07 March 2009

On the discovery of new species

The discovery of a new mammal species fills us with joy and positive thoughts and we’re curious to see the new ‘arrival’, but most of the time we don’t really think about what this new discovery is teaching us.

In a recent paper, Paul Ehrlich and Gerardo Ceballos, two biologists from Stanford University and Mexico’s National University, respectively, say the assumption that ‘nearly all mammal species are known to science’ is incorrect. They argue that global animal and plant species diversity is badly underestimated, even within well-studied taxa.

"What this paper really talks about is how little we actually know about our natural capital and how little we know about the services that flow from it," said Ehrlich, adding that the diminishment of biodiversity can have very significant impacts on mankind.

"The economy of nature is what allows us to have a human economy. If we let the infrastructure of nature go down the drain, then we just can't make up for it with human infrastructure... It just can't be done."

Watch the interview at: http://news-service.stanford.edu

Silvia Bonizzoni

For more information:
Ceballos G. & Ehrlich P.R. 2009. Discoveries of new mammal species and their implications for conservation and ecosystem services. PNAS: 0812419106v1-pnas.0812419106. (Abstract only)


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