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Biodiversity as Everything

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Biodiversity as Everything
Review by: Stuart L. Pimm
The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 73, No. 1 (Mar., 1998), pp. 51-54
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
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73, No. 1
VOLUME
THE QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY
MARCH
1998
NEW BIOLOGICAL BOOKS
Theaimofthissectzon
and costofnewbookszn
zstogzvebrief
indications
ofthecharacter,
content
thevariousfieldsof biology.
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byThe Quarterlythan can be reviewed
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are carefully
and
critzcally.
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considered
for originality,
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and conscientzous
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readerinterest,
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tofind a competent
foreach
bookselected
forreview.
someare merely
Of thosebooksthatare selected
forconsideration,
listed,othersaregivenbrief
notzce,mostreceivecriticalreviews,and a few arefeaturedin lead reviews.Listings,without
aremainlytoznform
comments,
thereaderthatthebookshaveappeared;examplesarebookswhose
areself-explanatory,
orthatarereprints
tztles
suchas dictionaries
and taxonomic
revisions,
ofearlier
byone
orareneweditions
publicatzons,
ofwell-established
works.
Unsigned briefnotices, written
oftheeditors,
maybegiventosuchworksas anthologies
orsymposium
volumesthatareorganzzed
on them.Regular reviewsaremore
in a fashionthatmakesitpossibletocomment
meaningfully
extensive
evaluationsand aresignedbythereviewers.
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booksof
Most booksnot
Each volumereviewed
becomes
theproperty
speczalsignificance.
of therevzewer.
reviewed
aredonatedtolibraries
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Thepricein eachcaserepresents
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and isforpurchasedirectly
fromthepublisher.
Authors
andpublishers
ofbiological
booksshouldbearin mindthatTheQuarterlycan consider
fornoticeonlythosebooksthataresentto TheEditors,The QuarterlyReviewof Biology, 110
LifeSciencesLibrary,
StateUniverszty
ofNewYork,
Stony
Brook,NYT1794-5275 USA.Wewelcome
prepublication
copiesas an aid toearlypreparation
ofreviews.
BIODIVERSITY AS EVERYTHING
STUART L. PIMM
Department
ofEcologyand Evolutionary
Biology,University
ofTennessee
3 7996-1610 USA
Knoxville,Tennessee
A reviewof
MEASURING
AND MONITORING
BIODIVERSITY
BIOLOGICAL
THE
ARCTIC
HUMAN
ALPINE
BIODIVERSITY:
PATTERNS,
AND PROTECTING
RESOURCES.
EditedbyMarjorieL Reaka-Kudla,Don E Wilson,and
Edward 0 Wilson.Washington(DC): JosephHenry
Press.$34.95. vii + 551 p; ill.; index. ISBN: 0-30905227-0 (hc); 0-309-05584-9(pb). 1997.
METHODS
FOR MAMMALS. Based on
a workshop
heldin Arlington,
Virginia,
June1992. BiologicalDiversity
HandbookSeries.
EditedbyDon E Wilson,
FRussellCole,JamesD Nichols,
RasanayagamRudran,and Mercedes
SFoster.Washington(DC): Smithsonian
Institution
Press.$49.00 (hardcover); $22.50 (paper). xxviii+ 409 p; ill.; index.
ISBN: 1-56098-636-0 (hc); 1-56098-637-9 (pb).
1996.
SITY: STANDARD
AND
II: UNDERSTANDING
OUR BIOLOGICAL
DIVER-
THE IDEA OF BIODIVERSITY:
PHILOSOPHIES
OF PAR-
ADISE.
By David Takacs. Baltimore(Maryland): TheJohns
Hopkins Unzversity
Press.$35.95. xxi + 393 p; ill.;
index. ISBN: 0-8018-5400-8.1996.
VALUE
OF LIFE:
BIOLOGICAL
DIVERSITY
AND
Books.
Shearwater
ByStephenR Kellert.Washington
(DC): Island Press.
$24.95. xix + 263 p; ill.; index. ISBN: 1-55963317-4. 1996.
