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PA Group Probes Biodiversity With Thursday Workshop

May 26, 2010

PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania group is taking a hard look at where humans fit into life on Earth – and whether what they do could be driving thousands of species of plants and animals to the brink.

The Rachel Carson Homestead Association holds a Thursday workshop on biodiversity, the term for the life forms that make up an ecosystem and often used as a measure of its biological health. Director of Communications Fiona Fisher says not enough emphasis is put on biodiversity and its true meaning.

"Economies pretty much remain blind to the huge value of the diversity of animals, plants and other life forms, and their role in healthy and functioning ecosystems – whether it's from forests and fresh waters to soil, ocean, and even the atmosphere."

The concept of biodiversity conservation has its opponents, some of whom believe the costs of protecting endangered species are too high and the regulatory burden on private landowners can be onerous. But, according to Fisher, the toll humans are taking on other species on the planet is reaching a critical stage.

"Right now, 34,000 plant species and 5,200 animal species face extinction. That's huge."

To make a difference, she adds, Americans can take a page from NASA's notebook and examine how it operates a space station.

"We design all of the components to be reclaimed and recycled. We refine all the uses of the air, water and surfaces. Our planet is like this big, blue floating space station – so, we need to do the same things here."

Featured presenter at the conference is biologist Edward O. Wilson, the Harvard University professor who is considered a pioneer in the biodiversity field. It takes place May 27, from 1 pm to 6:30 pm, at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA