University of California

Biodiversity is critical to future health of California's ecology and economy


Barbara Allen-Diaz

Author Affiliations

B. Allen-Diaz is Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 54(2):26-34. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n02p26. March 2000.

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Each individual organism plays a role in the birth-to-death cycle of this planet. Ecologists often refer to the web of life, describing the interconnectedness of all organisms and environments. Of California's more than 4,800 native plant species, 29% are only found here. Each species is the repository of an immense amount of genetic information. Organisms provide direct economic value to humans in the form of marketable products such as food and medicine, as well as services like recreation, beauty and clean water. But civilization has been altering the Earth's environment and the composition of its species, and consuming resources at rates faster than during any known era in history. At the same time, we are poorly equipped to evaluate the environmental and economic trade-offs between species as traditional commodities, as providers of ecosystem services and as players with largely unknown roles in life on Earth. New institutional frameworks and incentives must be developed in the 21st century for making informed and wise choices about the environment. Such decision-making frameworks should ensure the protection of fundamental sources of food, clean water and habitat that are Earth's life-support system.


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Allen-Diaz B. 2000. Biodiversity is critical to future health of California's ecology and economy. Hilgardia 54(2):26-34. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n02p26
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