La biodiversité : au pays des aveugles le borgne est roi


fr Comptes Rendus Palevol 10 (5-6) - Pages 331-334

Published on 30 September 2011

This article is a part of the thematic issue Perspectives on vertebrate evolution: Topics and problems

One-eyed biodiversity

Our media and policies for environment protection and sustainable development see “Biodiversity” only through what species do (their ecological roles, the “services” they can perform) and forget what species have. However the value we confer to a species cannot be ecologically based only. Rare organs, rare structures, rare character mosaics are valuable as unique products of a historical process even if the species exhibiting them are negligible in terms of ecosystem dynamics. Coelacanths, the platypus, can perfectly disappear from the surface of the planet without any significant ecological impact. The “ecological order” does not reflect the historical order. Systematics is the science of classification whose role is to exhibit this historical order in distribution of attributes among species through phylogenies, and then through classifications. Systematics is forgotten in almost all documents written by scientists to advice politicians on the best way to save biodiversity. Without systematics, we lose the historical dimension of what exists, and we simply lose the knowledge of what is what we are facing.


Systematics, Taxonomy, Ecology, Policy, Biodiversity

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