Measuring biodiversity and monitoring ecological and evolutionary processes with genetic and genomic tools

Authored by: Alan R. Templeton

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Biodiversity

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  October  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138827738
eBook ISBN: 9781315530215
Adobe ISBN: 9781315530208

10.4324/9781315530215.ch18

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Abstract

Genetics plays a dual role in biodiversity. First, genetic diversity is a type of biodiversity in itself. Indeed, genetic diversity is the most fundamental and basic level of biodiversity because it contributes to all other levels of biodiversity. Without genetic diversity, there is no evolution. Genetic diversity is the raw material for the adaptation of organisms to their environment through the process of natural selection. Adaptations in turn shape ecological communities and ecosystem functioning. Genetic divergence is also necessary for the origin of new species. Hence, species diversity is ultimately derived from genetic diversity. Because genetic diversity is necessary for the evolutionary process, it is not surprising that the maintenance of genetic diversity is often a goal in conservation plans. Moreover, the genetic processes of adaptation and speciation are often needed to protect against extinction when environments are changing. Given the global impact of humans on the environments of the Earth and the rapid pace of human-induced global climate change, it is patent that we must preserve genetic diversity in order to maintain the potential for evolutionary change.

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