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Conservation Biology: The Measurement Problem

Conservation Biology: The Measurement Problem

Chapter:
(p.132) 7 Conservation Biology: The Measurement Problem
Source:
What Is Biodiversity?
Author(s):
Maclaurin JamesSterelny Kim
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226500829.003.0007

This chapter focuses on measurement issues in conservation biology. It begins the investigation of the place of biodiversity in conservation biology with a description of its use in current science, identifying the phenomena scientists actually measure when making judgments about diversity, and the phenomena they would measure if unconstrained by considerations of cost and effort. The chapter then considers the problem of biodiversity surrogates. The strategy of using surrogates to detect biodiversity is the strategy of devising biological thermometers, of identifying properties of biological systems that are reliable indicators of biodiversity properties. This strategy is almost universal in conservation biology, and many surrogates have been proposed. If conservation biologists are getting it right, these surrogates are reliable indicators of important characteristics of biological systems. It is shown that there is a good deal of ambiguity about the status of these measured variables. Sometimes they are interpreted as signs of biodiversity, but not themselves as actual components of biodiversity.

Keywords:   measurement, conservation biology, biodiversity surrogates

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