As we destroy biological diversity, what else are we doing to the environment, what is being changed, and how will those changes affect us? One part of the answers to these questions is provided by Lawton and Brown’s consideration of redundancy (Chap. 12). Part of what the environment does for us involves “ecosystem services” — the movement of energy and nutrients through the air, water, and land, and through the food chains (Ehrlich, Foreword). Just how much biological diversity we need to keep the movement at approximately natural levels is a question of critical importance. Nonetheless, it is not a question that is commonly asked. A major synthesis of theories on the dynamics of nutrient cycling (DeAngelis 1991) devotes little space to the consequences of changes in the numbers of species per trophic level: It is the number of trophic levels that receives the attention. One might well conclude that, over broad limits, ecosystem services will continue to be provided, so long as there are some plants, some animals, some decomposers, and so on. Lawton and Brown conclude that numerous species are redundant.


Alien Species Prey Species Complex Community Community Assembly Population Variability 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1994

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  • S. L. Pimm

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