IA 401 International Perspectives

Fall, 2001

Module: Biodiversity and Sustainability


Instructor: Garrett E. Crow, Professor of Plant Biology


Assigned Readings: USDA Plant Hunters (by Kaplan)

Pollinators, Flowering Plants and Conservation (by Kearns and Inouye)


Links to Countries

Links to Biodiversity Web sites


"Every country has three forms of wealth: cultural, material and biological. The essence of the biodiversity problem is that biological wealth is seriously undervalued by most peoples and governments" (E. O. Wilson, 1992).



1. Biodiversity: survey the world's fauna and flora (major ecosystems of world)

2. Create biological wealth (ecotourism/medicinal plants etc.)

3. Promote sustainable development (corn and cows are not enough)

4. Save what remains (conservation biology)

5. Restore wildlands (restoration ecology)


Module Aims:

Develop and appreciation for biological diversity

Examine its role in the overall attempt to living in a sustainable world.



What do we mean by "biodiversity"?

Historical perspective-exploration and exploitation of earth's biodiversity

How scientists approach the classification of the earth's biodiversity

Ecological principles

The Biosphere's major ecosystems

Create biological wealth:

Ecosystems are being destroyed at a phenomenal rate to promote

"economic progress".

What is the value of our biological resources as intact ecosystems?

Botanical sources of pharmaceutical products.

Ecotourism: appreciating the native ecosystems has become an important

source of foreign revenue for many developing countries.

Promote sustainable development:

Sustainable agriculture/forestry: impact of agricultural practices in various parts of the world. Are we using ecological principles to make wise decisions? Are there consequences of planting monocultures of exotic, fast-growing trees as opposed to the value of utilizing native forest trees? Dilemmas due to short-sightedness? (Construction of large reservoir in drier portions of Ghana enhances agriculture/provides increased habitat for snail carrying Schistosoma parasite, resulting in very high rate of schistosomaisis in children living along the lake).

Globetrotting and Biodiversity:


Former Soviet Union-European Russia, Siberia, Crimea, Abkhazia (Caucasus Mts.)

Bolivia - Andes to Amazon

Costa Rica-Jewel of Mesoamerica