Biological diversity, ecosystem stability and economic development

  • Smith F
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Abstract

It is clear from the scale of anthropogenic resource use that economic systems should be brought within biophysical limits as soon as possible. One might assume that this task is difficult because it would involve identifying these limits, knowing when and where they are breached, and allocating responsibility. However, an intimate understanding of the natural limits to economic development may not be necessary for achieving a biophysically sustainable economy. Certain measurable features of the natural world are intimately connected with overall biophysical integrity, one such feature being biological diversity, A growing body of ecological research gives compelling evidence that biodiversity confers stability on ecosystems by buffering them against natural and artificial perturbations, and that it increases system productivity. It is well known that the stability and productivity of ecosystems are fundamental components of the earth's biophysical integrity. Therefore, biodiversity should act as a measure of biophysical integrity and biodiversity conservation might provide a viable framework for policies that drive economic activity towards overall biophysical sustainability. Economic instruments to implement a biodiversity constraint would penalise economic activities that directly or indirectly cause biodiversity loss and favour those that conserve it, A biodiversity constraint would, of course, require new legal and institutional underpinnings. What makes a biodiversity constraint doubly attractive is that it would also conserve the potentially large economic use and option values of biodiversity itself, thus removing the need for separate measures for its conservation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • biodiversity
  • communities
  • complexity
  • dynamics
  • ecology
  • extinction
  • futures
  • models
  • population
  • stability
  • sustainability

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  • F Smith

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