Ecology and bioprospecting

Andrew J. Beattie*, Mark Hay, Bill Magnusson, Rocky de Nys, James Smeathers, Julian F V Vincent

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)341-356
    Number of pages16
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Volume36
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011

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