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Approaches to defining a planetary boundary for biodiversity

Approaches to defining a planetary boundary for biodiversity
Approaches to defining a planetary boundary for biodiversity
The idea that there is an identifiable set of boundaries, beyond which anthropogenic change will put the Earth system outside a safe operating space for humanity, is attracting interest in the scientific community and gaining support in the environmental policy world. Rockstrom et al. (2009) identify nine such boundaries and highlight biodiversity loss as being the single boundary where current rates of extinction put the Earth system furthest outside the safe operating space. Here we review the evidence to support a boundary based on extinction rates and identify weaknesses with this metric and its bearing on humanity's needs. While changes to biodiversity are of undisputed importance, we show that both extinction rate and species richness are weak metrics for this purpose, and they do not scale well from local to regional or global levels. We develop alternative approaches to determine biodiversity loss boundaries and extend our analysis to consider large-scale responses in the Earth system that could affect its suitability for complex human societies which in turn are mediated by the biosphere. We suggest three facets of biodiversity on which a boundary could be based: the genetic library of life; functional type diversity; and biome condition and extent. For each of these we explore the science needed to indicate how it might be measured and how changes would affect human societies. In addition to these three facets, we show how biodiversity's role in supporting a safe operating space for humanity may lie primarily in its interactions with other boundaries, suggesting an immediate area of focus for scientists and policymakers.
Biodiversity, Planetary boundary, Phylogenetic diversity, Functional diversity, Biome integrity
0959-3780
289-297
Mace, Georgina M.
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Reyers, Belinda
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Alkemade, Rob
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Biggs, Reinette
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Chapin, F. Stuart
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Cornell, Sarah E.
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Díaz, Sandra
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Jennings, Simon
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Leadley, Paul
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Mumby, Peter J.
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Purvis, Andy
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Scholes, Robert J.
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Seddon, Alistair W.R.
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Solan, Martin
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Steffen, Will
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Woodward, Guy
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Mace, Georgina M.
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Reyers, Belinda
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Alkemade, Rob
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Biggs, Reinette
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Chapin, F. Stuart
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Cornell, Sarah E.
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Díaz, Sandra
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Jennings, Simon
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Leadley, Paul
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Mumby, Peter J.
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Purvis, Andy
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Scholes, Robert J.
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Seddon, Alistair W.R.
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Solan, Martin
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Steffen, Will
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Woodward, Guy
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Mace, Georgina M., Reyers, Belinda, Alkemade, Rob, Biggs, Reinette, Chapin, F. Stuart, Cornell, Sarah E., Díaz, Sandra, Jennings, Simon, Leadley, Paul, Mumby, Peter J., Purvis, Andy, Scholes, Robert J., Seddon, Alistair W.R., Solan, Martin, Steffen, Will and Woodward, Guy (2014) Approaches to defining a planetary boundary for biodiversity. Global Environmental Change, 28, 289-297. (doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.07.009).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The idea that there is an identifiable set of boundaries, beyond which anthropogenic change will put the Earth system outside a safe operating space for humanity, is attracting interest in the scientific community and gaining support in the environmental policy world. Rockstrom et al. (2009) identify nine such boundaries and highlight biodiversity loss as being the single boundary where current rates of extinction put the Earth system furthest outside the safe operating space. Here we review the evidence to support a boundary based on extinction rates and identify weaknesses with this metric and its bearing on humanity's needs. While changes to biodiversity are of undisputed importance, we show that both extinction rate and species richness are weak metrics for this purpose, and they do not scale well from local to regional or global levels. We develop alternative approaches to determine biodiversity loss boundaries and extend our analysis to consider large-scale responses in the Earth system that could affect its suitability for complex human societies which in turn are mediated by the biosphere. We suggest three facets of biodiversity on which a boundary could be based: the genetic library of life; functional type diversity; and biome condition and extent. For each of these we explore the science needed to indicate how it might be measured and how changes would affect human societies. In addition to these three facets, we show how biodiversity's role in supporting a safe operating space for humanity may lie primarily in its interactions with other boundaries, suggesting an immediate area of focus for scientists and policymakers.

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Accepted/In Press date: 26 July 2014
e-pub ahead of print date: 27 August 2014
Published date: September 2014
Keywords: Biodiversity, Planetary boundary, Phylogenetic diversity, Functional diversity, Biome integrity
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 372418
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/372418
ISSN: 0959-3780
PURE UUID: 1e9c7295-5756-4ef6-938d-8ef3801798f7
ORCID for Martin Solan: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9924-5574

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Date deposited: 03 Dec 2014 13:14
Last modified: 03 Dec 2019 01:43

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Contributors

Author: Georgina M. Mace
Author: Belinda Reyers
Author: Rob Alkemade
Author: Reinette Biggs
Author: F. Stuart Chapin
Author: Sarah E. Cornell
Author: Sandra Díaz
Author: Simon Jennings
Author: Paul Leadley
Author: Peter J. Mumby
Author: Andy Purvis
Author: Robert J. Scholes
Author: Alistair W.R. Seddon
Author: Martin Solan ORCID iD
Author: Will Steffen
Author: Guy Woodward

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