nance of viable local populations of species of interest and the maintenance of biodiversity on larger scales as essential for the functioning of ecosystems.

Second, we discuss how people derive value from biodiversity and how it contributes to the well-being of society. It contributes to various kinds of services that depend on functioning ecosystems, to social and cultural values and to human industries. Chapter 3 discusses how the many dimensions of biodiversity and its components contribute to decisions on management of biodiversity. The individual components of biodiversity—genes, species, and ecosystems—provide society with a wide array of goods and services. The components of biodiversity are interconnected. For example, genetic diversity provides the basis of continuing adaptation to changing conditions, and continued crop productivity rests on the diversity in crop species and on the variety of soil invertebrates and microorganisms that maintain soil fertility. Similarly, a change in the composition and abundance of the species that make up an ecosystem can alter the services that can be obtained from the system. Biodiversity contributes to our knowledge in ways that are both informative and transformative. Knowledge about biodiversity is valuable in stimulating technological innovation and in learning about human biology and ecology. Experiencing and increasing our knowledge about biodiversity transforms our values and beliefs. A fairly large literature characterizes nonextractive ecosystem services that have direct benefits to society, such as water purification, flood control, pollination, and pest control.

Methods of analytically estimating economic and noneconomic values of biodiversity must be viewed in the broad context of people's different ways of thinking about values. In chapter 4, major Western philosophies of value are reviewed to provide a context for describing how the tools of economists can contribute to understanding how biodiversity values fit into the management of biological resources. The relevance of the different philosophies themselves to management decisions is also recognized. Generalized human responses to biodiversity can be grouped into three broad categories:

  • We might need it. In this category are the claims concerning the actual or potential usefulness of biodiversity—genetic resources for medicine, pharmacy, and agriculture; ecosystem services; and, ultimately, the continuity of life on Earth.
  • We like it. In this category are the claims that biodiversity is a direct source of pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction—its contribution to quality of life, outdoor recreation, and scenic enjoyment; to preserving a sense of place; and to preserving refuges of wildness (wildlands and wild habitats).
  • We think we ought to. In this category are the claims that people have duties to preserve and protect biodiversity—duties based on higher moral principles or on rights that are attributed to biodiversity or its living components.


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement