Ecology and bioprospecting
Article first published online: 19 AUG 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Ecological Society of Australia
Volume 36, Issue 3, pages 341–356, May 2011
How to Cite
BEATTIE, A. J., HAY, M., MAGNUSSON, B., de NYS, R., SMEATHERS, J. and VINCENT, J. F. V. (2011), Ecology and bioprospecting. Austral Ecology, 36: 341–356. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-9993.2010.02170.x
- Issue published online: 27 APR 2011
- Article first published online: 19 AUG 2010
- Accepted for publication June 2010.
- intellectual property;
Bioprospecting is the exploration of biodiversity for new resources of social and commercial value. It is carried out by a wide range of established industries such as pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and agriculture as well as a wide range of comparatively new ones such as aquaculture, bioremediation, biomining, biomimetic engineering and nanotechnology. The benefits of bioprospecting have emerged from such a wide range of organisms and environments worldwide that it is not possible to predict what species or habitats will be critical to society, or industry, in the future. The benefits include an unexpected variety of products that include chemicals, genes, metabolic pathways, structures, materials and behaviours. These may provide physical blueprints or inspiration for new designs. Criticism aimed at bioprospecting has been addressed, in part, by international treaties and legal agreements aimed at stopping biopiracy and many activities are now funded by agencies that require capacity-building and economic benefits in host countries. Thus, much contemporary bioprospecting has multiple goals, including the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable management of natural resources and economic development. Ecologists are involved in three vital ways: first, applying ecological principles to the discovery of new resources. In this context, natural history becomes a vast economic database. Second, carrying out field studies, most of them demographic, to help regulate the harvest of wild species. Third, emphasizing the profound importance of millions of mostly microscopic species to the global economy.