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From the foreword:
"The word biodiversity, an abbreviation of biological diversity, emerged first as a purely scientific term in the late 1980s, but became the key term of an international environmental law signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
Biodiversity, defined as “the variety of life on earth, including all genes, species and ecosystems and the ecological processes of which they are part“ has continued to grow as and has become one of the key buzzwords of the 1990s, even making the front cover of National Geographic in February 1999.
But the definition creates a problem for students of biodiversity. How does one become an expert on an estimated 5-10 million species, each comprising diverse populations of maybe billions of individuals, each containing up to 50,000 genes and interacting in ecological communities of maybe 10,000 species per hectare, some of which have persisted for thousands of years and some of which are newly created and rapidly evolving? Anyone claiming to be a biodiversity expert is in danger of being a “jack of all trades, master of none”
To study something as broad as biodiversity, it is important to have some kind of “mental map” or framework, within which to position or file so much information. There is no single prescription for such a mental map – each of us has to develop our own, specifically suited to our own particular predilections within the totality of biodiversity. No one sees the world, or biodiversity in the same way. For example, to an elephant biologist, dung may be a waste product, or perhaps the only practical way to estimate forest elephant populations. To an insect ecologist, dung is the habitat for a myriad of dung beetles and other insects. To a natural resource manager, the same dung may be a source of sustainable revenue as fertilizer or even for paper-making.
A primer on biodiversity is therefore an important, and useful, entry point in to a fascinating and endless sphere of study – but writing one is a hard challenge, requiring the author to be a total biodiversity expert, able to reduce vast amounts of information to less than 100 pages.
Dr Dan Cogãlniceanu has taken on that challenge, summarizing his own personal journey into, and through the biodiversity literature jungle, and cutting a path for the rest of us to follow."