Universiteit Leiden

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Is this the right minor for you?

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms within species, between species and within and between landscapes, ecosystems or the entire planet. As such, biodiversity can be described at the genetic, species or ecosystem level. All these forms of biodiversity are under increasing pressure. Currently we estimate that there are approximately 7-12 million species of organisms, of which only 1.9 million are described – and a significant fraction of those is threatened with extinction. It is generally assumed that a reduction of biodiversity is undesirable and should be prevented. But at what scale do we try and tackle these declines? More fundamentally, we can ask whether the disappearance of species diversity/ecosystem diversity/genetic diversity is really undesirable and if so, can we think of measures to halt this decline?

In order to answer these questions, during this minor we examine what biodiversity actually entails, how biodiversity can be sampled, monitored, mapped and how to interpret and use that data in a useful way. In addition, it is important to study how biodiversity evolved and which are the important processes that determine the level of biodiversity in today’s ecosystems. By analysing the processes that take place in ecosystems we will investigate the factors underlying biodiversity decline, for example as a result of human interventions or unintentional introduction of invasive species. In addition we will investigate the impact of newly introduced species or genes on current biodiversity in the Netherlands.

Human intervention and the introduction of new species do not necessarily have only negative effects on biodiversity. It can also lead to "novel ecosystems" for example in urban and agricultural areas. Species can adapt and be successful in these new habitats. Still, the question remains whether all animals are equal or are some animals more equal than others? How we should value these new systems is a question of often heated debates. In this minor you will be challenged to take position on these matters from a scientific, consultancy and governance perspective?

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