Prospects & Overviews
A systemic view of biodiversity and its conservation: Processes, interrelationships, and human culture
Presentation of a systemic view of biodiversity and its conservation that emphasizes complex interrelationships among subsystems and includes human culture
Article first published online: 15 OCT 2010
Copyright © 2010 WILEY Periodicals, Inc.
Volume 32, Issue 12, pages 1090–1098, December 2010
How to Cite
Sterling, E. J., Gómez, A. and Porzecanski, A. L. (2010), A systemic view of biodiversity and its conservation: Processes, interrelationships, and human culture. Bioessays, 32: 1090–1098. doi: 10.1002/bies.201000049
- Issue published online: 18 NOV 2010
- Article first published online: 15 OCT 2010
- biodiversity conservation;
- cultural diversity;
- nonlinear dynamics;
- systems thinking
Historically, views and measurements of biodiversity have had a narrow focus, for instance, characterizing the attributes of observable patterns but affording less attention to processes. Here, we explore the question: how does a systems thinking view – one where the world is seen as elements and processes that connect and interact in dynamic ways to form a whole – affect the way we understand biodiversity and practice conservation? We answer this question by illustrating the systemic properties of biodiversity at multiple levels, and show that biodiversity is a collection of dynamic systems linking seemingly disparate biological and cultural components and requiring an understanding of the system as a whole. We conclude that systems thinking calls traditional views of species, ecosystem function, and human relationships with the rest of biodiversity into question. Finally, we suggest some of the ways in which this view can impact the science and practice of conservation, particularly through affecting our conservation targets and strategies.