-ordinator: National Information Society Learnerships - Ecological
Informatics
Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville 7535

Phone 27 + 21 + 959 3940
Fax 27 + 21 + 959 1237

Email Rknight@uwc.ac.za

Web http://nisl.uwc.ac.za

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