Global biodiversity assessment

Global biodiversity assessment

edited by V.H. Heywood Cambridge University Press, 1995. S80.00/$110.00 hbk, %29.95/$44.95 pbk (1149 pages) ISBN 0 5215640341816 his is a formidable b...

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edited by V.H. Heywood Cambridge University Press, 1995. S80.00/$110.00 hbk, %29.95/$44.95 pbk (1149 pages) ISBN 0 5215640341816 his is a formidable book - intimidating and authorative - the iist of contributors alone spans 40 pages. A comprehensive team of experts addresses each of the key problems of global biodiversity assessement from a number of perspectives: ecological, t?xonomic, economic and philosophical. To any ecologist or conservation biologist it provides a comprehensive introduction to what is arguably the world’s most significant problem. Furthermore, it is excellent value for money. Yet, in many respects we are lucky that it is available to us; for if the US or British governments realistically considered environmental problems as a threat to human welfare and international security, then it is likely that this would be a classified document. So the books editors seem to have a second source of motivation: to rectify the lack of interest in biodiversity that characterizes many of the world’s governments. In this the book also achieves a high degree of success by assembling a mass of evidence about biodiversity and its role in maintaining the health of the planet. However, Bworry that elegantly explaining the multitude of problems that are likely to arise if the present loss of biodiversity continues will b;: insufficient to persuade governments to change their policies. Instead ecologists, conservation biologists, and environmental policy analysts need to go on the offensh e and attack other governnt patment policies that terns of short-ter nomic planning. In part ant to directly compare environmental problems with the peculiar fascination of the dominant econotnic countries with maintaining safe access to the world’s oil supplies and ensuring a healthy market for arms sates. These issues continue to dominate the foreign policy of many countrtes and tend to keep environmental issues stewing on thetr governments’ back-burners. Unfortunately, as this volume shows, short-term militaryjingoistic, vote-ca easy solution to the

e~v~ronmentai change and more traditional and readily focused threats a little further,

before considering the book in more detail. A few months ago the US fired around 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles at key militaly installations in southern Iraq. At around a million dollars per missile, that weighs in at around 40 million doilars. or an amount roughly equivalent to one-third of the total annual cost to the UStax payer of funding the Endangered Species Act. This four months of spending to maintain biodiversity is the equivalent to around an hour’s spending in a normal Pentagon X-hour period. Does Iraq present a thousand-fold greater threat to the long-term health of the USA’s citizens and its economy than a healthy environment? It’s not an easy calculation, as we’re cornparing different ethical currencies, but if we were to translate some aspect of these currencies into electoral votes, or lives lost. then I can’t help thinking that this difference in funding rates shows a tragic disparity in the government’s, and the public’s, perception of the factors that pose a long-term threat to security, peace and human health. We can extend this comparison between military success and environmental success one stage further and compare the areas of land captured, defended and protected for the future by these two potential cornpetitors for government funds. A variety of sources in the Global Biodiversity Assessment suggest we have set asfde nearly 10000 protected areas as National Parks; most of these Y48mi e been identified and set asid 30 years. This is area of the Indian roughly equi subcontinent. I can think of no military operation over the same historical time period that has been as successfui ir?ensuring longterm peace, or in aiding t democracy. For example, if we examine the US military record over a similar period, we can plot a simple graph of the sue attempts to restore, or maintain against the size of the count action took place (Haiti, Kuwait, Panama, Lebanon, Iraq, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia). If we score 1for success, 6 for a loss and 0.5 for no clear resuit, i! simple logistic regression suggests that the Pentagon has less than a 50% chance of restoring or rnaint~n~~g democracy in a country much bigger than Panama. All this suggests that we are not ounts of only spending disproportionate money on military attempts to maintain global stability, but that ?his money is not spent particularty effecrively. If any USsports team bad a less than 5JX chance of beating Somalia, Vietnam 01’ Lebanon, someone would certainly take ;: very bard ‘tookat the coachirag staff and the training methods. ~~rt~~er~ore, B’m sute we’d find a si disparity in rates of military an mental spending if we examined the UK,and a whole variety of other countries. Global Biodiversity Assessment makes very clear just how short-sighted this lack of