SOCIETY.
AND ECOSYSTEM
CONSEQUENCES.
Based on
a workshop
heldin Kongsvold,Norway,17-20 August
1993. EcologicalStudies:Analysisand Synthesis,VolETHICS ON THE ARK: ZOOS, ANIMAL WELFARE, AND
ume113.
Zoo and AquariumBiology
WILDLIFE
CONSERVATION.
EditedbyF StuartChapinIII and ChristianKorner. and Conservation
Series.
Berlinand New York:Springer-Verlag.
$143.00. xviii
EditedbyBryanG Norton,MichaelHutchins,Eliza+ 332 p; ill.; subject index. ISBN: 3-540-57948-6.
L Maple,withassistancefrom
bethFStevens,and Terry
1996.
JohnWuichet;
Foreword
byDavid Ehrenfeld.
Washing-
CAUSES
51
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52
THE QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY
ton(DC): Smithsonian
InstitutzonPress.
$32.50. xxvii
+ 330 p; ill.; no index. ISBN: 1-56098-515-1.1995.
BIODIVERSITY
Loss: ECONOMIC AND ECOLOGICAL
VOLUME
73
standing.They do beg the question, How does one
pick a book on biodiversity,
when biodiversityis everything?As W S Gilbertput it, "when everyoneis
ISSUES.
somebody, then nobody is anybody."These books
EdztedbyCharlesPerrings,Karl-GoranMdler, Carl make valuable but verydifferentcontributionsto
Jansson. Cam- the how, why,and where of biodiversityloss-and
Folke, C S Holling, and Bengt-Owe
bridgeand New York:CambridgeUniversity
Press. how to document it.
$54.95. xiv + 332 p; ill.; index. ISBN: 0-521These ecological questions are now well defined.
47178-8. 1995.
The species thatwe know are disappearing rapidly.
NATURE'S
SERVICES:
SOCIETAL
DEPENDENCE
ON
What we don't know is how manyspecies there are
NATURAL ECOSYSTEMS.
or where theyare likelyto be concentrated. Such
EditedbyGretchen
CDaily. Washington
(DC): Island topics are firmlyembedded within ecological sciPress.$49.95 (hardcover); $24.95 (paper). xx +
ences and so are straightforward,
ifnot easy. Much
392 p; ill.; index. ISBN: 1-55963-475-8 (hc);
more difficultare the connections to other disci1-55963-476-6(pb). 1997.
plines. Whydoes everyonewant to be a part of bio"Biodiversity"
is a wordbarelya decade old and does
diversity?
not even appear in the new edition of the Oxford
David Takacs's solution is to ask the great and
EnglishDictionary.
Yet, in only a few months, eight the good of conservation. In his book, The Idea of
books have appeared in the officeof The Quarterly Biodiversity:
Philosophies
ofParadzse,he interviewsEhrReviewofBiology.Five of these books have "biodiver- lich, Lovejoy, Lubchenco, Orians, Raven, Soule,
sity"in the title;the rest have it on their covers. A Wilson and a dozen others.In response to the quessearch forthe termon the internetreturnsover 43 tion "What's the definition?"there are some crisp
thousandentries.Madonna beware! You are a mere responses and some rambling ones. David Ehrentwothousand ahead and biodiversityis closing fast. feld's response is insightful:he thinksit's one of
Whythissudden popularity?
those wonderful catchwords that "has a broad apMeasuringand Monitoring
Stan- peal, like motherhood" (p 82). So, too, is DanJanBiologicalDiversity:
dardMethodsfor
Mammalsanticipates thattherewill zen's. We have a mission, and we need vehicles to
be companion volumes on other groups. This vol- carryit forward."Biodiversity"works;"habitat" (he
ume describes how to observe mammals or their might have said "ecosystem")just conjures up "a
signs,how to record, catch, markor preservethem, green blob" (p 74).
