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1 September 2012 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Similar but Different
Daniel P. Faith
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In their May Forum piece, Reyers and colleagues (2012) argued that narrow interpretations of biodiversity and ecosystem services have obscured common ground between the two. I am concerned that their narrow interpretation of biodiversity values as largely intrinsic has done the same thing. Although Reyers and colleagues acknowledged that biodiversity conservation occurs for lots of reasons, they claimed that it is often associated with a biocentric, intrinsic-value perspective and that “the concept of biodiversity emerges from an intrinsic context” (p. 503). However, the case for biodiversity conservation equally has its roots in anthropogenic values. For example, the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980), written back when biodiversity was still diversity, strongly promoted conservation to ensure benefits for future generations. It called for conservation of diversity for present and future use. Similarly, McNeely (1988) highlighted the need for a “safety net of diversity.” McNeely (1988) linked such anthropocentric values to option values, reflecting the value of biodiversity in providing uses, often unanticipated, for future generations (for a review, see Faith 2007).

This broader perspective, based on anthropogenic use values, sheds light on Reyers and colleagues' examples. These examples seem to have focused narrowly on intrinsic, nonanthropogenic, biodiversity values. In their win—neutral example, biodiversity conservation action supposedly has “no apparent human benefit” (p. 506), because no ecosystem services gains are apparent. In their win—lose example, fencing off protected areas, excluding hunting and other current human uses, supposedly makes biodiversity conservation hard to justify because it “will run counter to… human well-being” (p. 506). A narrow intrinsic-values perspective might justify these conclusions, but the broader perspective properly recognizes biodiversity conservation as also offering human-use benefits; it's just that these values may be more about option values and future generations than about the current benefits from those recognized ecosystem services.

Biodiversity and ecosystem services share common ground based on anthropogenic use values but may differ in how well they capture current and future uses. They are similar but different. Sustainability depends on finding synergies or efficient trade-offs among the many different needs of society, and a major challenge will be ensuring human well-being for both current and future generations.

References cited


DP Faith . 2007. Biodiversity. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2008 ed. Stanford University. (29 June 2012; Scholar


[IUCN] International Union for Conservation of Nature. 1980. World Conservation Strategy: Living Resource Conservation for Sustainable Development. IUCN. Google Scholar


JA McNeely . 1988. Economics and Biological Diversity: Developing and Using Economic Incentives to Conserve Biological Resources. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Google Scholar


B Reyers , S Polasky , H Tallis , HA Mooney , A Larigauderie . 2012. Finding common ground for biodiversity and ecosystem services. BioScience 62: 503–507. Google Scholar
Daniel P. Faith "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Similar but Different," BioScience 62(9), 785, (1 September 2012).
Published: 1 September 2012
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