The value of phylogenetic diversity

Christopher Lean, James Maclaurin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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This chapter explores the idea that phylogenetic diversity plays a unique role in underpinning conservation endeavour. The conservation of biodiversity is suffering from a rapid, unguided proliferation of metrics. Confusion is caused by the wide variety of contexts in which we make use of the idea of biodiversity. Characterisations of biodiversity range from all-variety-at-all-levels down to variety with respect to single variables relevant to very specific conservation contexts. Accepting biodiversity as the sum of a large number of individual measures results in an empirically intractable framework. However, large-scale decisions cannot be based on biodiversity variables inferred from local conservation imperatives because the variables relevant to the many systems being compared would be incommensurate with one another. We therefore need some general conception of biodiversity that would make tractable such large-scale environmental decision-marking. We categorise the large array of strategies for the measurement of biodiversity into four broad groups for consideration as general measures of biodiversity. We compare common moral justifications for the conservation of biodiversity and conclude that some form of instrumental value is the most plausible justification for biodiversity conservation. Although this is often interpreted as a reliance on option value, we opt for a broadly consequentialist characterisation of biodiversity conservation. We conclude that the best justified general measure of biodiversity will be some form of phylogenetic diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiodiversity conservation and phylogenetic systematics
Subtitle of host publicationpreserving our evolutionary heritage in an extinction crisis
EditorsRoseli Pellens, Philippe Grandcolas
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783319224619
ISBN (Print)9783319224602
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameTopics in Biodiversity and Conservation
ISSN (Print)1875-1288
ISSN (Electronic)1875-1296

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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