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concern for the e~v~ro~me~t rnav be for the long-term health of the planet. U*~~ort~~ate~y, the education syllabuses of most countries underemphasize the role that the environment has @ifed in human history and in st~rn~~at~~g and constraining human innovation. Consequently, the v&t majority of people, as weEi as most politicians and economists, underestimate our dependence upon other species. This book clearly shows that the vast majority of people are entirely dependent upon natural resources for underpriced but irreplaceable commodities, such as breathable air, drinkable water, functional decomposers and soil in which to grow food crops. I think it is likely that the future of democracy, and much of the rest of history, will depend on how we manage ,and distribute access to these natural commodities. At present we have completed expioring the Earth’s surface for readily accessible and easily removed commodities and are exploiting these at rates t&at far exceed their replacement rates. Access to these resources is inequitable and is likely to become increasingly so. Biological exploration has proceeded in two other directions: on the microscopic front we have a comprehensive understanding at the molecular level of the key life-processes of a handful of organisms; although a significant proportion of this f~octiona~ understanding will extend to ail species, we do not know, to within a range of S-30 million, how many other species currently exist on the planet. ~~fo~~~ate~y, extrapolation from the few well-understood species to the many unstudied species provides an incomplete picture of how in&actions between species determine the efficient and continuing function of the ecosystems that provide the planet’s life support services. This book vides an excellent introduction to the entific complexities of addressing this key problem in planet management. It also describes Row the world’s economy ignores, or completely undervalues, these services. Furthermore, it subtly, but forcefully, makes the point that ecology and conservation deal with more complex scientific and ethical problems than occur in the more mundane, but much vaunted, rocket sciences. The book also provides sensible suggestions on how to modify environmental and economic policies so as to help rrducc act of humans on the environment. These crucial messages are delivered in measured and balanced academic tones. U~for~~~ate~y,this means that the hook fails to drive home the point that if we continue to ignore the current assault and pillage on the planet’s life s~qq~ort system then it is likely that we will have to rely on overexpensive, and woe‘urly inefficient military means of ~aintai~in~~ an increasingly inequitable access to the vitai rcsource~ that sustain life on Earth. I worry that althW$

