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Biodiversity as the Source of Biological Resources: A New Look at Biodiversity Values


  • Paul M. Wood


The value of biodiversity is usually confused with the value of biological resources, both actual and potential. A sharp distinction between biological resources and biodiversity offers a clearer insight into the value of biodiversity itself and therefore the need to preserve it. Biodiversity can be defined abstractly as the differences among biological entities. Using this definition, biodiversity can be seen more appropriately as: (a) a necessary precondition for the long term maintenance of biological resources, and therefore, (b) an essential environmental condition. Three values of biodiversity are identified and arranged in a hierarchy: (1) the self-augmenting phenomenon of biodiversity maintains (2) the conditions necessary for the adaptive evolution of species and higher taxa, which in turn is necessary for providing humans with (3) a range of biological resources in the long term. Two broad policy implications emerge: increments of biodiversity should not be traded off against biological resources as if they were the same, and the conservation of biodiversity should be a constraint on the public interest, not a goal in service of the public interest.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul M. Wood, 1997. "Biodiversity as the Source of Biological Resources: A New Look at Biodiversity Values," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 6(3), pages 251-268, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev6:ev612

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Herman E. Daly, 1972. "In Defense of a Steady-State Economy," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 54(5), pages 945-954.
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:138:y:2017:i:c:p:74-81 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Viviana Asara & Emanuele Profumi & Giorgos Kallis, 2013. "Degrowth, Democracy and Autonomy," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 22(2), pages 217-239, April.
    4. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: Climate Change Policy and Theories of Social Change," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    5. Ulrich Brand, 2016. "How to Get Out of the Multiple Crisis? Contours of a Critical Theory of Social-Ecological Transformation," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(5), pages 503-525, October.
    6. Clive L. Spash, 2015. "The Future Post-Growth Society," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 46(2), pages 366-380, March.
    7. Maddison, Angus, 2007. "Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199227204.
    8. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    9. repec:env:journl:ev25:editev253 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Scott Cameron Lougheed & Myra J. Hird & Kerry R. Rowe, 2016. "Governing Household Waste Management: An Empirical Analysis and Critique," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(3), pages 287-308, June.
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    More about this item


    Biodiversity; biological diversity; biological resources; conservation policy; future generations; public interest; sustainability; tyranny of the majority;

    JEL classification:

    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation


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