and how to estimate species abundance. Those
The threatsto planetarydiversityare all too apworkingon mammals will buy this book, keeping parent, but why should we need a mission? The
itswell-thumbedpages handy.Nonetheless, anyone problem is the profession itself,hoping to do sciwho reallywantsto measure genetic diversity
within ence as usual and leaving all the advocacy to others.
a species, species diversitywithina community,or Takacs quotes Hugh Iltis:"too manyofyou,who are
ecosystem diversitydefined by mammals, will be
perfectlyable to get involved,are unwillingto fight
greatlydisappointed. The firsttopic only appears
... manyofyou refuseevento mourn"(p 125). Had
in the introductionto the book, the second in the he read the last 25 yearsof most academic ecology
briefestof discussionslater,and the third,not at all. journals, he might have added "or even take noArcticand AlpineBiodiversity:
Patterns,Causes and tice."
Ecosystem
Consequences
is 113th in Springer-Verlag's
Doesn't being involved mean having values? Evvenerable series, Ecological Studies. Biodiversity eryscientistwho believes he practicesvalue-freescidoes appear on the y-axisof various graphs (where ence should be thrown in a pit of philosophers.
one expects patterns and causes to lurk), though That would disabuse him of such a silly notion.
not on the x-axiswhere it mightbe shown to have Don't values compromise science? To borrow Ehrconsequences. "Biodiversity"appears in the various lich's metaphor, if theydid, it would be as obvious
chapter titlesmore often than in theircontents.A as a bad concert pianist or baseball player. There
third book, Biodiversity
II, really is about biodiver- arejust too manypeople in the audience who would
sity,and itwantsto be the heir apparent to BioDiver- notice the mistakes.Can activismof the kind "that
sity(1988. Washington (DC): National Academy Raven andJanzen undertake ... wreck... [a] scienPress). It was that book, edited by E 0 Wilson and
tificcareer among . . . colleagues" (pp 167-168)
F M Peter, thatkicked offthisscramble forrecogni- as Carleton Ray worries?Sure. Raven is the home
tion. Others will seek this inheritance,for most of secretaryof the National Academy of Sciences, and
this sequel's authors work in Maryland and Wash- Janzen is the firstwinnerof the CraafordPrize-the
ington,DC.
nearest thing ecologists have to a Nobel. Wrecked
Ignore my sarcasm: none of these books is bad.
careers indeed!
Each averages better than one might expect from
What are the values of those who project biodiedited volumes; some of the contributionsare out- versity?
They enjoynature. In BryanNorton's termi-
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MARCH
1998
NEW BIOLOGICAL BOOKS
nology,ithas transformedthem.Yet not one admits
going to church, temple, or mosque, though they
are a self-admitted
spiritualbunch. Prayingfortheir
godless souls is a personal decision, but theirchoice
has interestingconsequences. Most Americans do
attend places ofworship.How can conservationbiologistsachieve theirmissionwhen theyare such a
statisticallyodd sample? No elected politicians
would be so naive as to so distance themselvesfrom
the majority.
In The ValueofLife:BiologicalDiversity
and Human
Society,
Stephen Kellert tackles what people think
and feel directly.Kellert is a takerof opinions, the
pollsterforthe conservationmission.He is essential
reading forthe next campaign. In the U.S., the "humanists"witha love for nature and the "moralists"
withtheirspiritualreverence forit,comprise a safe
majority.InJapan, the vote goes to the "negativists"
who fear nature and the "dominionists"who feel
they must subdue it. One sees Japan's record on
whaling and tropical deforestationin a new light.
Even within the U.S., there are fascinatingdifferences between ages, the sexes, level of education,
urban and rural, ethnic background, and favored
hobbies.
There are case historiesabout wolves,whales and
bugs and the lessons we must draw from them. A
consistentproblem in protectingendangered species is the failureto see the keydifferencesin values
among the stakeholders.A broader issue is education,forthe level of knowledge about nature is appalling. Whateverthe nonactivist,academic ecologistsare doing, theyaren't educating the public.
