Biodiversity In a Clearcut?…


About ten years after logging, this site near Sproat Lake on Vancouver Island has a high biodiversity of trees, shrubs, and herbs. It supports a large number of insects, birds and mammals that benefit from the forage, nectar, and new habitat

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, has become the single biggest buzz-word in environmental discussion. If one is “preserving biodiversity” one is doing the work of the Lord. Anyone who “destroys biodiversity”, particularly if they make a profit at it, is Darth Vadar material.

Fortunately, things are not that black and white. In the great cycles of life and death there is no absolute preservation or destruction. True, when a species becomes extinct it is gone forever. But it is equally true that when a species becomes extinct it provides an opportunity for a new species to take its place, one that had never existed before. This, too, is a simplistic picture of the workings of evolution. But it is a fact that every time a single creature dies there is a “loss” and every time a new one is born there is a “gain”. Some people seem fixated on the “loss” side of the equation, predicting total collapse of the ecosystem if “the destruction continues”. I like to keep one eye on the emergence of new life which is happening all around us. As Thoreau said “I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that there is a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders”.(Henry D. Thoreau, Faith in a Seed, Island Press, 1993. ISBN 1-55963-181-3)

In my book,“>Greenspirit, I put this idea in these words:

“What a miracle is the west coast rainforest that it can recover in full and total splendour from devastating ruin. Surely we must celebrate this new life at least as much as we mourn life lost elsewhere. The spirit has returned to Pacific Spirit Park as it has to most of the other areas clearcut in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest.”

Before making up one’s mind about the right or wrong of a particular activity or development, it is helpful to consider the meaning of the term “biodiversity” in more detail. In this excerpt from Pacific Spirit I explore the complexity of the term:

“Variety is the spice of life.” (Anonymous)

The concept of biological diversity is both old and new. Throughout the ages students of nature have understood that some environments have more species and are more varied than others. Rainforests are richer in life than deserts. Coral reefs have many more species of fish than the abyss of the deep sea. While these differences were generally recognized it was not until recently that scientists began to measure and describe the diversity of ecosystems in a systematic fashion.

One of the difficulties in understanding the concept of biological diversity is the fact that there are, so to speak, a diversity of diversities. In trying to keep it simple I have chosen only the three most important measures of diversity within living systems. These are genetic diversity, species diversity and landscape diversity.

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