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Causes, consequences and ethics of biodiversity


The existence of so great a diversity of species on Earth remainsa mystery, the solution to which may also explain why and how biodiversityinfluences the functioning of ecosystems. The answer may lie in quantifyingthe trade-offs that organisms face in dealing with the constraints of theirenvironment. Societal responses to the loss of biodiversity also involve trade-offs,and the elaboration of these will be essential in developing wiser environmentalethics and policy.

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Figure 1: Biodiversity experiments, such as this one in Minnesota6or the other experiments reviewed by Chapin et al. (pages 234–242) and by Purvis and Hector (pages 212–219), have shownthat a greater number of plant species leads to greater community productivity.
Figure 2: Niche differentiation and productivity.

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Tilman, D. Causes, consequences and ethics of biodiversity. Nature 405, 208–211 (2000).

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