The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Edited by Paul Martin, Li Zhiping, Qin Tianbao, Anel Du Plessis, Yves Le Bouthillier and Angela Williams
John Page and Ann Brower 2.1 INTRODUCTION Streams of scholarship as diverse as ecology and political science suggest that a more diverse system is a more stable system. The pluralist school of interest group politics observed that diverse and vibrant interest groups are the core of a policy system (for example, Truman, 1951), and it is well accepted that diverse interest group activity is vital to a stable democracy.1 Community ecologists (MacArthur, 1955; Odum, 1963) have long hypothesised that ‘diversity begets stability’ (Tilman et al, 1994), though the hypothesis has its critics (May, 1973) and is far from proven (Givnish, 1994). But ecologists report ‘high confidence’ in the cumulative finding that a broad range and variety of species that respond differently to disturbance can stabilise ecological systems after a shock, such as a hurricane, fire, or biological invasion (Hooper et al, 2005). As such, more biological diversity in ecosystem function is associated with systems that are more resistant to change and more resilient after a change. There are three metaphorical variants of the hypothesis that biological diversity begets ecosystem stability. Paul and Anne Ehrlich (1981) present a ‘rivets hypothesis’ that likens each species in a system to a rivet on an airplane. Losing a few rivets might not cause the plane wing to fall off because other similar rivets will compensate, but eventually the crippled plane will crash. The redundancy (or driver-passenger) hypothesis suggests that each system has a certain number of ‘driver’ species that maintain ecosystem functions, while the...
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