The Web of Life

Why is biodiversity important to us?

Cristián Samper National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution Trinidad & Tobago, July 2007

C. Clark

C. Ziegler

L. Mazariegos

B. Lim

C. Castano

Changes since 1960
• • • • • Population increased from 3 to 6 billion Economy increased 6 fold Food production increased by 2.5 x Demand for water has doubled Amount of water impounded by dams quadrupled • Flows of phosphorous tripled
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

Some achievements…
• Documented 1.8 million species • 11% of world’s terrestrial ecosystems are protected • Advances in human health • Advances in agricultural productivity • Increased awareness among people • Stronger multilateral agreements

But the fact is…
• Biodiversity is still declining • Many people are still living in poverty • Inequities in distribution

Many of the richest countries in biodiversity are among the least developed

Much of the capacity and information is in a few countries, most biodiversity is in other countries

How can we bring the best science to inform policy and benefit society?

Biodiversity science : how much do we know?

Biodiversity Sciences
• • • • • • • What is this species? (Taxonomy) How are species related? (Phylogenetics) Where are they found? (Biogeography) How do species interact? (Ecology) How did they come to be? (Evolution, Paleo) How are they used by people? (Ethnobiology) What is the impact of people? (Conservation biology)

M. Vecchione (NOAA)

AE Arnold


P. Hebert

The cotton in your shirt came from here You are here

The E.coli in your gut is here The fungus on your foot is here

C. Ziegler

WAB M5.5 Flowering plant family density

WAB M5.6 Terrestrial vertebrate family density

WAB M7.1 Freshwater fish family density

Biodiversity Conservation

Human Population Density

Cultivated Systems

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

Use of Net primary Productivity

Expansion of marine fisheries

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

Terrestrial Biomes


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

P. Salaman

Threatened Species
Described Evaluated Threatened % Mammals Birds Amphibians Reptiles Fishes Invertebrates Plants TOTAL 5416 9917 5743 8163 28500 1190200 287655 1545594 4853 9917 5743 499 1721 3487 11824 38046 1101 1213 1856 304 800 1992 8321 15589 23 12 32 61 46 57 70 41

IUCN Global Species Assessment (2004)

Extinct Species (2004)
Extinct Ex Wild TOTAL

Mammals Birds Reptiles Amphibians Fishes Invertebrates Plants Protists

73 129 21 34 81 359 86 1 784

4 4 1 1 12 14 24 0 60

77 133 22 35 93 373 110 1 844


IUCN Global Species Assessment (2004)

Geography of Extinction

IUCN Global Species Assessment (2004)

Changes in threat processes for Birds

IUCN Global Species Assessment (2004)

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

Museum specimens, Ancient DNA

DNA was amplified from specimens collected > 100 years ago

Bone fragments were removed from the nasal cavities of 96 black-footed ferret skulls

Variation in DNA between individuals and populations was used to make inferences about historical patterns of colonization, migration, and population decline.


Genetic diversity

2 1.5 1 0.5 0

Year N



1982 1986





Protected areas

Science for conservation
• • • • • • • Taxonomy/systematics Natural history/ reproductive biology Protected areas/ landscape ecology Invasive species Climate change Sustainable use Social and economic sciences

Biodiversity and Human Well-being

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
Global Regional Local
Health and disease Environmental Security Cultural Security Economic Security Equity

Human Wellbeing & Poverty Reduction

Demographic Change Economic Change (incl globalization, trade, market, & policy framework) Social and Political Change (incl governance, institutional, & legal framework) Technological change Lifestyle and Behavioral change

Primary Drivers

Life on Earth

Supporting (Biodiversity and ecosystem processes) Provisioning (Food, water, fiber, fuel, other biological products) Cultural (Cultural, aesthetic)

Ecosystems & their Services

Life on Earth

Climate Change Land and Water Use & Cover Change Factor inputs (e.g., irrigation, fertilizers) Pollution Harvest Nutrient Release Species Introductions

Proximate Drivers

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

Food supply and demand

Water availability Water use and nutrient loss

Freshwater supply and demand

issi ons

Hyd tem rologi c per atu CO re c 2 and han ges



dt ran

N2 0

sfo r

N, C

H4 ,

ma tio

Erosion and water flow

Habi tat lo ss

ng e

Climate change

n atio ipit c Pre

em &t

t ur e er a p

Forest product supply and demand
ita Hab

lbe do

Biodiversity loss
Ayensu et al. 1999. Science 286:685-686.


Ch Ha an ge bit at in ch tra an ns ge pir ati on

du ced


Lo ss

an df of ragm ha bita enta tio t


ilie nce


ch a

Loss of cr e op g netic

t loss

sity diver

Response options
• • • • • Institutional Economic Social and behavioral Technological Knowledge

Future Scenarios

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

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