Publication Abstracts

Hillel and Rosenzweig 2005

Hillel, D., and C. Rosenzweig, 2005: The role of biodiversity in agronomy. Adv. Agron., 88, 1-34, doi:10.1016/S0065-2113(05)88001-0.

Human beings, originally children of nature representing one species among the many sharing a small portion of the terrestrial environment, have gradually increased in numbers and expanded the extent and range of their activity, eventually gaining dominance over, and dramatically modifying, often for food production, entire terrestrial and even marine biomes throught the world. Consequently, numerous other species have been deprived of their natural habitats, endangered or even eradicated. Recent calculations suggest that rates of species extinctions are now on the order of 100 to 1000 times those before humans dominated the Earth. For some well-documented groups, extinctions are even greater. Over the past two thousand years, humans have driven to extinction as many as one-quarter of Earth's bird species (Steadman, 1995). Unless checked, the continued increase of human population and the intensified manipulation of the environment for short-term advantage threaten to turn human success into eventual failure. Having tampered with nature in hopes of gaining control over it, humans are actually more dependent than ever on its complex workings, in which the diversity and intrinsic mutuality of all life forms are essential factors.

A crucial imperative is to ensure the adequate production and supply of food for a growing population in a world in which biotic, terrestrial, and aquatic resources have already been seriously degraded or depleted. Despite the lower fertility levels projected and the increased mortality risks to which some populations are being subjected, the population of the world is expected to increase by some 3 billion in the coming decades, from the current 6.3 billion to a total of some 9 billion before it stabilizes (United Nations Population Division, 2003). The yearly addition of an estimated 70-80 million people will impose greater demands for food, housing, health, education, political organization, public order, and employment. The world's average population density of 45 people/km2 is projected to rise to 66 people/km2 by 2050. Since only about 10% of land is arable, population densities per unit of arable land are roughly 10 times higher (Cohen, 2003). Given the poverty and famine that prevail in several regions, and the foreseen changes of the earth's climate (which is inherently unstable in any case), it is an open question whether, and how, humanity can provide for itself while avoiding irreversible damage to natural ecosystems and their biodiversity. Increasing awareness of the issue and the development of modern methods of conservation management offer hope for some progress in this difficult task. Utilizing the promise inherent in such methods must, however, be constrained by an understanding of the potential problems and hazards they pose (Hillel et al., 2003).

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BibTeX Citation

  author={Hillel, D. and Rosenzweig, C.},
  title={The role of biodiversity in agronomy},
  journal={Adv. Agron.},

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RIS Citation

ID  - hi03100m
AU  - Hillel, D.
AU  - Rosenzweig, C.
PY  - 2005
TI  - The role of biodiversity in agronomy
JA  - Adv. Agron.
VL  - 88
SP  - 1
EP  - 34
DO  - 10.1016/S0065-2113(05)88001-0
ER  -

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