Earth's biodiversitythe number of microorganisms, plants, and animals, their genes, and their ecosystems (such as rainforests and grasslands)is declining at an alarming rate, even faster than the last mass extinction 65 million years ago. In fact, two thirds of the terrestrial species that exist today are estimated to be extinct by the end of this century. Humans are an integral part of this extensive network of life. We depend on biodiversity for goods and services; we impact biodiversity via rapidly expanding human population growth, consumption of resources, and spread of disease; and we study biodiversity in order to understand, conserve, and protect it.
To celebrate, analyze, and suggest future avenues of biodiversity research, three world-renowned scientistsDr. Peter Raven, President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Dr. Jonathan Chase, from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and Dr. J. Chris Pires, from the University of Missouri Columbiahave co-edited a Special Issue on Biodiversity, published in March by the American Journal of Botany (http://www.amjbot.org/cgi/reprint/ajb.1100055v1). Raven, Chase, and Pires overlap in their interest in biodiversity, yet their specialties complemented each other when it came to inviting "some of the best and brightest biodiversity scientists from each of [their] fields" to provide contributing papers to this issue.
Peter Raven is a long-time champion of biodiversity, drawing attention to the importance of conserving rare and endangered plant species all over the world. Jon Chase is interested in what drives patterns of species diversity in aquatic and terrestrial systems, and uses experiments as well as models and computer simulations to analyze ecological questions pertaining to biodiversity. Chris Pires's research focuses on plant evolutionary biology, from phylogenetic studies in plant diversity to genome-wi
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American Journal of Botany