That public meets the rare and the charismatic
biodiversityalmost exclusively in zoos. Zoos are
enormouslypopular: in the U.S. theywelcome 100
millionvisitorsa year.Sometimeswe see thingsthat
appall us, such as single individualsof social species
in small cages. More often one asks ill-formedbut
nagging questions about whether large mammals
wouldn't be better offwithout our caging them.
The zoo communityreplies thatzoos play a roleperhaps the major one-in educating the public
about biodiversity.Many undertake captive breeding efforts,the aim of which is to returnanimals to
the wild and prevent their extinction.Ethicson the
Arkallows those on both sides of the zoo issue to
present theircases well. BryanNorton and his colleagues organize this complex and importantdebate withtheircustomaryflairand incisiveness.
Some issues require close scrutiny:Do visitors
exit zoos any wiser than when theyentered them?
Do captive breeding programs work or might the
removal of the fewremainingindividualsharm the
species' chances for survival?And should we remove overabundantlarge herbivoresfromnational
parks?In South Africa'sKrugerNational Park, this
means shooting entire familygroups of elephants
53
to the totalofseveralhundred animals each year-a
bloody task that no one enjoys. The book's issues
pit animal rightsactivistsagainst conservationbiologists,groups that share deep concerns about the
natural world.
Kellert's groups also include the "utilitarians"those who ask, "What does biodiversitydo forme?"
The finaltwobooks are edited volumes on economics. Biodiversity
Loss: Economzcand EcologicalIssuesis
a technicallydifficultand veryspecialized volume.
Takacs's subjects overlooked thisdefinitionof biodediversity:"thediversity
functionV(S) is inductively
finedtobethesolutionoftherecursion
V(S) = max {V(S\ia) + d(a,S\i)}"
IF?S
(p 33).
After this, one will never look at an elephant in
quite the same way. There may be practical outcomes in the dialogue between economists and
ecologiststhattook place at the Beijer Institute,but
thisvolume does not informthem.
The summarizingchapter tellsus "thatthefundamental goal of biodiversityconservationis not species preservationforitsown sake" (p 301). That goal
is to preserve resilience-"a measure of the limits
of the local stabilityof the self-organisationof the
system"(p 301). This techno-speak relies on Holling's notion thatthereare multiplestates.Predator
and preymightpersistwitha lot or the formerand
fewof the latteror withthe numbers reversed.Human impactspush themfromone mix to the other.
A fascinatingidea, of course, yetnot even all of the
ecologistswho studyHolling's classic case, the budworm moth, agree with his interpretation.There
have been precious few additional candidates for
such dynamics.Such shakyfoundations are a poor
basis for a dialogue between ecology and economics. More obviously,species matter.That's whypeople visitzoos; that's whywe have an Endangered
Species Act. Do the authors propose an act to protect the local stabilityof self-organizedsystems?
In the differentsettingof Gretchen Daily's, Nature'sServices:SocietalDependenceon Natural Ecosyssome of same authorsshine. They include Robtems,
ert Constanza, whose $33 trillionestimate for the
planetary,annual total of ecosystemserviceswillbe
both the future model and target of ecological
economists. Constanza assembles thousands of tiny
pieces. Many more are missing,and some of those
in hand are distortedor belong to another puzzle.
Yet in his summaryand in the chapters of Daily's
book are the examples thatjoin ecology and economics and plain common sense.
Now we see clearly why biodiversitymattersso
much and whywescramble to embrace it.It touches
all our lives,itsloss raises deep religious issues, and
itstotalworthis huge. These are the esthetics,ethics
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54
THE QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY
and economics of biological conservation. These
"3-Es" have a myriad of particular connections to
the stuffof pure ecology itself.The unique flora of
South Africa'sfynbosgenerates $19 million annuallyin the trade of cut and dried flowersthatbrightens our homes and offices.National parks rejuve-
VOLUME
73
nate our spiritand tigersrekindle a sense of awe
about evolution, God's creation, or both. Natural
wetlands clean up wastewaterforhalf the price per
litreof secondarysewage treatmentplants. Making
many more such connections is the challenge to
come.
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