Nature Blog Network Future Earth: Biodiversity - what's in a name?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Biodiversity - what's in a name?

It seems so obvious to me. Diversity is good - healthier, stronger, allowing for rapid adaptation to new environments in an endlessly changing world. And the word 'diversity' is well understood, right? Certainly understood in relation to diversity amongst people - different cultures, genders, orientations and nationalities. It even has its own school of "diversity management" aimed at encouraging business and educational structures to retain a healthy diversity of skills and talents. Google the word and you will find it is the name of the dance troupe winning "Britain's Got Talent" this year, so the word has even percolated into the clubs and pubs of every corner of this small island. Britain gets Diversity.

So what happens when you add a descriptor - genetic diversity, cultural diversity - still understood. So what is the problem with biological diversity, or its shortened form of biodiversity? Nothing, according to the local team working to protect Aceh's forest biodiversity - even though it is a little bit difficult to translate (Keanekaragaman hayati or biodiversitas?). Nothing, according to groups like Local Action for Biodiversity, or the children celebrating International Biodiversity Day this year. It even has its own Convention. But apparently the word has a low recognition factor in the UK and we are being encouraged to use "Nature" instead. Naturally, if this will help reverse the dramatic decline in global biodiversity - which, according to a recent letter to the journal Nature *, we are not doing too well - this blog will change its nature and lexicon.

*(Published online 8 July 2009 | Nature 460, 163 (2009) | doi:10.1038/460163c)Governments fail to reduce global biodiversity decline)

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