Editor's Note: A few months ago, a group from the University of Maryland tried to put a dollar amount on the value of ecosystems (R. Costanza et al., Nature, 387:253-60, 1997). They estimated that the annual average value of the Earth's natural goods and services was about $33 trillion. This is the value of ecosystems writ large, but one somewhat less extensive area of ecological research is understanding the value of biodiversity to the health of the whole ecosystem. Are there redundant species whose loss would pass unnoticed? Do ecosystems function more efficiently when they are rich in species? The Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College, London, is one of several laboratories focusing its research efforts on questions of this kind. The Centre is directed by John H. Lawton. Last spring Peter Moore, ecology correspondent for the newsletter Science Watch, spoke with Lawton about his research.


Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?