Background

Here we summarize the contents of this book as well as the results of the overall SCOPE Ecosystem Functioning of Biodiversity Program and the Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA) (UNEP 1995). This book gives in-depth syntheses of the ecosystem functioning of biodiversity for a number of the worlds' major biomes. A number of biomes (tropical. Orians et al. 1996; savannas, Solbrig et al. 1996; Mediterranean, Davis and Richardson 1995; arctic and alpine, Chapin and Körner 1995; those found on islands, Vitousek et al. 1995) are covered in even greater detail in the specific volumes cited above. The GBA, in contrast, treats these same ecosystems, plus a few others, in a highly condensed form that facilitates cross-biome comparisons.

We start this chapter with the summary statements of the overall program that are taken directly from the GBA Sections 5 and 6. Documentation for these conclusions are contained in the GBA volume. These summaries noted that understanding the role of elements of biodiversity in the functioning of ecosystems is a relatively new research endeavor that addresses the structural and functional properties of ecosystems, and the degree of sensitivity of these properties to changes in the underlying diversity. Understanding the functional role of biodiversity has crucial implications for the management of the Earth System. Valuable scientific principles and guidelines for making ecosystem management decisions are beginning to emerge in spite of the field's youth and the relatively small number of experimental studies from which it draws. These emerging principles are embodied in a series of statements that deal with the importance of diversity at different levels of integration.

Functional Rotes of Biodiversity: A Global Perspective Edited by H.A. Mooney, J.H. Cushman. F.. Medina, O.R. Saia and E.-D. Schulze (ijU © 1996 SCOPE Published in 1996 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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