Copyright 0 1997. Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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i o~t~of-fate view (for example, Voge!el’s menj tion 06 insect ‘red-b~~nd~ess’5)~and that I there is no real rceatment of polll~ato~ be1 havior or cognitive ecology6 in a book that and J.G. K$reuterJ. Lloyd and Barrett’s book the response of many western politicians to was conceived at a 1993symposium honor- / deals with pollination. Perhaps the book’s the useful and readily accessible executive ing Sprengel, and it puts history up front ~ title is the theme. But even if ‘floral biology’ summary will be that Ihe environmental boffins are doing an irnb,Mant job, collating with the first English translation of the intro- ~ is construed as ‘floral ecology’, the field surely is much larger than represented here, duction to Sprengel’s 1793book (previously iots of interesting info: mation, but loss of inaccessible to most bjr being aufDeuM in including (among others) ‘postpottination’ biodiversity is not going to be a problem Gothic script), Sprengel recognized flower stages of reproduction, community ecology, that affects the next election. Let’s give them enough funds to keep them busy and save color patterns and shape as signals to PO!- ; aspects oi floral development, applied top its such as conse~ation, and angiosperm and nectar as reward; discussed the big bucks for the missile chaps - after haters, all, they put us &to space (no natural re- ten~porai and spatial presentation of sex 1 speciation (aaother area foreshadowed by organs in flowers: and understood polli- ! ~~~~e~~er - he studied hybr~dlzatio~ and sources there!) and p~o~7idedus with the Cruise and Patriot mis::rie systems (whl~h nation as a dint-animal mutuallsm. Readers I outbreeding depresslon in the form of hyof German may know K&-cuter’s similarly 1 brid barriers). cost lots, sell for a lot, but aren’t particularly This book lacks a unifying theme comimpressive legacy - antecedants to studies I effective). IYeveutheless, for t!ie practicing ecolo- of pollen presentation, hand-pollination 1 parable to those embodied in previous volgist or conservation biologist, the book is and pollinator exclusion from flowers and, j umeson similar topics7J. It is a relatively init seems, excellent value; a19the examples you would above all, an experimental approach to what / bred offering, largely conditioned, expect to find are here, together with useful Kijlreuter also recognized as mutualism, ~ by academic and intellectual kinship with the editors. Some chapters are excellent collations of information on a range of en- and termed ‘secrets of nature’, anticipating but few are truly synthetic, and most could vironmental issues and well-written introduc- Sprengel’s title by 32 years. K~lr~~te~~s con~~ibuti~~s are played j equally well have appeared in the primal tions to areas of policy and economics we all re. Most of t&e ‘model systems’ disneed to be more familiar with. So buy two down in an otherwise fine c in the second half of the book are aoatyzi~~ ~pre~~e~s legacy. This reveals a copies and donate one to your locai school or danger - b~otog~stsare not tral~ed in his- 1 more cor~ect1~ atypical systems’. On the public tibrary, or mall one to a library In one torical re~onstru~~~on, and may all too eas- 1 other hand, the book does Isolde an entry of the countries whose people will feel the impacts of envf~~~n~ental change. Maybe, ily devise histories that are ioa~~urate or 1 into plant reproductive ecology and floras self-sewing. Harder and Barrett, for exam- ’ ad~~ta~~o~in compact, readable form. The even, buy three copies and throw one at ple, claim that studies of p.rllination and 1 chapters end tip stimulating us with a conyour local politician. Unfortunately, thesituation is sufficiently dire that just sitting and plant mating systems were largely separate trast of themes and philosophies, such as writing, or reading, books, will be insuffi- until a recent fusion, represented in this optimism versus pessimism toward the task cient to generate the political change necessbook, which in Lloyd’s and Barrett’s words of ~nd~~$ta~d~ng adaptation, an emphasis ary to mobilize the forces that we require to is ‘rejuvenating the . . discipline of tloral on the mean versus the variance in ecologisave the planet. Ecologists and conservation biology’. But truth be told, the fusion has cal studies. and comparative versus experlbiologists need to be more energetic and been 0~~~~~~~~ steadily over the past several mental approaches. As a ~o~se~ue~ce, a politically imaginative in ill~~stratl~g that decades, for c~~~~~~ein the hands of work- reader ~~i~kfy gets the flavor of the d~amic their l)roblems are the wu~l~l~sprobtems, ers studying links a~~~~~!]~ ~~~~~~~~a~o~ ~(~~a~i~l~ ~e~~sl~~~ vitality and, above all, ~~urallty that We now have to lobby aggressively, ~~~tt~ly bebav~o~~~~0~~~~1 t~a~~s~e~ ~~ecba~~cs,and the have make ~~J~ii~a~~O~ ~~01~~ and plant and effe~tlvely to reduce funds for thy dead- spatial dist~ibut~oo of genes and gerioty~~es ~ep~oductlve ecology e~~~tj~g dlsc~p~~~~s beat mitita~y,and increase ful~dsfor environs- in plant po~?~latiQ~~s. blander anld for decades-and c#nti~ue to do so. mental protection and education. own chapter does tackle some interesting aspects of the fusion, but within a smaller pal: of the territory where ‘mating system’ is nlverslty of California, simplified to ‘selflng versus outcrossing’ (a Riverside, CA 92521, USA PrincetonUniversity, Princeton, standard, but limiting, practice in botanys). NJ 08544-1003, USA In turn, the rejuvenation of floral ecology is Jackson, J.B.S.(1981) Am. 2001.21~ 889-901 already at letist two decades old, and follows KBlrcuter. J.G.(1761) Vorliiufi~eNachricht VOD the ~ec~g~~tl~~~ that mrpn~jgeneralquestions einigen dus ~eschlecht der /Tanzen of ecol-3, uaJ, 01 c solution and bebav~or, includb~~ef~eadei~ i’e~ac~~en ond Beobachtungen. ing mo~y ~~~~ts of fusion, are prof~tabfy ~~editsc~isehe~ ~~~~~~n~ ~ddresaed with flower-polf~nator systems. Waser,NM.(1993)in The ~atura~ History The ‘new’fusion of poll~oat~ooand mating o~fnbreedia~ and Out6re~di~, Systems also is t~n~~eted in preface and ~~eoretical and ~rnpj~~ai Approaches Taoekjacket as a reifying theme for the vol(Thornhill, N.W..ed.). pp. 1-13, oune. EUtonly a few chapters address this isUniversity of ChicagoPress sue directly, iandthen not comprehensively. Papa], D.R.and Lewis,A.C. (1993) Irrscrl Learning, Ctqwnan 9: Hall What then unifies the book? Perhaps it is Chiltka, L. and Waser,NM. Imel J R. Sci. Sprengel’s legacy. Not so! The topics cov(in press) eied go well beyond that, and many themes Chapman and Hall, 1996. D&Is, R. Cogaifive Ecology. University of raised by Sprenget are not represented. An f59.00 hbk (xiv + 410 pages) iiucagn Pm5 (in press) excellent example is visuai behavior of inBSBN0 412 043416 Real, LA. ( 1983) Po~tiaat~on Bio/ogy, Academic sects. RWeM progress in this area shows Press By SS~e~tifi~discipline has a history that insects are far less constrained than w~ch, if appreciated, militates against prev~ousiy thoughts. It is too bad that SO the ‘arrogance of the ?rese~t‘~ that ~ta~~ls bath of what IS said in this book reflects an

irea copy(or three} o need to read it will simply not have time to do so. Moreover.

~0ve~ty where none exists. ~l0~a~ ~~0~0~ iS a perfect example. its roots fu0 twu centuries deep to the ~utu~~hilo~ophen C.K. Sprengel

~~~yri~i~t0 1997, ElsevierScience Ltd. Ml rightsreserved. 01~9-534~/9?/$17.00