The Biodiversity Concept Diagram illustrates the interacting components of biodiversity research and provides a roadmap to our discussions of papers in different areas of biodiversity research. After hours of discussion our team settled on several main components: biodiversity—including three main dimensions, humans, drivers, ecosystem functions, and ecosystem services, as well as the links between them. The links, shown as arrows, indicate direct effects of one component on another. Many possible alternatives might be suggested (as they were within our group!) for how best to represent the way the world looks and functions, but our purpose is primarily to provide an operational map to the content of the site. Thus, the diagram is necessarily simplified.
Inherent in the diagram are the following major concepts:
Dimensions of biodiversity: genetic, functional, taxonomic, phylogenetic diversity. While biological variation is to some extent continuous, we consider these the major hierarchical levels at which biological variation manifests and where biodiversity research has focused up to now.
Biodiversity generation: origin and mechanisms. These are processes and drivers of evolution and development that produce variation among individuals, species, or other biological entities.
Biodiversity maintenance. This category represents a large class of ecological processes and drivers, from the influence of abiotic drivers, through local interactions among species, larger-scale dispersal and meta-community processes, to the interaction of all these processes, that influence the degree of biological variation (for example, species richness) within some area.
Biodiversity patterns in space. Descriptions of the composition, richness, and distribution of biological diversity across the world, from microscopic to planetary scales.
Consequences of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning. The ways in which variation in biodiversity—of any dimension or at any scale—influences aggregate processes within ecosystems, such as production, consumption, and cycling of energy and materials.
Biodiversity conservation. Research, management, and policy aimed at preserving and sustaining wild populations and communities of organisms.
Methodological advances. A broad range of innovations in theory, experimentation, technology, quantitative methods, and so on that facilitate better understanding and management of biological diversity.
Synthetic theories of biodiversity. Theoretical or conceptual advances that integrate and link multiple components of biodiversity.