In Defence of Biodiversity

Alfred Archer, Joanna Burch Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


The concept of biodiversity has played a central role within conservation biology over the last thirty years. Precisely how it should be understood, however, is a matter of ongoing debate. In this paper we defend what we call a classic multidimensional conception of biodiversity. We begin by introducing two arguments for eliminating the concept of biodiversity from conservation biology, both of which have been put forward in a recent paper by Santana (Biol Philos 29:761–780. doi:10.1007/s10539-014-9426-2, 2014). The first argument is against the concept’s scientific usefulness. The other is against its value as a target of conservation. We show that neither of these objections is successful against the classic multidimensional conception of biodiversity. Biodiversity thus understood is important from a scientific perspective, because it plays important explanatory roles within contemporary ecology. Moreover, although it does not encompass all valuable features of the natural world, this does not show that we should abandon it as a target of conservation. Instead, biodiversity should be conceived as one of many grounds of value associated with ecosystems. This is consistent with concluding that a central aim of conservationists should be to protect biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-996
Number of pages27
JournalBiology and Philosophy
Issue number6
Early online date20 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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