Biological Diversity, Soils, and Economics

Science  10 Dec 1993:
Vol. 262, Issue 5140, pp. 1676-1680
DOI: 10.1126/science.262.5140.1676


Terrestrial biological diversity is supported by solar energy captured by plants growing in soil. This soil-based plant productivity also provides the foundation for human societies through production of food and renewable forms of energy. Variations in plant productivity, resulting from differences in inherent soil fertility, variations in climate and weather, and differences in chemical inputs and agricultural practices, produce patterns of biological diversity that are associated with the agricultural component of economic productivity. Ecological processes lead to a generally negative relation between the diversity of plant species and potential agricultural productivity at both local and global scales. One implication of this negative relation is that preservation of areas of high plant biodiversity does not require the sacrifice of productive agricultural lands.